Communities in Control Conference is an annual event for the community services sector that gives a platform to re-think and re-assess what we do with the intention of motivating us to do it even better. Last week, some members of the Support Services Team represented Interchange Outer East at the 2021 event. This year’s theme was Think Bigger: Fix Everything.

– No pressure!

Our group thoroughly enjoyed the conference. Perhaps because it’s been a long while since we’ve all had the opportunity to get out amongst likeminded humans looking for inspiration, creative solutions and a reminder that regardless of whether the glass is half full or half empty, there is always room for improvement, growth and new awakenings. The first morning started with a motivating performance by Mitch Tambo which set the tone for the rest of the day. Uncle Jack Charles followed with an endearing and entertaining presentation.

Other speakers included:
  • Robert Fitzgerald (NSW Ageing and Disability Commissioner)
  • Dr Helena Popovic; a leading authority on improving brain function, whose very scary ‘get of bed early jumping with joy and enthusiasm’ attitude has actually resulted in Lucy undertaking a 20 second run on the spot routine during her day … It’s backed by science!
  • Hugh Mackay (social psychologist and author) on The Kindness Revolution
  • Dr Ramona Vijeyarasa (international law and human rights activist)
  • Jess Hill (investigative journalist)
  • Grace Tame (Australian of the year and advocate for survivors of sexual assault)
  • Dr Tim Thornton (political economist)
  • Daniel Teitelbaum (Playful Thinking)
  • Hani Abdile (writer, student, poet, refugee)
  • Andrew Wear (policy expert, author and speaker)
  • Jess Scully (Deputy Lord Mayor Sydney, curator, cultural strategist and creative industries advocate),
  • Chris Helder – ‘Today is the best day in the history of the world to be you!‘ – who totally changed our perception about motivational speakers; and
  • Senator Penny Wong (who has far more to offer in wisdom and knowledge than time allowed for)
Some of the Support Services Team have shared their thoughts on some of the presentations below:


The conference covered a range of topics including violence against women, not surprising given the media attention this has been receiving and for good reason. Please stay with me here as it starts glass half empty and ends glass half full.
It’s been almost 50 years since the Reclaim the Night marches began, calling for an end to violence against women. Almost half a century on with an increase in services and resources, it seems little has changed. Women are uncomfortable or afraid to speak out or report it, are still subjected to victim blaming and continue to experience disempowerment by our policing and legal systems. It is reported that attitudes toward violence against women are changing for the better, though perceptions in relation to gender roles between men and women have not evolved as much.
1 in 3-4 women have experienced physical and/or sexual violence and/or emotional abuse. The the figures are higher for people with a disability who also face significant barriers to accessing supports for assistance. The latter is of both concern and interest to me due to my own experience in the sector supporting young women experiencing various relationship challenges, ranging from the use of dating apps through to domestic violence.

These figures are alarming. The optimists among us might say ‘This is great, it means more people are willing to speak out.’ The glass half empty folks might say, ‘This is not good, we don’t want to see this many people experiencing violence’. If we do not stay focused and driven on addressing this issue, then it will be buried once again only to rear its ugly self in 10 years time with a host of new buzz words. Further, this is something that effects everyone; survivors of violence, victims, children, family, friends, colleagues, policy makers, perpetrators and support services. If you do not know someone who has experienced violence or is the perpetrator of violence, it’s most likely only because you haven’t been told about it. To put it into perspective, take a few seconds to think 1 in 4 the next time you are in a crowded place, be it the gym, supermarket, birthday party, restaurant or work meeting.

A shift in attitudes and perceptions is one small way we can each make a difference, if only to say to someone ‘It’s not ok’. This in conjunction with a proactive community service model might be enough to make a significant impact.

If you have recently watched or listened to Jess Hill, you may have heard her speak of the justice reinvestment project – Building Bourke. Here is an example of some good old fashioned community development principles combining existing skills, knowledge and resources to develop a tailor made program to meet the needs of the local community. A similar model can be adopted and tailored to develop more effective support services for women with a disability. As we see an increase in the number of people with a disability living independently, we also need to further tailor services to their needs including more locally based accessible resource centres providing relationship support, education, prevention and crisis support.


