5.8 Biennial conference 


Resource description

A biennial conference, held in Melbourne, is organised and hosted jointly by DARU, SARU and DAV for the Victorian disability advocacy sector. The conference runs for two days, funded by the Australian Government and the Victorian Law Foundation.

DARU, SARU and DAV each organise a stream of the conference:

  • SARU – self advocacy sessions
  • DARU – sessions relevant to the Victorian advocacy sector
  • DAV –  sessions for disability advocacy organisations.

March 2012 marked the third conference held by DARU, SARU and DAV. The theme was Disability Advocacy and the Legal System: You be the Judge. Local, national and international experts from the disability and legal fields presented at the conference, including a number of Victorian disability advocates interviewed as part of this project.

SARU and DARU subsidised transportation and accommodation costs (partially through FaCHSIA funding) for self advocates and people with a disability to attend. Partial funding was also provided to advocacy organisations requiring transportation and accommodation to attend the conference.

The target audience was disability advocates, self advocates, people with disability, legal workers, government and non-government officers, community workers and allied health professionals involved in advocacy.


Interview findings

In general, the conference is seen as an important event and most organisations attend when they can: 18 of the respondents indicated they had attended one or more of the conferences and found them to be useful.

Sessions highlighted as being highly relevant to advocacy were:

  • 2012: human rights workshop, panel discussions and guardianship session
  • 2010: ethnic and multicultural diversity sessions.

Six organisations chose not to attend the conference for varying reasons, ranging from not having the time, being focused on other activities, attending the national conference instead, or that they did not see it as relevant or useful to their work.

Three organisations that did attend the conference commented that the advocacy organisation sessions were not practical enough, nor adequately focused on skills development for advocates. However the majority thought the conference was very inclusive and useful for self advocates. The gap appeared to be in terms of detailed sessions for individual advocates and systemic advocacy.

One organisation commented that the conference ended flatly, without sufficient energy for where to go next, while another expressed concern that the final wrap-up session did not enable discussion on next steps because other sessions were running at the same time.

Future conferences should incorporate adequate wrap-up time to discuss the common issues and come to some agreement on how the sector will respond.