Conference galvanises learning difficulties groups around the world

More than 1,100 people from 64 countries gathered in Melbourne,
Australia, last week for the 13th world congress of the umbrella
organisation Inclusion International.

The majority of those at the four-day event were people with
learning difficulties. The conference theme was “life, liberty and
security” and the aim of the event was not only to discuss some of
the challenges faced by people with intellectual disabilities but
also to celebrate their achievements.

Kevin Stone, president of Australia’s National Council on
Intellectual Disability and one of the event’s organisers, said it
had brought a breath of life to the whole movement.

“It has been powerful stuff…the conference has been a major piece
of advocacy. That is always demanding but advocacy that gives up on
people or which focus just on problems and challenges is not
effective advocacy. You need to celebrate your victories wherever
you find them.”

The last conference, four years ago in The Hague, had people with
learning difficulties in attendance, but staged separate sessions
for them. “That offends us,” explained Stone. “If you call yourself
Inclusion International then do it and don’t just talk about

Stone criticised the failure by the state of Victoria’s government
to send an education representative to the conference despite three
years of asking. “It’s a scandal and a bloody disgrace.”

But the state government’s minister for community services and
housing did speak at the event. Bronwyn Pike said Victoria had just
launched a 10-year disability plan with an extra A$1m
(£328,000) for advocacy and self-advocacy groups. “We are
shifting from providing services to providing support for people,”
she said.

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