The 2022 Communities in Control cemented its place as Australia’s most important conference for community leaders by laying down the challenge to “eliminate inequality”.
Our annual networking and professional development event has already inspired thousands with a powerful mix of progressive thinkers, activists, entertainers and artists, and the ambitious goal of making communities stronger.
Countless delegates have walked from the venue energised for action and with the tools to better lead the nation’s 600,000 not-for-profits.
The 2022 event was much more than a chance for several hundred community leaders to network and set the agenda for the sector, just two days after the federal poll.
For those in the room and hundreds of virtual delegates, it was a chance to stoke the fires that got them involved in the first place, and to refocus on their missions the help of Australia's most progressive thinkers.
Top talent proves inspiring to community sector
The program for the 20th annual conference (23–24 May 2022) featured an overflowing list of speakers ready to make a difference, including:
- Former federal health minister Nicola Roxon delivering the Joan Kirner Social Justice Oration Aboriginal elder and the chair of the Yoo-rrook Justice Commission in Victoria, Professor Eleanor Bourke, on the power of the truth
- Lawyer and human rights advocate Nyadol Nyuon, who was born and raised in a refugee camp after her family fled Sudan, speaking up for the power of inclusion
- Who Gets to Be Smart author Bri Lee, dismantling the links between power, privilege and knowledge
- Musician Ziggy Ramo, with messages of equality in song
- London terror bombing survivor Gill Hicks, who lost most of both legs in the 2005 blast, about how she learnt peace is possible, and necessary
- Environmental economist Nicki Hutley explaining how investing in climate action will reap big benefits for the economy
- Leading commentator Osman Faruqi skewering the lack of diversity in the media and how this shapes our thinking
- Emma Dawson, executive director of the independent progressive think tank Per Capita, explaining “how and why we are not equal”
- Award-winning journalist and author Rick Morton, drawing on a career in social affairs writing to declare why love should be at the fore of everything we do
- Dance troupe Jungle City, busting moves and inequality at the same time
- Philosopher Daniel Teitelbaum on the power of playful thinking
- Feminist, anti-racist and former politician Dr Meredith Burgmann showing how we can learn from radicals to channel protest into action
- Futurist Michael McQueen looking ahead to see what opportunities have emerged for communities in a covid-19 world
- Global coaching guru Michael Bungay Stainer revealing how to unlock the potential of people by “saying less and asking more”
- Chris Roche, a professor connecting the dots between leadership, power, politics and social change
Conference organiser and Our Community group managing director Denis Moriarty said the two-day community leadership conference has earnt its reputation for seeking solutions where other events try to cram audiences with facts.
“This event is a chance for community leaders to meet thinkers and doers who have proved the public mind can shift, and that change is possible – and necessary.
“The call that rings out from our conference – “eliminate inequality” – might sound impossible to some, but we effectively wiped out homelessness in Australia – if only briefly – just last year. Ending racism, limiting climate change and achieving peace are all on our agenda too. These things are possible.”
“I’m an optimist, and I know community organisations are full of them too. Why else would they keep pushing for a better world against the kind of barriers they face?
He urged the delegates to take what they'd learnt into the world.
"We have a once-in-a-generation opportunity to rethink our basic assumptions and reset our goals. We can front up to inequality and injustice, climate change, rorting and corruption, and we can say, 'We beat covid. We can beat you'. But if we’re going to do this, then we’re going to need ideas, we’re going to need a plan, and we’re going to need each other. There’s no better place than at Communities in Control – where the best thinkers come together."
An extended video wrap, selected podcasts, transcripts and presentations are also available on the Communities in Control website, but here are some selected highlights for those who missed the event.
Great moments from the Communities in Control conference
"We are at the precipice of talking about a treaty ... but that optimism also has to be followed with action because good intentions don't always equate to good outcomes, especially when our voices, our self-determination and autonomy has been removed. It's heavy. Because the truth is our history is heavy. To deny that weight is to deny the truth."
