What Makes Healthy Communities? People have the Power!

Communities in Control 2017

What Makes Healthy Communities? People have the Power!

Conference will open 29 May 2017, Melbourne
We dose, diet, meditate and purge to be healthy. That's fine, can't hurt, but it's not going to do that much to your lifespan. Most of the things that affect our health don't originate in our own bodies and aren't under our immediate control.

What helps your health more is to be a citizen of a nation that has working rules against poisoning the water or the air, where inequalities are smoothed out by wealth redistribution, where guns are kept under control, and where you can get access to health care without having to sell a child or a kidney. Politics matter.

Civil society matters even more. Community groups are the immune system of Australian society, breaking down the toxins and preserving the health of the polity. The research shows that active community groups build trust between citizens - trust that supports public health, eases the path of commerce, lowers the crime rate, and makes traditional politics possible.

Trust builds health, anger diminishes it. Inequality corrodes trust, equality supports it. Participation promotes equality, cynicism and apathy undercut it. Every day community groups give a heart and a hand and a face to a society that would otherwise have no connection to the trials and triumphs of our everyday lives.

Australian society is showing the strain as the community sector battles for attention, funds and support. The individuals and communities not-for-profits support are under stress from buffeting and corrosive multilateral forces - globalisation, rapid technological advancement, climate change, cultural shifts.

Join us May 29 - 30, 2017


As everything that is solid melts into air, as old meanings shift and flow, as demagogues stir up waves of grievance, we're thrown back to the basics:

  • Work together.
  • Help people.
  • Have fun.
  • Do something useful, and do it with all your might.
Come to Communities in Control and remind yourself how it's done!

Join us at Moonee Valley Racecourse,
McPherson Street, Moonee Ponds, Melbourne


Register your place today

Full Program



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2017 Conference speakers


Joan Kirner Social Justice Oration 2017

"Everyone is entitled to a healthy death!" However good our public health care, however careful we are of our diet, however low the road toll falls, the all-causes death rate is, eventually, 100%. However far off the horizon looks for you now, we'll all have to go through that vanishing point, and we should all take an interest in the boundary conditions. Andrew Denton wants Australians to be informed consumers at the end of life - empowered participants in a national conversation. We die as we live: in society, bound by rules, enmeshed in politics. Let's talk it all through. It's the biggest social justice issue of your life.

The 2017 Joan Kirner Social Justice Oration will be presented by Andrew Denton, in conversation with Virginia Trioli.



Andrew Denton

Australian creative force; media innovator, producer
Many of us come to community advocacy through a profound personal experience. For Andrew Denton, that was watching his father, Kit Denton, suffer a painful and protracted death in hospital. Now he's asking why Australians at the end of their lives cannot have a good death. His ground-breaking podcast series Better Off Dead received global acclaim. Hear for yourself why he believes our right to ask for help at the end of our lives, when medicine can no longer help us, is fundamentally an issue of social justice.

Andrew's biography



Virginia Trioli

Award winning journalist, tv presenter
Virginia is one of Australia's best-known journalists with a formidable reputation as a television host, radio presenter, writer and commentator. A two-time Walkley Award winner, prior to broadcasting Virginia spent almost a decade as a news reporter, features writer, assistant news editor and columnist at The Age. She was the popular host of Melbourne's 774 ABC Drive program for four years before moving to Sydney to host the morning show on 702 ABC Sydney.

Virginia's biography



This is Health: This is Healthy Communities: This is World Leading

Dr Sandhya Ramrakha

International guest speaker, health researcher, academic
It turns out you don't need a crystal ball to predict how life will turn out. What you do need is an impeccably designed, painstakingly executed longitudinal study. The Dunedin Multidisciplinary Health and Development Study is one of the most detailed studies of human health and development ever undertaken. This world-renowned study followed the same group of over 1000 New Zealanders since their births in 1972, delivering fascinating insights on medical and social development. An inspirational documentary on the study, Predict My Future, was aired on SBS in 2016 and has been sold for distribution worldwide. We're living in a world that demands evidence for our interventions. Well, here it is.

