With Communities in Control, change is in your hands

Posted on 27 Oct 2021

By Matthew Schulz, journalist, Our Community

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Australia’s most important conference for community leaders has laid down the challenge to “eliminate inequality”.

Communities in Control, Our Community’s landmark annual networking event, has inspired thousands of attendees over the years with a powerful mix of progressive thinkers, activists, entertainers, 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 program for the 20th annual conference (23–24 May 2022) has just been released, and features 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
  • 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
  • Public management expert Professor Janine O’Flynn taking aim at government systems that “drive community groups bananas”
  • 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
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Delegates at the 2021 Communities in Control conference. Picture: Penny Stephens

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?

“Crises like the pandemic reinforce the power of community and create the opportunity for change. We are going to play our part with a conference designed to spark connections, change lives, and inspire future leaders.”

One of last year’s delegates, Kudzi Maforimbo from Mission Australia Housing in NSW, said the event was “incredible” and a great personal and professional “investment”.

And Nicola McKay of the Northwest Area Mental Health Service in Victoria said “this conference is all about how super-important community is in Australia”.

“I feel flooded with relief that I have found my tribe. To be surrounded by smart engaged and compassionate people who are making the changes we need to see is heart-warming.”

Neil Saxton from community sector super fund HESTA explained why he’s a regular face at the event. “I love the speakers – there’s such a variety, but there’s the great underlying themes of building up resilience, hope, and celebrating the amazing work the community sector does.”

The 2022 Communities in Control conference will be a hybrid event, welcoming in-person delegates at Melbourne’s Moonee Valley Racecourse and online delegates to a lively interactive platform.

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