Communities in Control; a broad array of speakers on a various topics trying to address the big issues society is currently facing. It certainly was a time to get inspired, reflect on societal struggles and how we can make big steps forward and continue to be ubiquitously progressive.
I felt the conference delivered on expertise, ground local level knowledge, the right amount of stats; and had some more well-timed moments of levity with entertainment from Mitch Tambo; to get away from the more weightier of topics.
Andrew Wear gave a timely talk on how solutions are closer than we think. Showing that humanity doesn’t need to be thinking how we can tackle greater existential threats in the future, but how other countries are tackling them now. Andrew provided poignant real ground level current examples how countries are addressing the bigger globalised issues. We don’t need to look to the future. We can learn from the people who are getting it right now; it only requires imagination and the political will. As a collective Andrew outlined the fact that we have the power and technology to shape our future. A rousing idea that needs to gain traction and develop momentum across the globe. We’ve done all the talking; now is not the time for inaction and repetitive rhetoric, but action with resources and imagination that we have now!


Interchange Outer East has a strong culture of having fun and this is especially evident on family camps and recreational camps. Through play you can gain connectedness with others and build memories to reflect on with each other in the future. It is those memories of play that can help you reconnect with others. I can’t think of a time that someone says ‘Remember that time you developed that form? Wow! That was so much fun.’ But they may say, ‘Remember that time at a staff training day that we had to build something with Lego!’ For me, Daniel highlighted the need for play; not just at those times that it is expected but also during those more serious times. As someone that has a more office based role, you can easily get lost in doing your job and all the functional aspects of it. While important, it does not build such meaningful connection with others. Play can help with creativeness on finding solutions for problems, bring people together and build teams.
Overall, I thought the conference was a fantastic opportunity to gain a brief but deeper understanding some of the big issues that we currently face in our community. To start the conversation and to talk about the solutions that are working in other parts of the world is a great way to raise awareness in our communities on what is possible and to start to influence change.


By his own admission, and mine too, when Chris walked out on stage and boomed his loud pseudo American/Australian voice over the crowd, we looked at each other with that, ‘Here we go’ eye roll; another loud American motivational speaker who is going to tell us that to change our lives and change the world we just need to think positively and wake up at 6am every day. It wasn’t long before Chris had us belly laughing but really thinking at the same time. Chris’ advice wasn’t to turn every thought into a positive thought, but to make every thought useful. ‘If you can’t or won’t change a situation, then make sure you have a useful thought about it.’ The essence of Chris’ presentation was that ‘Today is the best day in the history of the world to … [insert situation here].’ It was like mindfulness after two cans of Red Bull, and the audience was hooked!
Something else that Chris said also really stuck with me; energy is a decision. When dealing with adversity, keeping the mindset of useful beliefs, energy is a decision and today is the best day in the history of the world to … can set you up for success in all aspects of life. When you’re having a shocker, ask yourself, ‘What is the most useful thing I can do right now?’ and do it.
Chris asked the audience ‘Do you think now is a great time in history to be a parent?’ He looked out over the audience to see scrunched up faces and shaking heads. Then he said, ‘I’ll tell you something. When I say to myself, ‘Today is the best time in the history of the world to be a parent … I’m a better dad!’ He said he’s not thinking back about what could have been or should have been, he’s engaging with his children in the present. He said it doesn’t matter if it’s true or not; no one could ever measure that and know it for sure. But if you believe it, you live it and it becomes your reality. Give it a try!
‘Today is the best time in the history of the world to live through a pandemic!’
‘Today is the best time in the history of the world to go through a break up!’
‘Today is the best time in the history of the world to be unemployed!’
…it sounds ridiculous, but if you really think about it, it’s TRUE! Mindset is everything.

Final thought for the day:

No one person can fix everything but each person can do one thing to help change something.
Thank you Our Community for putting together another fantastic event for the community sector!