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    POSTPONED: Mental Health and Disabilities Conference

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    Event description

    **IMPORTANT NOTICE: It is with regret that this event has been postponed until 2023. Information on new dates will be released next year.

    Welcoming and Inclusive: Actions for Churches in response to people with disabilities and mental health issues.

    When: Saturday 8 October 2022; 9.00am - 5.00pm

    Where: Centre for Theology and Ministry, 29 College Crescent, Parkville or Online

    Cost: $40 for metropolitan participants               

             $25 concession and non-metropolitan participants.

             $10 online participants

             *Tea/coffee and lunch included.

    Both Federal and Victorian Governments have been part of significant reforms in relation to mental health and disability. Most significant has been the introduction of the National Disability Insurance Scheme. However, despite these reforms, too many people with disabilities and mental health needs still face abuse, neglect, exploitation and discrimination. These issues have been highlighted by numerous Parliamentary inquiries and the Royal Commission into Violence, Abuse, Neglect and Exploitation of People with Disability.

    Theological response to people with disabilities and mental health issues have also shifted, becoming more aware of the impact of our theology and language on Christian perspectives and responses to disability. Many churches have also made efforts to be welcoming and inclusive. At the same time, people with disabilities and mental health issues still struggle to find churches that make them feel welcome and fully included.

    The conference will provide opportunities to explore the ways in which churches can be part of advocacy for further reforms by governments. Together we will also explore how congregations can be more welcoming and inclusive of people with disabilities and mental health issues. 

    Key Speakers

    Rev Dr Andy Calder

    Disability Inclusion Advocate

    Uniting Church in Australia, Synod of Victoria and Tasmania

    Andy has previously held roles as chaplain at Prahran Mission, and senior chaplain at Epworth HealthCare, Richmond.

    Prior to ordination in 1995 as a Uniting Church Deacon, Andy worked in a range of community and government contexts in program delivery, policy development and advocacy with people with disabilities.

    Andy is committed to ensuring people with disabilities are full and equal participants in all activities of the Synod.

    Andy is also Director of the John Paver Centre, a Clinical Pastoral Education provider.  

    Emma Kealy

    Shadow Minister for Mental Health

    Like many young people, Emma left the country to further her education, and attained a Degree in Biomedical Science at the University of South Australia.

    Emma has lived and worked in Hamilton, Melbourne and the Northern Territory, before making the decision to return to Edenhope to raise her family in a country environment.

    Emma has worked at senior levels in the health sector including Western District Health Service in Hamilton and as Chief Executive of the Edenhope and District Memorial Hospital.

    Emma is involved in many community activities, including having served on the Edenhope College Council, delivery of an Anglicare program to support and connect young Mums in Edenhope, Relay for Life and helping out at the Lake Charlegrark Country Music Festival.

    She became the Member for Lowan in November 2014.

    Colleen Pearce

    Public Advocate

    Dr Colleen Pearce has been Victoria's Public Advocate since September 2007.

    In this role, she is the guardian of last resort for adults with disabilities in Victoria. Under legislation, she is also chair of the Community Visitor boards.

    Colleen fearlessly advocates for the human rights and interests of people with a disability and a mental illness, and is outspoken on the significant issues of abuse, neglect and exploitation.

    Colleen has more than 30 years' experience managing community and health services in both the government and non-government sectors.

    She is a board member of Connecting Home, an organisation established in response to the recommendations arising from the Stolen Generations Taskforce Report.

    Colleen is a proud Yuin woman from southern NSW.

    Paul Dunn

    Paul has 40 years’ experience working in a range of Community and Human Services settings including State and Local Government, large and small NGOs, and academic settings. A key focus of Paul’s work has been the development of new and innovative approaches to community and service development to improve community access and inclusion for people with disabilities and people living with mental illness. Paul has worked on research projects focusing on the measurement of self-advocacy outcomes in Victoria and the role of Drop In programs provided through three Uniting Church Communities. In this time Paul has also played a key role in establishing a new Community Development Team at VALID (Victorian Advocacy League for Individuals with a Disability) and supported the development of Peer Action Groups in eight local communities across Victoria.


    9 am Gathering & Registration - Tea and coffee will be provided on arrival

    9:15 am Introduction - Acknowledgement of Country and opening reflection

    9:30 am Keynote address – Theological reflection on disability and mental health – Rev Dr Andy Calder

    10:30 am Morning Tea

    11 am Keynote Address – Ms Emma Kealy, Shadow Minister for Mental Health

    11:30 am Panel Session - What reforms are needed from governments to ensure people with disabilities and mental health issues can lead flourishing lives?

    12:30 pm Lunch

    1:15 pm Panel session - What role should the Christian community be playing to welcome and include people with disabilities and mental health issues?

    2:15 pm Workshops

    3:15 pm Afternoon tea

    3:45 pm Reflection – Discussion on where to next and what participants will do as a result of the conference

    4:45 pm Closing Worship

    5 pm Finish - After conference drinks and nibbles

    Workshop Options

    Please list your top three workshop options when registering online. Workshops will be run based on the number of participants, and will not run if not enough participants register interest. Each workshop will aim to look for a specific way forward in each area. 

    *You will be prompted to enter your top three workshop preferences when you register. Please note your preferences before registering as once you are in the ticket purchase section, you will be unable to see the workshop options.

    The workshop options are:

    1. Designing a protective systems that works for people with disabilities and mental health issues

    2. What would it take to provide a society where people with disabilities and mental health issues can flourish?

    3. Rethinking our theology on disability and mental health

    4. How can congregations be more inclusive and welcoming of people with disabilities and mental health issues? – Including examples of congregations that have created welcoming environments

    5. Down to Ten Days Campaign – addressing housing needs for people with disabilities - Dr Di Winkler, CEO, The Summer Foundation

    6. Responding to mental health issues in the criminal justice system


    Rev Dr Kylie Crabbe

    Kylie is a Uniting Church in Australia minister, and currently Senior Research Fellow, Director of Graduate Research Programs, Institute for Religion and Critical Inquiry Australian Catholic University. Kylie works in biblical studies in Judaism and early Christianity, with a current three-year project funded by the Australian Research Council on disability and impairment in early Christianity.

    Rev (Deacon) Fiona Bottcher

    Fiona is a Deacon in the Uniting Church in Australia and the current Mental Health Ministry Coordinator based in Sunshine, Melbourne. She is also the mother of an autistic son and is continually learning how to be a better ally and advocate for people living with mental illness and disability.

    Rob Nicholls

    Rob has had the privilege of friendships with people with disabilities that emanated from his work in community services but went way beyond his expectations. He has worked with organisations such as L'Arche Melbourne, Wesley Mission Melbourne, and CBM where he specifically worked with churches to enable a more welcoming approach for people who live with disability. Rob is currently on the Board of L'Arche Australia.

    Meredith Allan

    Meredith Allan was World President of the International Society for Augmentative and Alternative Communication (ISAAC) 2018-2020, and is National Treasurer of ISAAC-Australia. Meredith worked for the Australian Public Service for almost 30 years and now works on a casual basis as a Communication Assessor and Disability Educator with Scope in Victoria.

    Please register by 9am Friday 7 October

    If you have particular access needs or need assistance to register contact:

    Alicia Torres

    Centre for Theology and Ministry

    29 College Crescent, Parkville, Vic, 3052

    Phone (03) 9340 8815


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