CREATE’S Voices in Action Conference

Event | Posted May 21, 2024
CREATE’S Voices in Action Conference

Earlier this year, the CREATE Foundation’s ‘Voices in Action’ conference was held in Adelaide, bringing together over 500 participants, including young people with lived experience of out-of-home care, policymakers, service providers, researchers, carers, and workers. The event was a hub for discussing and addressing some of the toughest challenges within the care system.

OzChild’s own Children & Young Person Engagement Advisor, Matt Brady, was not only fortunate enough to attend the conference but also managed to secure funding to bring along three youth consultants currently engaged with OzChild and their carers. This provided a unique opportunity for these young individuals to experience a significant event in the field of child care advocacy.

A Special Journey for Our Young Consultants

One of the youth consultants, Ryan*, had never been interstate before and this trip marked his first time on a plane. The excitement was palpable as he and his kinship carer, Odette, documented their journey with selfies by the plane window to share with their family. Another young consultant, Gemma*, relished the chance to spend quality time with her foster carer, Jan. Despite Jan’s initial dismay at finding herself surrounded by St. Kilda supporters—given her allegiance to Collingwood—the duo shared many laughs throughout the trip. Our third consultant, Jackie*, had been a CREATE member for several years and looked forward to reconnecting with familiar faces at the conference. Her carer, Lisa, appreciated a much-needed break as a single foster carer of three girls.

After checking into their hotel, the group enjoyed the amenities, including the pool, gym, sauna and room service. This time of relaxation and bonding set the tone for the days ahead.

Engaging Sessions and Workshops

The conference kicked-off with a vibrant array of sessions on the first day. Highlights included a young person-led panel on self-determination for Aboriginal children and young people in care and Ashum Owen’s presentation on the #RaiseTheAge campaign. The Advocacy in Action workshops focused on transition support and education, providing young attendees the platform to voice their thoughts and experiences.

One young person remarked, “It’s a basic human right to have a safe place to live AND put food on the table,” while another shared, “I can’t be worrying about homework when I don’t have a home.” These powerful statements underscored the urgency of addressing the fundamental needs of young people in care.

Our youth consultants also participated in art workshops facilitated by Catherine Kanvik and Life Without Barriers, which offered a creative outlet amid the intense discussions.

Fun and Connections

After day one conference had finished, the group attended the opening night screening of the new Ghostbusters film, adding a fun twist to the trip. The event featured the official South Australian Ghostbusters, with Gemma* and Jan winning a prize packed with Ghostbusters merchandise.

A Day of Inspiration and Cultural Exchange

Day two was packed with inspiring speeches from prominent figures like The Hon. Amanda Rishworth, Minister for Social Services, Cameron Burgess from Mackillop Family Services, and April Lawrie, the SA Commissioner for Aboriginal Children and Young People. The day’s panels and workshops covered crucial topics such as residential care, siblings, and health and wellbeing.

A unique highlight was the interaction with representatives from China, who were keen to learn about the Australian care system as they were in the process of developing similar care programs in their own country. This exchange provided valuable insights into the cultural nuances and challenges faced by caregivers in different parts of the world. Our young people and their carers were able to connect with children and carers from China and learn about how out-of-home care differs from country to country. They shared some of the challenges that they face, like how certain cultural obligations impact being able to care for multiple children at once.

After another full day, the group indulged in some retail therapy at Adelaide’s Rundle Mall and enjoyed a delightful dinner together. Their carers took advantage of some quiet time, exploring the city or relaxing at the hotel.

Reflections and Gratitude

The final day of the conference featured notable speakers and culminated in the creation of a Delegate Statement, summarising the insights and discussions from the previous days. The closing ceremony was a fitting end to an enriching experience.

Reflecting on the trip, Matt Brady noted the informal connections formed between the young people and their carers, which have continued beyond the conference. Ryan* shared, “I really enjoyed the conference, I learnt a bunch about other people’s situations and my overall favourite part of the conference was the panels of people, both young and older who reflected on their experience of being in care and allowed us to ask questions.”

Jackie* agreed “Some of the things that I liked on the trip with OzChild were getting to know other young people and carers by spending time with them, going to Adelaide for the first time and spending time with my carer and participating in the activities. One powerful story that I sat down to hear at the conference was about a man who never gave up even when his life got hard for him. I also enjoyed hearing about other people’s experiences and working together to raise some topics that we had issues with in the ‘voices in action’ workshops”.

Gemma* highlighted a poignant moment when a speaker shared his feelings of not belonging, which resonated deeply with her and encapsulated the conference’s message of community and self-acceptance, “This was my favourite moment because I think it sent a great message and unravelled a gre7at truth about the conference, the system and everyone there. We came together and were told we belong, even though many may think that they don’t, or won’t. In conclusion, we don’t belong with anyone or anything. We belong to ourselves, and the choices we make to find our community. I believe that this is an important detail for anyone, especially people in care who were at the conference”.

Looking Forward

OzChild is immensely grateful for the opportunity to attend this year’s Voices in Action conference and looks forward to participating in future events. The experience not only provided valuable learning and advocacy opportunities for our youth consultants but also fostered lasting connections and personal growth.

If you are interested in becoming an OzChild Youth Consultant, please speak to your case worker or contact Matt Brady:  

*If you would like to view the delegate statement, please click the following link:  

*Names have been changed to protect the privacy of the individuals involved.

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Acknowledgement of Country

OzChild acknowledge the Traditional Custodians of the land on which we live and work. We acknowledge their cultures are living ones, which relate to their ongoing connection to all things living and non-living on land, sea and sky.

We pay our respect to Elders past and present.

May the children of today lead us to a brighter tomorrow.

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