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The Odyssey Conference facilitated by Family Advocacy, August 2012

From getting a service to getting a good life

Carmel Flavell, Unis Goh, Laura O’Reilly and Paul Raciborski attended the Odyssey Conference over two days returning inspired, and wanted to share their take home messages with readers. The members are grateful to take away many valuable thoughts and hope you find some ideas resonate with your experiences.

The Conference was an outstanding success with over 300 participants, who filled the venue from wall to wall with only standing room for later arrivals. The Conference provided a well-balanced agenda that supported diverse voices from consumers, families, carers, service providers, advocates, mentors and policy makers. They all shared their knowledge and experience with a strong common desire about what a good life means to people with disability.

The atmosphere was electrifying, lots of penetrating questions and authentic answers from Q & A sessions seasoned with lots of laughs and tears too. It provided a friendly environment for meeting new people and allowed people to reconnect with colleagues and families.

International and national speakers; Dr Michael Kendrick, Frank Crupi, Dr Patrick Schwartz, Dr Patricia O’Brien, Meg Sweeney, Jane Sherwin, Michael Schwieger, Sylvana Mahmic and many others presented on a wide range of issues including; subtle social devaluation of people with disability, a lifestyle of day care is actually day custody, and "is occupied time by many activities an indicator of a good life?"

Some other themes explored include:

- the definition of vulnerability and safeguards;
- opportunities can become life changing possibilities;
- inclusion is not easier but it is better;
- diversity is good and enabling;
- dependency on services without connection to people and community increases barriers to a good life;
- stop thinking of people with disability as a burden to society;
- no more pity, because it blocks opportunities and possibilities;
- paid staff need to change their role from service providers to linkers and community builders;
- right relationships built on ethical values matters more than ever in the making of partnerships;
- to have faith in people, who are generally good.

The speakers with their own lived experiences were even more inspiring. Their talks gave evidence that strongly affirmed the key themes of the conference. Each of them has shown that they are able to pursue their dream job, balanced with other interests and are still continuing their discovery of new things and forming real relationships by tapping into their community.

The history of disability has moved in a significant way from people with disability and their families not getting adequate services and support to people getting a good life.

For information on the Odyssey Conference, visit Family Advocacy.

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