Disability, human rights and social equity

Last week saw the 2nd Social Equity Institute conference.  This year’s was on a topic close to my heart – Disability, human rights and social equity.  I served on the organising committee that oversaw the event (although I can’t claim to have done much of the hard work of bringing the event together).

I had the rare pleasure of mostly being a participant and spectator without the stress of having to deliver a paper.  It was a great opportunity to engage with may important debates about disability and rights and catch up with some great people who I haven’t seen in a while.

If you missed the event we had a number of people live blog sessions and you can also see some videos of plenary sessions here.  I did one of the blog for a session on governance and service provision, but unfortunately my personal style doesn’t quite fit with that of the University so there were some fairly big edits made to the one that finally appeared.  For those interested the full uncensored blog can be found below (re-reading that description possibly makes this sound more dramatic and interesting than it is!).


Blog: Governance and service provision


Governance is one of those concepts that try as you might you can’t make it sound exciting to most people (and as an academic with Public Governance in my job title I have tried!). So maybe it was the lure of a discussion on service provision or the promise of John Tobin’s chairing that lured delegates to this session at the end of the first day.


Regardless of what brought us here, we were treated to five fascinating papers that explored different policy areas, countries and perspectives, with the common theme of engaging with individuals and communities in order to develop effective services.


Seuwandi Wickramasinghe shared the Banksia Support group model, but David and Ray – two group members – stole the show, sharing their experiences with us. They vividly illustrated the importance of understanding and tailoring services according to the interests and realities of those living with younger onset dementia.


The lessons of co-production central to the Banksia example are also crucial to the Building Inclusive Communities programme led by Victorian local government. Maureen D’Arcy described projects such as Sensitive Santa and Changing Places that are truly impressive and a testament to the role of local government in leading the way on inclusive local communities.


If the first two papers made a compelling case for the involvement of individuals in the design of services, Lil Deverell demonstrated the importance of incorporating the perspectives of individuals in assessment processes. Traditional assessments of guide dog mobility have revolved around a set of assumptions for people with low vision or blindness, but increasingly people with acquired brain injuries and other impairments can benefit from guide dogs and Lil’s new measure helps to ensure that assessment can capture those aspects that are important to individuals and their lives.


Our final two papers took us on a religious turn. Khairil Mokhtar and Ikmal Tah joined us from Malaysia to outline ideas about how Islam can be used to aid the fulfilment of the UN CPDR and promote human rights and social justice for people with disabilities. Nathan Grills similarly explored the promotion of disability inclusion through religious organisations in Australia and India. Both presentations demonstrate the gains to be made in the inclusion agenda through the engagement of different faith communities.


The overwhelming message from this session is that although we can often get unduly focused on the formal governance structures of services, organisations and programmes, perhaps the greatest impacts are to be realised through the less ‘formal’ and more relational components of governance. One thing is for certain, our panel achieved where many have failed and brought the topic of governance to life.







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