Actions for churches: disabilities and mental health

Save the date!

In the lead up to World Mental Health Day (October 10), Mental Health Week (9th-17th October), and Mental Health Month (October 1st – 31st), and the news of Victoria’s new Mental Health and Wellbeing Act passed in August, a significant day conference is being planned, specifically aimed at actions for churches in response to people with disabilities and mental health issues.

Welcoming and Inclusive: Actions for Churches in response to people with disabilities and mental health issues – a joint conference between the Victorian Council of Churches and the Uniting Church in Australia, Synod of Victoria and Tasmania

When: Saturday 8 October 2022, 9:15 am – 5 pm

Where: Centre for Theology and Ministry, 29 College Crescent, Parkville or Online

Cost: $40 for Metropolitan participants/ $25 concession and non-Metropolitan participants/ $10 online participants. Catering provided.

Registration on Humanitix

Both Federal and Victorian Governments have been part of significant reforms in relation to mental health and disability. Most significant has been the introduction of the National Disability Insurance Scheme. However, despite these reforms, too many people with disabilities and mental health needs still face abuse, neglect, exploitation and discrimination. These issues have been highlighted by numerous Parliamentary inquiries and the Royal Commission into Violence, Abuse, Neglect and Exploitation of People with Disability.

Theological response to people with disabilities and mental health issues have also shifted, becoming more aware of the impact of our theology and language on Christian perspectives and responses to disability. Many churches have also made efforts to be welcoming and inclusive. At the same time, people with disabilities and mental health issues still struggle to find churches that make them feel welcome and fully included.

The conference will provide opportunities to explore the ways in which churches can be part of advocacy for further reforms by governments. Together we will also explore how congregations can be more welcoming and inclusive of people with disabilities and mental health issues.

Key Speakers

Rev Dr Andy Calder, Disability Inclusion Advocate 
Uniting Church in Australia, Synod of Victoria and Tasmania (see link here)

Rev Dr Andy Calder

Andy has previously held roles as chaplain at Prahran Mission, and senior chaplain at Epworth HealthCare, Richmond.
Prior to ordination in 1995 as a Uniting Church Deacon, Andy worked in a range of community and government contexts in program delivery, policy development and advocacy with people with disabilities.
Andy is committed to ensuring people with disabilities are full and equal participants in all activities of the Synod. 
Andy is also Director of the John Paver Centre, a Clinical Pastoral Education provider.   

Emma Kealy, Shadow Minister for Mental Health

Emma Kealy MP

Like many young people, Emma left the country to further her education, and attained a Degree in Biomedical Science at the University of South Australia. 
Emma has lived and worked in Hamilton, Melbourne and the Northern Territory, before making the decision to return to Edenhope to raise her family in a country environment.
Emma has worked at senior levels in the health sector including Western District Health Service in Hamilton and as Chief Executive of the Edenhope and District Memorial Hospital.
Emma is involved in many community activities, including having served on the Edenhope College Council, delivery of an Anglicare program to support and connect young Mums in Edenhope, Relay for Life and helping out at the Lake Charlegrark Country Music Festival.
She became the Member for Lowan in November 2014. 

9 am Gathering & Registration – Tea and coffee will be provided on arrival
9:15 am Introduction – Acknowledgement of Country and opening reflection
9:30 am Keynote address – Theological reflection on disability and mental health – Rev Dr Andy Calder
10:30 am Morning Tea
11 am Keynote Address – Ms Emma Kealy, Shadow Minister for Mental Health
11:30 am Panel Session – What reforms are needed from governments to ensure people with disabilities and mental health issues can lead flourishing lives? 
12:30 pm Lunch
1:15 pm Panel session – What role should the Christian community be playing to welcome and include people with disabilities and mental health issues? 
2:15 pm Workshops 
3:15 pm Afternoon tea
3:45 pm Reflection – Discussion on where to next and what participants will do as a result of the conference
4:45 pm Closing Worship
5 pm Finish – After conference drinks and nibbles

Workshop Options
Please list your top three workshop options when registering online. Workshops will be run based on the number of participants, and will not run if not enough participants register interest. Each workshop will aim to look for a specific way forward in each area. 
*You will be prompted to enter your top three workshop preferences when you register. Please note your preferences before registering as once you are in the ticket purchase section, you will be unable to see the workshop options.

The workshop options are:

1. Designing a protective systems that works for people with disabilities and mental health issues

2. What would it take to provide a society where people with disabilities and mental health issues can flourish?

3. Rethinking our theology on disability and mental health

4. How can congregations be more inclusive and welcoming of people with disabilities and mental health issues? – Including examples of congregations that have created welcoming environments

5. Down to Ten Days Campaign – addressing housing needs for people with disabilities – Dr Di Winkler, CEO, The Summer Foundation

6. Responding to mental health issues in the criminal justice system