Simone Stevens reporting on the Having a Say Conference

This year marked the 20th anniversary of the Having a Say Conference which was held at Deakin University Waterfront Campus. Over 1000 people from across Australia and the world attended the three-day event. It’s always fabulous to see everyone attending the conference, but especially this year in its 20th year.

On the first day I attended “Standing By My Brother” with ABC journalist Rachael Brown and brothers Mark and Adam James which focused on the podcast series “Trace: Who Killed Maria James?” This live discussion, chaired by Kevin Stone, gave wonderful insight into the tragic murder of Adam and Mark’s mother Maria which happened in 1980. It also showed me that through speaking up, I can make a difference and empower others to do the same. 

In the afternoon people were encouraged to come along to Costa Hall and share their stories and listen to Heather’s story as well. It was interesting hearing people’s stories.

Monday night saw the annual Red Faces heats which certainly entertained the crowd. The very popular ‘Ray Brother’s’ made their appearance as well as Geelong Football Club’s mascot Half Cat. Everyone danced the night away.

On day two of the conference, VALID’s Inclusion Point team looked at easy read information and how to get it across to people with an Intellectual Disability who find it difficult to read.  After lunch, there was a discussion on healthy decisions and how involved people with intellectual disabilities can be included in making decisions about their own health.

Later in the afternoon we looked at Having a Say over the last twenty years. People celebrated the achievements over the years and how much people have grown from attending the conference. It also showed me that through speaking up, I can make a difference and empower others to do the same.   I also listened to a presentation from NSW on how their self-advocates have learnt how to speak up about issues that concerned them and gave handy hints on how to help others.

I was a part of the Victorian Electrical Commission presentation where I talked alongside lecturers from Latrobe University about the Democracy Ambassador program and the importance of voting.

The closing ceremony started with the finalists from Red Faces and presentation of awards.  The Our Voice Committee won the Robert Martin award. Adam James received the Doug Pentland-David Banfield Award for his presentation as well as his outstanding leadership with “Standing By My Brother”.

The conference was a lot of fun for everyone. It was a great opportunity for people to socialise, express themselves and share their stories. I am definitely looking forward to Having a Say 2020.