Nicola Roxon: Joan Kirner Social Justice Oration 2022
"So in this forum on social justice - asking ourselves how we make our community more equal, safer, stronger and happier - the opportunity and challenge is back to us. What context do we create for political ideas and debate? What ground are we making fertile for those important ideas to take seed and grow? We are not passive in the way the future is shaped. This conference is called 'Communities in Control' after all!"
Ms Roxon's address also featured on ABC Radio National's Big Ideas. Listen here.
Emma Dawson: Inequality is not inevitable
"Conferences like this are critical to bringing representatives of communities together - people that actually work every day at the coal face of change and understand what it is that people need, what it is that people think, and what they're not getting from our current systems of economics and politics, that are so absolutely fundamental to creating a better country."
Nyadol Nyuon: Reimagining a fairer country
"It's quite exciting to be part of reimaging Australia after an election, and I think the result is forcing us to really expand our own political imagination. I want to reimagine our history with the focus on multiculturalism, and I think the question of re-imagining Australia ... is fundamentally a question of redefining equality.
"A fundamental understanding of what equality really means, at it’s most gracious, is an understanding that most of us end up where we are, mainly because of luck, and not entirely because of merit. That to me is the interesting point of starting to reimagine the kind of a future we want to create."
Gill Hicks: Bomb survivor reveals the power of peace
"I was presented with an incredible choice: Did I want to go? And the voice of death was so beautiful and it said, 'Gill, you've lost both of your legs. You don't want to live like this. Come with me'. I felt no pain (but) I wanted to choose life ... I want more. And in that decision, I felt that I was being presented with a new contract. I couldn't read the small print and I didn't know what I was signing, but I knew that my life had to be about making a difference, and I didn't know what that would be. I didn't know what I would go on to do if I survived or even got out. But it mattered, and I understood that whatever happened from this point onwards, it mattered."
Prof Eleanor Bourke: Truth-telling must come first
"I feel so ridiculous now standing up and talking about terra nullius. An absolute lie. A ridiculous lie. And what has it done? What has it done? It's spawned a lawyer's picnic about whether or not we are who we say we are. It's an absolutely ridiculous scenario, and this is what we're confronted with. So rebuilding Australia has to be on a solid and truthful foundation in order for all to move forward, and in this space, I believe Victoria is leading the way."
Bri Lee: Who Gets to Be Smart?
"I believe that in a country as wealthy as Australia, it is the absolute obligation of the state to provide free and universal education for every child from birth. We undeniably have the resources to do that. If any non-government organisation, be it a private organisation or (religious organisation) etc, want to offer a private alternative, they would need to act fundamentally differently than the way they do now to justify getting public funding (which) should not be given to any organisation that does not have to have transparent processes and procedures for who they include and who they exclude in their so-called educational institutions."
Chris Roche: This is how you create real change
"What is important here is recognising that most of the usual tools and methods that are used to assess, monitor and evaluate community work are actually unable to see this invisible work. They tend to focus on the concrete, the tangible, the countable, the budget spent, the numbers of people trained, schools or clinics built, jobs provided, which, whilst important, tell us nothing about how these things are achieved or indeed if arguably more important and less tangible things have changed ... It's like trying to understand how a tree grows by only looking at the tree trunk, branches and leaves above the ground, and not exploring the root system and the soil in which the tree is embedded."
Meredith Burgmann: The way of the radical
“Radicals are the people that are ahead of their time. They think things and do things that need to happen in the world. The great men and women of history were often considered radicals and even ratbags.”
Daniel Teitelbaum: Let's start a revolution
"Play is deeply intertwined with all of human life, helps us find meaning and expression, helps us create connected communities, and helps us to think critically and to challenge authority, and now we have the opportunity to do that here today. All of us, together. Not me. All of us, as you're about to discover. And given the weekend's events, I thought that a change is in the air, a change of government, a sense of change and perhaps even revolution, and so I thought we'd take as our inspiration today the French Revolution."
More information and resources
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More conference info: Past events and resources at communitiesincontrol.com.au.