On our own terms – developing lived experience advocacy and leadership for social sector systems change

“New ideas come out of reflection upon past experiences. They do not come from out of the sky. Nor do they come from just reacting to what someone or the system does to you. The process of reflection is as important as the experiences themselves because in the reflection lies the possibility of something new and original.”

– Grace Lee Boggs, Revolution and Evolution in the Twentieth Century

Illustration of person looking into mirror of tree lined path

Image credit: Lisette Charlotte

Why this project matters

There is a groundswell of activity across Australia to increase the involvement of people with lived experience in social sector change, particularly those with a lived experience of historical and contemporary exclusion and marginalisation. This project builds from the deep, historical, and foundational advocacy, activism and vision of justice and liberation focused movements.

People with lived and living experience are making powerful and distinctive contributions to systems change through involvement in research, policy development, service design and delivery in a range of roles including advocacy, consultancy, and peer work. Although this is encouraging, there have not been focused opportunities to bring emerging and leading advocates together to listen and learn from their experiences

A space for generative conversations

‘On our own terms’ is an opportunity to hold space for conversations about what is being experienced in the landscape of lived experience advocacy and leadership across Australia. It also presents an opportunity to work collaboratively to set a vision and agenda for how this practice might develop and how people might be supported to play a more equitable role in social change.

This project will create a space for established and emerging leaders with a wide range of lived and living experiences, to reflect on what it feels like to be part of the social sector’s current efforts to embed lived experience inclusion for systems change. We will explore the power and potential of leading from lived experience as well as the challenges and personal costs of participating in and pursuing this kind of work. The aim is to understand how to better support, develop and enable lived experience leadership and partnerships that seek to disrupt systemic oppression, move us forward in our responses to key systems challenges, and assess and transform them from the root.

There are people who are now well known in this space and their advocacy, insights and wisdom are critical to unearthing themes relevant to this project. There are also leaders working deep within communities and systems who are less known or visible but lead change in equally powerful ways. This project seeks to draw out both known and lesser-known perspectives, in an attempt to tell a rich and multilayered story about the heart of people’s approaches and practice.

Who is involved

The project will be convened by Morgan Cataldo, in partnership with Kelsey Dole, a proud First Nations woman passionate about social change through the lens of lived experience; A/Professor Robyn Martin, Associate Dean, Social Work and Human Services at RMIT School of Global, Urban and Social Studies (GUSS); Suzi Hayes, Researcher, Social Work and Human Services, GUSS and Perrie Ballantyne, Director at Innovation Unit.

The first phase of the project will run throughout 2023 with early-stage funding support from the Paul Ramsay Foundation, with the potential for further project phases in response to emerging findings.

Keep informed about the project and opportunities

If you would like to be kept updated about the project and opportunities to be involved, please provide the following details to on.our.own.terms@rmit.edu.au

  • Name (first and last)
  • Location (the state you are based in)
  • Organisation (if relevant)
  • Email address

Please note that we are taking intentional and dedicated time and space with this piece of work, as we know that it depends on the quality of the relationships we build and conditions we set. More information coming soon.
 

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Acknowledgement of Country

RMIT University acknowledges the people of the Woi wurrung and Boon wurrung language groups of the eastern Kulin Nation on whose unceded lands we conduct the business of the University. RMIT University respectfully acknowledges their Ancestors and Elders, past and present. RMIT also acknowledges the Traditional Custodians and their Ancestors of the lands and waters across Australia where we conduct our business - Artwork 'Luwaytini' by Mark Cleaver, Palawa.

aboriginal flag
torres strait flag

Acknowledgement of Country

RMIT University acknowledges the people of the Woi wurrung and Boon wurrung language groups of the eastern Kulin Nation on whose unceded lands we conduct the business of the University. RMIT University respectfully acknowledges their Ancestors and Elders, past and present. RMIT also acknowledges the Traditional Custodians and their Ancestors of the lands and waters across Australia where we conduct our business.