Having a say with VALiD

26 February 2018

Alanna Julian, Council for Intellectual Disability (CID) Facilitator and Community Engagement Officer, shares her thoughts on this year’s Victorian Advocacy League for Individuals with Disability (VALiD) conference.

I’m excited to share my experience of attending VALiD this year with Council For Intellectual Disability! On the first day Bruce Harwood, Mayor of Geelong, spoke at the opening ceremony. He said VALiD’s Having A Say (HAS) conference is where people come together with different ideas, and it is a life changing event. Participants from all over Australia attend.

This year visitors from Singapore represented their advocacy organisation ‘Our Lives, Our Voice’ and shared their stories of having an intellectual disability and the importance of advocacy.

One speaker said “Self advocacy means I want to be a responsible citizen, to be independent and also that I can speak up for myself and my friends.”

Another said “It’s important I can express my thoughts, feelings and voice my opinions. It made me realise my abilities.”

Ken Stone Chief Executive of VALiD finished off by saying, “If [you are] not a member of an advocacy group, then join one”. Excellent advice from Mr. Stone.

I then attended a talk by Teisha Rose where she shared key points of diversity in the workplace which were: flexibility, accommodating, innovative, approachable and inclusion. It was an inspiring talk about accessible workplaces and finding your leader within.

To end the day, I presented a leadership workshop. The highlight of the workshop for me was hearing participants setting challenges for themselves. One participant’s challenge was to be confident to speak up; another participant’s challenge was to show leadership as a father to his daughter.

I also ran a public speaking activity. Monique, chairperson of Speak Out Reach Out Tasmania, was the first to get up and have a go at sharing her experience of public speaking. She gave a tip on speaking about things you are passionate about. We then had a lady so nervous to speak, but with the right support she got up and had a go!

After this I attended a presentation featuring Ella and Alex from the CID Mainstream and Me project. They shared the great initiative they were taking in creating employment inclusion for local businesses.

On the second day, Robert Strike board member of CID shared his experience of attending the UN Human Rights Disability convention in New York. Robert translated complex UN documents into Easy Read English. Robert also received the Robert Martin Award. What a proud moment!

By the end of the second day, a VALiD team member shared advice on being a savvy customer with the NDIS. Advice that stood out to me was developing a good person-centred plan.

In the evening, it was time to let your hair down for a dinner and dance. It was an ‘Around The World’ dress-up theme. You could say I didn’t have to travel far to be surrounded by so many countries! To wrap up the conference it was time for Red Faces with a popular winner singing ‘Somewhere’.

The theme of the HAS conference this year was ‘Community Here We Come’, and had 900 participants. It was definitely a happening community! Next year marks the 20th Anniversary of HAS conference with much to celebrate. If you have not already been, I thoroughly recommend this empowering conference!

About VALiD

Every February the Victorian Advocacy League for Individuals with Disability (VALiD) runs the Having A Say conference at the Deakin Geelong University. It is the largest conference in Australia for people with disability.

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