We are still on a high from last weeks Voices in Action conference! Four action packed days of fun, inspiration and of course, showcasing our Resilient, Resourceful and Remarkable young people! Before we launch into the wrap up, we firstly want to say a huge thank you to our sponsors (Department of Social Services, South Australian Department for Child Protection, Life Without Barriers, MacKillop, Northern Territory Government, Queensland Government, Key Assets, WA Department of Communities, and the WA Commissioner for Children and Young People), all of our speakers – most especially our incredible MC Gregory Nicolau who brought an incredible amount of energy, passion and vigour to the virtual stage every day.
We also of course, need to thank our passionate team, everyone who came along and participated – the event couldn’t have gone ahead with you and we were so grateful to share this experience with you, and we can’t wait to see you back in 2024! #ViA2024
So without further ado let’s go through the week that was and run through our ViA2022 Conference Wrap Up!!
Day 1, Tuesday 26 April
Tuesday began with a wonderful opening plenary, where our CEO Jacqui Reed kicked off the conference, and MC Gregory Nicolau set the stage for the day ahead. Throughout the day, we heard from No Capes for Change – a wonderful group in South Australia seeking to give young people a voice. One of the young people involved said “starting the group and actually having our voices heard has been so rewarding”.
Then we dived into the ever-complex issue of transitioning to independence. We heard from Dr Joseph McDowall and some of key takeaways from the session were:
- Labels suck as “leaving care” or “emancipated” reflects past thinking. We need to move into continuum of care thinking and universally adopting positive aspirational terms.
- We need to establish a national uniform and adequate extended care model Australia that goes from 18-21 years of ages as advocated by the Homestretch campaign.
- We need genuine connection and support systems. Right now, it is too systemic and doesn’t cater to specific individuals.
- The importance of relationships to avoid social isolation is critical during this time.
We also heard from CREATE State Coordinator Danni Ashton, and a panel of awesome young people from both CREATE and VOYCE, who talked about the importance of sibling connection and the decision-makers who can enable these connections to thrive! The young people had heaps of great ideas and shared their stories, and really emphasised how important staying connected with siblings truly is.
Tuesday finished with a BANG, with the first ever CREATE Caseworker Awards! This process, driven entirely by young people, showcased the incredible and passionate people that we have working in this sector. Thank you to all our state and territory winners, our National Winner Taylor Alapaki and the young people who presented the awards. We also must thank the Governor General of Australia, the Honourable David John Hurley AC DSC, who presented the National Award.
Day Two, Wednesday 27th April
Day two kicked off with a keynote presentation from Gregory Nicolau, who spoke about the Three R’s = Reading, Writing and Arithmetic and how those basic building blocks aren’t enough to create Resilient, Resourceful, Remarkable young people – you need things like support, love and care too. We also heard from Jane French from Life Without Barriers and Anne Hollonds, the National Children’s Commissioner.
Then we broke out into our two concurrent sessions. The first was focussed all about education, and we heard from a panel of experts (Dr Joseph McDowall, Dr Michelle Townsend; Dr Miriam Maclean; Professor Kitty te Riele; Jayde Ward). The panel each spoke about how we can overcome educational issues for young people in care. Strategies discussed included, supportive intervention, addressing wellbeing needs, a more focused approach to reaching individual milestones, integrative family and cultural learnings, and establishing authentic relationships.
The second session of the morning was “Real Relationships in Out of Home Care” with Jarrod Wheatley, Founder and CEO of Professional Individualised Care. He discussed the importance of relationships, and the transformational impact this genuine care can have.
Our afternoon sessions were insightful and engaging! We had facilitators from Life Without Barriers take delegates through a breakout session about participation – “if the child is old enough to understand they should be included”. We also had a presentation on COVID-19 and Mental Health, which showcased some of CREATE’s resources that were created to help young people through the pandemic.
Day Two wrapped up with an inspiring and touching series of young people stories, courtesy of Key Assets – truly amazing to hear the resilience and journeys that young people go on while growing up in care.
Day Three 28th April 2022:
We had an another strong opening plenary on Day Three, hearing from Luke Twyford, Principle Commissioner in Queensland, and finishing with a keynote from Michael Ungar, on the “9 things young people need to thrive”.
The morning sessions were run by VOYCE and MacKillop. Young people from VOYCE took us through what VOYCE does over in Aotearoa, how they help support and advocate for young people. The session led by MacKillop, was all about Power to Kids, a program about Respecting Sexual Safety – such an important topic and the session and Q&A had useful tips and information for young people and service providers alike.
The afternoon sessions took us back into the throws of Extended Care – an ever-present and ever important topic. We heard from Paul McDonald, CEO of Anglicare Victoria and a Home Stretch Young Ambassador, Dylan, who both spoke passionately about how we can get this important Home Stretch campaign over the line in outlier states Queensland and New South Wales. #MakeIt21 – learn more here including who you can write to help make this change happen!
Caine Wild also shared his experience with us of the UK care system and his organisation Wild Intervention. His key message was simple and strong: Care and support needs to be bespoke and focused on the specific needs of each individual. He also emphasised the importance of ongoing support – “If I could give one thing it would be the gift of ongoing support past 18. When some young people get to 18, the support is gone. THEY ARE OUR FUTURE. I think that gets forgotten.”
Day Three concluded with a panel discussion featuring peak industry leaders. Finally, we heard about the suite of transition materials that CREATE has available to support young people transitioning to independence – check out Sortli, GYOW, and CREATE Your Future here.
Day Four 29th April 2022:
Well the final day was not one to be forgotten! With a keynote from Catherine Liddle from SNAICC, an address from South Australian Minister for Child Protection Katrine Hildyard, who announced support for CREATE through additional funding for our advocacy around housing and study programs.
We had some more incredible concurrent sessions, including the importance of putting relationships at the centre of practice, the importance of kinship care, transition support for young people with disabilities and of course our young people only art workshop!
The day closed with an inspiring and passionate speech from Young Consultant Adina Gunnis, who has been a Young Consultant with create for almost 10 years. We also heard from Cathy Taylor, Chief Executive of the SA Dept of Child Protection. The entire conference was jam-packed with insights, information and inspiration. We got some incredible feedback and are so happy to hear that you enjoyed the conference.
A final word
Thanks again to everyone who participated, supported and engaged – we hope you took as much from this incredible event as we did. Don’t forget to keep an eye out in the coming weeks, where we will release our post-event report, Q&A responses from each of our sessions, and more BTS and insights from the 2022 event. Keep checking in on voicesinaction.create.org.au and our socials!