Sunday, June 10, 2012

The 10th Communities in Control Conference in Melbourne, May, 2012

It was really exciting to be attending the 10th Communities in Control Conference in Melbourne. In our invitation it says that it will be the last one and many of the attendees have certainly wondered about that purely because this conference is one of the most useful and beneficial conferences for the nonprofit sector in Australia that I can think of.

I was completely taken by the conference last year and this year is no difference. I think that attending is one of the best decisions I've made this year. The atmosphere of the conference just blows you away with it's excitement.

To me this year's Communities in Control Conference was a heartfelt reminder of the things I hold dear, which is working for the social justice and equality in the world.

It is really a noteworthy thing that while we are working in our daily tasks in the community and thinking that we are doing it for the good of the community and especially benefit those who are vulnerable in our society, we can easily loose the tread on what it means to be working for a good cause. Our struggles for funding and other opportunities often shift the focus to things that lead us to pettiness and fragmentation, away from the real issue, which is to maintain social justice in our community and nation.

The Communities in Control Conference works to restore the balance helping us to hold on to that big picture. It gives us some worthy suggestions on who to follow in order to get to the right information, that 'right stuff' in maintaining our knowledge base on where the world is at this particular moment in the human rights and social justice area of things.

I was literally blown away with the discussions in this year's conference on many subjects. Last year, I was really impressed but this year's conference managed to catch my attention at every turn. My mind was captured at every moment, with every speech and every speaker.

The Hon Peter Ryan, the Deputy Premier of Victoria rightfully questioned the invitation to this conference as the last communities in control conference. It is really right and proper that the format of the conference should follow the times and maybe change to something reflecting more of the so called modern times in media, but at the end of the day, it is the human beings in the conference and where else would we get such a wonderful possibility to meet new people whose concerns are similar to us or to listen to an oration on social justice with teary eyes. Not online, as the atmosphere is very hard to transfer through broadcasts. It is the human interaction that inspires and lifts us up to such new hights that ensure that we feel like we need to 'do something' about mobilising for building and maintaining social justice in our communities and the nation.

From the first speech at the conference delivered by Dr James Whelan from the Centre for Policy Development about the 'Big Society' movement and it's possible effect on Australian society, I was holding my seat in awe of how much information I had been missing while concentrating on my own organisation's struggles in gaining a threshold in service delivery in our area.

I had not noticed how the global impact of the Big Society ideal has been creeping to my world without me giving it any deep thought. Luckily, I can now read the report that is published by the Centre for Policy Development online. I am looking forward to reading James Whelan's analysis and research and by doing so acquiring some tools to encounter the signs of the Big Society taking over my consciousness.

Associate Professor Natasha Cica, the Director of Inglis Clark Centre for Civil Society in Tasmania had recently published a fascinating book, called Penner Dreaming about the stories and the pictures taken around the disappearance of the lake Penner in Tasmania during the 1950's. She also told us some touching stories that will be part of her next book on the Polish refuges from the WW II to Australia.

She raised a question on where do we need to take our stand in being responsible for our own actions despite the systematic possibility for compromises in human dignity some dictatorial nations (like the nazi Germany) provided or provide for performing heinous acts in the name of the ordered society. Her speech left me with wonder and a desire to buy her book for further reference.

Renowned health sociologist Dr Samantha Thomas from the Monash University spoke about the scare campaigns that are rampant concerning obesity and gambling.

She held the view, backed by her research that the individuals and the communities involved should be part in finding solutions to the problems. That is the only way to gain insight and really make a difference in removing some obstacles from finding dignified ways to solve the problems. The results of the scare campaigns only lead to more harm done to the society at large than ensuring that there is real outcomes for the people and communities involved. A very inspiring speech, indeed.

My favorite speech for the first day was delivered by George Magalogenis, an Author, Journalist, Political Commentator and a Blogger. It was a very intellectual speech and covered a lot of ground in Australian politics and the history of politics. I now look forward to reading his book, the Australian Moment and making sure that I read some of his blogs to keep up with the political atmosphere in Australia in relation to the global issues.

The first day ended with Judith Lucy's hilarious comedy performance that left me giggling and a little embarrassed, long after exiting the conference room, which I am sure was just her intention from the beginning.


If the first day of the conference, in my opinion, was excellent, the second day easily topped it and ensured that the participants left with renewed spirits and an eager mindfulness about social justice issues that we need 'to do something about'.

The day began with Margaret Simons, a well known journalist, author, academic and the founder of YouCommNews talking about the end of journalism as we know it. "There might not be journalists as we know in 20 years but the will always be acts of journalism." We do live in an age where everyone can publish, anything and everything online.

She held a positive view to the worldwide fragmentation of information and news and said that even though it might be fragmented, with a little bit of effort, it is possible to find 'the good stuff'. An audience needs to choose carefully who to follow to get to the unbiased, well researched news and act of journalism. It is all in the skills of how to navigate through the maze of unnecessary information flow.

Her speech left me thinking that a community organisation such as in which I work at or indeed any kind of modern business that is working to help the vulnerable people in the community needs someone who can keep up with the big picture that will help us to guide the organisation to informed decision making.

Scott Riddle, the Strategic Syndication Partnership Manager for Google then followed the lead of Margaret Simons and informed us of all the new technology, help and systems that, the nonprofit part of the Google business has actually already put in place to help the nonprofits of the world online. He talked about cloud computing and raised concerns in the audience about privacy issues. He acknowledged all the concerns and said that they were really good points and that Google was certainly putting a lot of effort into dealing with such issues as privacy etc.

I was quite fascinated by The OurSay Panel that followed. On the first day, the participants had been invited to log on to the, write down the question that we would have liked to be answered by the politicians and vote on the questions that others had raised. The three top questions were then presented to a panel consisting of former and current, local, state and federal politicians.

What was interesting was to hear their point of view to the questions raised. It left me with a definite aim to actually look more deeply into this kind of online mobilising of the public behind important questions that need our attention.

Next Damian Ogden, the founder and Executive Director of Campaign Action and an Obama Campaign Advisor give us his insights to how to organize meaningful campaigns for a good cause.

I was really impressed by his high ethics in planning and mobilising people behind worthy causes. I am sure that the program his company runs would benefit anyone who is in a process of thinking about what to do about concerns and how to go about doing whatever it is that needs to be done. I certainly will take this up anywhere I go and talk about the social justice as an issue to be raised in relation to building equality in our nation.

After that, it was time to announce the the winner of the Joan Kirner Social Justice Award winner and to listen to the Joan Kirner's fantastic Social Justice Oration. It truly made my day by reminding me and everyone else why we are working in the community. It is to help others and the world to reach the goal of Social Justice all around the world.

I do not think that there was a dry eye in the audience while listening to the Joan Kirner's speech. It was a heartfelt reminder to us all about the huge work that is there in the community and society for those who set the goal of helping nations to equality, peace and freedom as a main purpose of their life's work.

A really worthy cause to follow and I am looking forward to seeing where the new forms of the Communities in Control Conferences will lead us.
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