Dr Ramrakha's biography


A Musical and Inspiring Performance

Benny Walker

Winner, Best Aboriginal Artist of the Year, 2016 The Age Music Victoria Awards
Indigenous singer/songwriter Benny Walker's love songs and epic tales are mixed with passion for the land, the people, summer vibes and deep grooves. Benny was awarded Victorian Indigenous Performing Arts Award for Best New Talent in 2012 and was crowned "2016 Best Aboriginal Act of the Year" at The Age Music Victoria Awards.

Benny's biography



Leading Mindfully: How to focus on what really matters

Prof. Amanda Sinclair

Author; visionary; academic; management and leadership guru
In a world where we regularly feel captured by a never-ending 'to do' list, expanding demands and depleted energies, leadership expert Amanda Sinclair has found a way to block out the noise. Amanda has brought together the latest neuro-scientific and leadership research with understandings of modern and traditional meditation and mindfulness to create a suite of practices designed to help us find time for the people and purposes that matter to us most. If you're working to create stronger communities, there's no time to waste.

Prof. Sinclair's biography



Still Lucky: Why you should feel optimistic about Australia and its people

Dr Rebecca Huntley

Social Researcher extraordinaire, author, social change analyst
At a time when politics seems increasingly negative and our society hopelessly divided, Rebecca Huntley believes we're more fortunate than we think, and have more in common than we know. While many of our politicians are becoming more conservative, both in their policies and their ambitions for the country, the Australian people - almost all of us - want to see real social change, she says. We are more generous and more progressive, and more alike, than we think we are - and we are better than our day-to-day political discourse would suggest.

Dr Huntley's biography



Stronger, Smarter, Healthier: How high-expectation relationships create healthier communities

Prof. Chris Sarra

Indigenous Advisory Council member; Chairman, Stronger Smarter Institute; Professor, University of Canberra; Director, Australian Rugby League Commission
Once you get a notion in your mind, it can be remarkably hard to shift it. Chris Sarra has spent his career fighting the strongly held assumptions Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people hold about themselves, and those foisted upon them by others, in a bid to nullify their life, educational and health limiting effects. His Stronger Smarter Institute puts into practice his belief that higher expectation relationships will create stronger, smarter classrooms - and healthier communities. In this session he will unlock his wisdom and provide us all with a pathway to stronger-smarter communities.

Prof. Sarra's biography



The Truth is Out There: Decoding econobabble to make room for good ideas

Richard Denniss

Intergenerational economic and social challenges leader
"When nonsense is repeated often enough - especially by well-paid lobbyists, commentators and businesspeople - it can start to seem as though everyone believes that black is white, or up is down," Richard Denniss writes. "After enough exposure to econobabble, you might even come to think that the best way to help poor people is to give tax cuts to the rich." Richard's having none of it. His mission in life is to bust the myths peddled by people using mangled economic language to conceal the truth. There's never been a better time to learn how to speak econobabble. Richard has the phrasebook..

Richard Denniss' biography



What's Healthy: Transforming a Limited Life into a Limitless Life

Ben Pettingill

Disability activist; role model; motivator
Imagine waking up blind. One moment you can see, the next your vision is made up only of childhood memories. At 16, this became a reality for Ben Pettingill when he lost 98% of his eyesight to a rare genetic syndrome. While the shock then grief of losing one's eyesight cannot be discounted, once Ben processed his new reality he realised he had to make a choice that would define the rest of his life. Too many people have big ideas but lack the motivation and direction to bring them to life and make their dreams reality. Ben believed that a blind man could see, and his miracle was the activation of 'true vision'.

Ben Pettingill's biography



Testosterone Rex: Unshackling communities from a gendered mindset

Prof. Cordelia Fine

Author; academic, researcher and gender bias expert
Testosterone Rex is that familiar story that tells us that risk-taking, competitive, promiscuous masculinity evolved in males to increase their reproductive success, and is therefore built into the male brain and fuelled by testosterone. This belief that "boys will be boys" can (subtly or otherwise) encourage, excuse or exculpate behaviour and patterns that impede progress to healthier communities. But Testosterone Rex is based on outdated science, Cordelia Fine argues. As The Guardian put it, this "is a debunking rumble that ought to inspire a roar."

