Strengthening Disability Advocacy Conference 2016
Putting rights centre stage

Friday 2 September @ NAB, The Hall, 700 Bourke Street, Docklands

Rights, camera action! Advocacy beyond 2016

How do advocates get issues on the public agenda now? How do we best connect with allies, decision-makers and the general public? Do we need to shift our campaigns online, or are those mass rallies that served us so well in the past still effective enough to drive change?


Friday 2nd September, 2016: 12:00am - 1:00am


The Hall


Facilitated by:

Emma King, Chief Executive Officer, VCOSS

Emma also has an extensive background in the public sector and in workforce and education issues, having worked as a Victorian policy adviser, a teacher, and in a range of industrial and training roles at the Victorian Independent Education Union and the Finance Sector Union. Emma’s qualifications include a Masters in Industrial and Employee Relations, a Graduate Diploma of Education and a Bachelor of Arts. Photo of Emma King, Chief Executive Officer, VCOSS

Panelists include:

Mary Mallett, Chief Executive Officer, Disability Advocacy Network Australia (DANA)

DANA is the Canberra based national peak body for independent disability advocacy in Australia. DANA supports organisations in every state and territory that work to promote and advocate for the rights of people with disability. With the advent of the NDIS independent advocacy will be even more important in assisting people to have true choice … Continued

Photo of Mary Mallett, Chief Executive Officer, Disability Advocacy Network Australia (DANA)

Jax (Jacki) Brown, Activist and Performer

Jax Jacki Brown is a disability & queer rights activist, writer, spoken-word performer, public speaker and the co-producer of Quippings: Disability Unleashed, a disability performance troupe in Melbourne. She is a graduate of Southern Cross University with a Bachelor of Arts in Cultural Studies and Communication, where she focused on disability and LGBTI/queer studies, providing a sound academic framework to affirm and explore her commitment to disability and social justice issues.

Photo of Jax (Jacki) Brown, Activist and Performer

Isabelle Oderberg, Social Media Manager, Red Cross Australia

After several years working as a journalist in London at Dow Jones and Reuters, Isabelle joined Melbourne’s Herald Sun as deputy business editor and Australia’s first social media editor. After 18 months she was promoted to national social media editor for News Corp Australia and was responsible for advising social media strategy, development, training, policy creation, implementation and branding across News Corp’s many local newsrooms.

Today she works in the not-for-profit sector in social media management, communications and high-level strategy. She has experience in social media training, management, strategy formulation and implementation, communications, crisis management and media relations and training.

Photo of Isabelle Oderberg, Social Media Manager, Red Cross Australia

Susan Arthur, President, Reinforce

Susan is 33 years old and passionate about helping people with disabilities. She is currently a volunteer as a self-advocate with Reinforce where she is in her second year as elected President. Her passion is to make the world a better place for parents with intellectual disabilities and hopes that one day parents with I.D. can keep their children with the support they need. Her passion grew from her grandmother who also was very passionate about people with disabilities not living in institutions and all the other areas of human rights. Susan also runs a new group called The Powerful Parents Self Advocacy Group.

Photo of Susan Arthur, President, Reinforce

Session Summary

The panel explored the ongoing issue of how the ‘invisibility’ of people with disability in public life, not just in the media but in mainstream everyday life, stops action on crucial issues, such as abuse and neglect.



The story board

The panelists talked about frustrating encounters with the media, who just want the “disability story this week” and present complex structural and systemic issues through age-old stereo types of ‘disability as tragedy’ or ‘disability as inspirational’.



They also discussed the tension in language used, terms like ‘vulnerable’ that politicians and funders often use and how this perpetuates the experience of people with disability as “other”, and undermines notions of self determination.

“I work in the family violence sector,” said long-term disability advocate Tricia Malowney from the floor. “It’s time we stopped using language like ‘abuse’ and ‘neglect’ – it’s ‘violence’…..Using language like that enables segregation.”

Jax Jacki Brown said she prefers the term activist than advocate and uses art and performance to be humorous, engaging and provocative. She laments the decline of direct action, “One of our advantages as people with disability is that we unsettle nondisabled people when we gather and when we protest,” but was mindful that physical protests rely on people having the health and access to be involved. Jax elaborated further on this theme in her post session interview with Marie McInerney.



Personal stories are at the core of advocacy for Reinforce president Susan Arthur, who also runs the Powerful Parents Self Advocacy Group for parents with intellectual disability, many of whom have had their children removed.

The session also heard of the risks to systemic advocacy. Mary Mallett painted a bleak picture where fewer peak bodies are now recurrently funded and there is growing competition for both funds and attention within the disability sector.



She drew attention to the recent campaign by the Australian Council of Social Service (ACOSS) to stop Newstart payment cuts, a huge issue for people with disability.

“We actually need to get all other systemic advocacy players to take disability issues on board and be putting them at top of their priority lists,” she said. Hear more from Mary in her interview with Marie McInerney.



Tips from Australian Red Cross social media manager Isabelle Oderberg on using social media and dealing with traditional media were shared. The main takeaway is to understand the limitations of leaner newsrooms and give the media all that they need to cover a story.




Further information on topics relevant to the discussions in this session include: