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Neurality Workshop Series. Hybrid event: held in person in Camperdown and online via zoom.

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Event description

NeuRality Workshop Series

We need a new reality - what we’re calling a NeuRality - when it comes to how public life supports mental health and neurodiversity. The Sydney Alliance is supporting a broad-based network of people to explore how we can do this together. This is why we are hosting the NeuRality Workshop Series - and you are invited.

From 24 August 2023 to 26 October, NeuRality (a Sydney Alliance research-action team) will host a series of seven workshops that explore the public dimensions of neurodiversity and mental health.

These workshops will be held on Thursdays in the early evening (dates are listed with the session outlines below). You will be able to attend either face to face (at the University of Sydney in Camperdown) or in a hybrid form online.

Please book your tickets for the sessions no matter whether you are a little bit curious, interested in just one session, or if you are keen to come to all of the sessions - so we can keep you across the details of the workshop series.

What is neurodiversity?

The term neurodiversity is a term developed by Judy Singer that refers to the virtually infinite neuro-cognitive variability within earth’s human population. This workshop series seeks to shine a light on some of the more profound differences that exist amongst us (known as neurodivergence), like autism, ADHD, and dyslexia. Mental illness is sometimes included as an example of neurodivergence, but not always. This workshop series is equally about mental health and mental illness in public life, including anything from mild depression or anxiety to bipolar, multiple personality disorder and schizophrenia.

What is this workshop series about?

This workshop series is designed by people with lived experience from across major civil society organisations, bespoke community networks and researchers at the University of Sydney to create a space where we can reframe the role that public institutions like work, schools, social security and community organisations play in supporting mental health and neurodiversity.

We will use some key concepts from the tradition of community organising to help reframe how we think about mental health and mental illness, arguing that we need our differences recognised and valued in public life and not segregated to the healthcare system. 

The aim of the workshops is to create space for building community, sparking exchange and learning that can help us build a people power response to making public life better for people who are neurodivergent or live with mental illness. The workshop series ends with a call to action, where we hope to expand the NeuRality team so we can make a difference.

How can you participate?

Participants can come to a single workshop or they can attend the whole series.

What are the workshop sessions about?

Session One: You CAN ask that! Hearing from people with lived experience (24 August)

This session establishes the workshop space and sets up expectations about how the group will work together. It will feature a range of people giving testimony about their lived experience of neurodivergence or mental illness in public life. There will be time for questions, discussion and learning - and you will be invited to ask questions and explore neurodiversity and mental health together.

Session Two: The public dimensions of neurodiversity and mental health (7 September)

This session more deeply explores how mental health and neurodiversity are lived in public places like work, school, social security and civil society. We will explore neurodiversity and mental health are examples of our social identity and unpack a few key community organising concepts (like public and private, difference and sameness) as tools that can help us explore the public dimensions of neurodiversity and mental health.

We will argue that mental health and neurodiversity are public as well as private experiences, and that we are mistaken to think that we can ‘manage’ mental illness or neurodivergence exclusively in the private healthcare system. Public life needs to make space for our differences, and not simply force those who are different to fit like a square peg in a round hole.

A note for people new to community organising, community organising is a method for making social change that focuses on relationships, building power with, taking action and evaluation. 

The following four sessions focus on particular areas of public life and explore in-depth how they can work in ways to support or hamper neurodiversity and mental health.

Session Three: School (14 September)

Our schools can be places that nurture and teach across our diversity, or that can struggle to provide learning and social experiences that are inclusive. This session will hear from teachers, students and parents who have experience with the school system and explore how they are working to make a difference.

Session Four: Work (21 September)

Work is a central part of so many of our lives, but the pressures and demands of work can come at enormous cost. For some, our distinctiveness is not seen or supported, for others it is taken advantage of. Cultures of burnout, overwork, micromanagement, and bullying can wreak havoc on our time at work, and our lives in general. This session will explore these cultures and unpack what it would look like if we had workplaces that took responsibility for mental health

Session Five: Social change and civil society (12 October)

Social norms inhibit marginalised people. Even as we work together on this project we reproduce those norms. This session asks, "what have you experienced in social change movements that pushed you or kept you out?" and, "how can we change that?" We'll pass the mic away from organisers themselves and towards those who have tried unsuccessfully to participate. If you have ever gone to a community meeting and not known how to contribute, we want you at this session!

Session Six: Social security and welfare (19 October)

Our social security system was designed to ensure people didn’t fall through the cracks, but today it struggles to provide sufficient support. In particular, it often fails to effectively support those who are neurodivergent or have mental health issues - often resorting to a carceral rather than an empowering approach. This session will give testimony about the state of social security and how it could be different if it was centered around our lived experience.

Session Seven: Where to next? (26 October)

This final session will provide a wrap up of the content across the series. It will run like a seminar where participants will be invited to help set the direction of the work we do next in order to create a NeuRality for neurodiversity and mental health.

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