Disability advocates photographed near Sydney Harbour

Supporting disability advocates for a more inclusive future

10 February 2023
Inspiring advocates from Indonesia spent two weeks in Sydney
SSEAC’s fourth leadership training course for disability advocates from Indonesia built skills and enriched perspectives during an action-packed fortnight in Sydney.

Over two weeks in January, SSEAC ran its fourth leadership training course for disability advocates and policymakers from across Indonesia. Delivered in collaboration with the Centre for Disability Research and Policy (CDRP) and the Centre for Disability Studies (CDS), the course offered participants the opportunity to travel to Sydney to undertake training with experts from academia, government and the community.

Funded through the Australia Awards in Indonesia program, the short course aimed to strengthen the leadership and management of Organisations for People with Disabilities (OPDs) in Indonesia, and build the capacity of government officials to implement inclusive policies. A key goal of the course was to strengthen collaboration between civil society and government to advance disability inclusion.

In total, 22 participants took part, including a mix of civil society and government employees. More than half the group identified as having a disability.

Participants of the DPO course at Sydney University

It was an action-packed and productive two weeks. During their time in Australia, the group engaged in a range of activities, workshops, site visits and coursework. Sessions covered a variety of themes, from advocacy and campaigning, to engaging with policymakers, harnessing quality evidence and using research tools.

“This was a really comprehensive and intensive course,” said one participant.

“I learnt a lot about theory, policy and lived experience, as well as how different actors work to implement measures related to disability rights. The course gave me a very rich perspective from which to continue the struggle for the rights of people with disability and other marginalised groups.”

The course was led by SSEAC Director Michele Ford and Deputy Director Elisabeth Kramer, with Professor Jen Smith-Merry (Centre for Disability Research and Policy) and Associate Professor Mary-Ann O’Donovan (Centre for Disability Studies) contributing as course co-designers and subject matter experts.

Guest sessions were run by experienced advocates and professionals from organisations including the Australian Human Rights Commission; Council for Intellectual Disability; Disability Council of NSW; People with Disability Australia; Plumtree; and Resilience to Recovery, as well as core SSEAC staff and Sydney academics.

Course participants with the Sydney Opera House in the background

The fostering of connections between activists and advocates in Indonesia and Australia was an important feature of the program. Participants were able to share goals, ideas and experiences, and spoke constantly of finding ways to keep in touch with each other and collaborate after returning to Indonesia, including with their Australian counterparts.

Participants from government commented that the course had changed their outlook on the work and role of OPDs back home.

“Before doing [the course], I kept my distance from OPDs,” one participant observed.

“This has changed. I enjoyed working with them and I now feel like I can support what they do, including by putting them in touch with people in my networks within government to make their work easier.”

The course also included site visits to the National Disability Insurance Agency and the Disability Council of NSW, among others, which helped participants build a nuanced understanding of the disability policy context in Australia.  

On 26 January, the group attended the early morning smoking ceremony at Barangaroo Reserve, observed the annual wheelchair race at The Rocks, and then travelled on to the Yabun Festival in Victoria Park, an annual celebration of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander culture. These events gave participants a deeper understanding of Australia’s history and Indigenous culture and prompted many insightful discussions.

Throughout the program, participants were supported to apply their newly acquired skills and knowledge to map out projects that they would implement when they returned to work at their respective organisations.

A post-course workshop will be held in Indonesia in the coming months, where progress, challenges and next steps will be on the agenda. We look forward to hearing about the important work these inspiring advocates will be leading in the months and years ahead. 

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