Prof. Fine's biography



From Hanson to Hanson: What a difference 20 years makes

Prof. Martin Krygier

1997 Boyer Lecturer; academic; world leader in law and social theory
In 1997, law professor Martin Krygier delivered his Boyer lectures, Between Fear and Hope: Hybrid Thoughts on Public Values. Chancers and confidence tricksters still hawk simplified and inadequate answers to wicked problems. His remedies - civility, communalism, institutionalised values - are ever and always under threat. Professor Krygier could see back in 1997 where Australia was pointing, and he's had 20 years to think it over and tweak the model. If you're looking for an explanation of how we got where we are now, and how we need to respond, this is the place to come.

Prof. Kyrgier's biography



PANEL: Power to the People - Creating change from the ground up

There's more than one way to win a spat - and if you're working to create change in your community, you need to be adept at all of them. Politics is a competition of ideas, and the community sector can't shy away from that, it must be in the thick of it. In this session we'll hear from weary veterans and charged-up crusaders on how to mobilise the grassroots and get them rallied and ready for the many battles ahead. Join facilitator Brett de Hoedt for a lively panel session.




Brett de Hoedt

Public relations expert
Brett is a media trainer and the founder of Hootville Communications, a public relations agency that serves not-for-profit clients. Prior to starting Hootville, Brett worked as a print journalist, talk radio host and publicist with various media organisations including Truth, New Idea, Channel 7, ABC TV, ABC radio and radio 3AK.

Brett's biography



Rodney Croome AM

Co-founder, Australian Marriage Equality; equality activist, social change pioneer
Rodney has been an advocate for LGBTI equality for almost 30 years. He led the successful campaign to decriminalise homosexuality in Tasmania and was the national director of Australian Marriage Equality until last year. He has also worked extensively on anti-discrimination laws, LGBTI issues in education and policing, gay blood donation and many other issues. He was made a Member of the Order of Australia in 2003 and was Tasmanian Australian of the Year in 2015.

Rodney's biography



Dr Sonja Hood

CEO, Community Hubs Australia
Sonja is the CEO of Community Hubs Australia, where she leads a national partnership with schools, government, corporates and philanthropy to engage culturally isolated women and pre-school children through place-based hubs in primary schools across Australia. She has more than 20 years of social policy and program experience in the US, UK and Australia, across the government, health and not for profit sectors.

Dr Hood's biography



Luke Hilakari

Secretary, Victorian Trades Hall Council
Luke is the Secretary of Victorian Trades Hall Council. Under his leadership, Victorian workers are taking grassroots action in unprecedented numbers to improve our working lives. Luke's experience organising some of Victoria's lowest paid workers drives him to fight for wage justice in Victoria. Under the banner of We Are Union, Victorian workers are leading the fight for progressive social change.

Luke's biography



Meg Argyiou

Head of Engagement, ClimateWorks
Meg joined ClimateWorks in January 2010, working to lead the organisation's efforts to 'mainstream' Australia's zero net emissions opportunity, and to help spread this agenda into the Asia-Pacific region. Meg has co-authored the reports 'Improving Australia's Light Vehicle Fuel Efficiency', 'How to Make the Most of Demand Management' and the 'Impact of the Carbon Price Package'.

Meg's biography



Matthew Phillips

Human Rights Co-Director, GetUp!
Matt is a seasoned campaign manager with extensive experience at Oxfam Australia and Oxfam Great Britain. He's currently the human rights co-director at GetUp! where he leads the No Business in Abuse campaign, which targets corporate involvement in mandatory detention of asylum seekers, and #LetThemStay, which aims to prevent the deportation to Nauru of hundreds of asylum seekers currently in Australia.

Matthew's biography


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