CREATE’s 2019 Voices in Action conference wrap up
From the 14th– 16th November CREATE hosted our fourth international conference, Voices in Action: Nothing About Us Without Us at the Melbourne Zoo. The purpose of our Voices in Action conferences are to connect young people with a care experience to others with similar experiences around Australia and provide a platform where young people, carers, professionals and sector leaders can come together to work on making the changes needed in Australia’s care system.
The Voices in Action conference program focused on the following key priorities for change identified through consultations with children and young people in the development of CREATE’s 2018-2021 Strategic Plan:
- Participation and Decision Making: Creating the best outcomes for young people by demonstrating how to break through the complexity of including their voices in the decision making process.
- Transitioning from Care: How we can best support young people leaving care to improve outcomes, including a focus on providing the option for young people to be supported by the care system past the age of 18.
- Complaints and Record Keeping: Exploring how the complaints process for children and young people in care needs to be improved so that we learn from the lessons of the past.
It was an incredible three days. We had over 500 delegates (including over 240 young people, almost 80 carers and over 190 professionals) attend, with every state and territory represented AND visitors from the UK, Hong Kong and New Zealand.
The conference was opening was hosted by our wonderful MCs Cathy Carnovale (State Coordinator for CREATE in Victoria) and Ash Potter (CREATE Young Consultant) and featured an Acknowledgement of Country by Jardwadjali and Djab Wurrung artist and Stolen Generation’s member Nerissa Major, who talked movingly to the huge Day One crowd about the healing stones she has created for each young person attending the conference. A massive thank you to the Family Matters campaign for sponsoring this important artwork!
Also at the Day opening ceremony we had opening addresses from CREATE Foundation CEO Jacqui Reed, CREATE WA Young Consultant Darcy, National Children’s Commissioner Megan Mitchell and Luke Tempany from our Diamond Sponsor Churches of Christ. And of course CREATE’s mascot Gus made an appearance!
As with previous CREATE conferences, the energy was INCREDIBLE; many of the young people attending had never been around so many others who also had a care experience and there was a powerful sense of belonging and connection for many.
The sheer presence and number of the young delegates brought a unique sense of significance and urgency to workshop and panel discussions. For many young delegates this was their first conference and they found the experience of being seated at the table as an equal partner discussing the care system’s key issues as an incredibly empowering one.
Our keynote speakers at the start of each day did a fantastic job of making us think, inspiring us, and making us laugh (or sometimes cry).
Thank you to all of our amazing speakers. To watch a video of Keyarnee’s speech, click here.
- A preview of our upcoming report, ‘Transitioning from Care to Interdependence in Australia’ from CREATE’s Executive Director of Research Dr Joseph McDowall. Dr McDowall’s presentation contained a mix of challenging and encouraging results. Since our last survey in 2009 the number of young people experiencing homelessness after transitioning from care has only decreased from 35 to 30%, more positively we have had a 21 percent increase in young people completing grade 12.
- The Birthday Party themed conference social event, which focused on celebrating 20 years of CREATE and provided some solid evidence that young people with a care experience really are the best dancers on earth!
- An address at the conference Closing Ceremony by CREATE Founder Jan Owen, who called on delegates to harness the collective strength of young people in care: “We need to put children and young people in the centre of a system that is supposed to support them. We need to make the invisible, visible.”
- Our creative and interactive workshops, which got young people, carers and professionals and working together to CREATE a better care system.
- Our awesome Advocacy in Action sessions, which created involved delegates in some real CHANGE (see below for more details!)
- The arts program run by Life Without barriers Living Arts entitled mina mongtone toienook boorack pueellakanny (my voice being seen so it can be heard) created a truly beautiful masterpiece where young people shared their views on life in care, mental health and life in general.
- Our Songwriting Session facilitated by Musicians Making a Difference (MMAD), which led to a fantastic performance to end the conference by the Lollipoppers, an amazing group featuring young conference delegates from across Australia.
- Our Young Consultants; whether they were speaking on panels, reporting on the conference activities, facilitating table discussions, MCing, dressing up in Gorilla suits, they did so as excellent representatives of CREATE and young people in care across Australia.
As the name suggests, this is a conference about putting words into action. Young people, carers and professionals delivered a number of powerful messages to decision makers over the three days, including;
- A call for all states to develop a national approach to young people transitioning from care to adulthood which is meaningful and realistic.
- A call for all child protection systems across Australia to provide children and young people with information about the carers they will be placed with BEFORE they arrive at the home for the first time.
- Young people (and those who support them) should not let their past define their future
- A message for politicians around Australia to provide the same level of support to young adults with a care experience as they would expect for their own children.
- A call for all governments across Australia to provide a public/social housing guarantee to young people with a care experience
- Engaging children and young people in decision making about their lives in care builds connection and trust
- When young people sit at the table with carers and decision makers to discuss the problems of our care system, real world solutions are identified and the young people themselves are empowered.
Advocacy in Action!
The Advocacy in Action and Hot Topic sessions on Day Three also gave CREATE lots of work of follow up work do, keep an eye out for the following campaigns and projects in the coming months:
- #Make it 21 – During the Advocacy in Action session at the conference young people, workers and carers were given the opportunity to take part in different activities across three main stations; letter writing, shared artwork and photo/video statements. Participants particularly took to the shared artwork and letter writing statements and many moving photo statements were also made. As a result of this work almost 50 letters were written to state and territory Ministers on the issue of extending the support provided by the care system. The photo material and artwork will now be utilised in CREATE’s future advocacy work through social media, reports and other campaign materials.
- Participation and Decision Making – This session focused on the following key question – If participation was established practice what would people, be seeing, hearing and feeling in the care system? We concluded that it is everyone’s responsibility to embed the practice of young people actively participating and being involved in decision making around their lives. CREATE will use the input from participants in this decision as the basis for our work on a new Guide to Participation and Decision Making for children and young people in care.
- Complaints – This session considered components of a good complaints process, and the need for all components to be in place for a good response to children and young people . The different forms of complaints were noted (from the very serious through to those also impacting daily life), and the context of the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse in Religious Institutions given as an example of what then was needed because people in systems and institutions were not listening. A key message from this session was that young people need to know about how to access complaints systems in each state; CREATE to building more information into the website to help young people access complaints information, including how to make a complaint and the supports available.
CREATE would like to thank all of those who lent their support to make sure the conference was such a special event; from our staff and Young Consultants to our wonderful conference presenters and sponsors, to the young people, carers, professionals and organisations who took time out of their lives to attend, stand up, and have their voices heard!