Voice At The Table

Case Study – VCOSS

“If they don’t listen to us – then they are not going to learn what is important to us” Susan Arthur and Members of Reinforce Self Advocacy Group talk about why Voice at the Table is so important" text-by="Reinforce talk Voice at the Table"

In 2018, Victorian Council of Social Service (VCOSS) started work on a new project, Strengthening Sector Resilience. The project aims to support Victorian disability organisations to be user-led and well-positioned for the future.

Given that a key focus of the project is working with organisations to promote user leadership in their boards and governance committees, VCOSS recognised the importance to lead by example with the management of their own project governance. They decided to include a number of people with disabilities on the project advisory group (later renamed the project ideas group) and they consulted with Voice at the Table to help set it up to be truly inclusive.

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“I gave Mike at Voice at the Table a call and had a chat about what we were looking for. Voice at the Table helped us to seek interest for who’d like to be involved.”

Maeve Kenedy VCOSS

Working with Voice at the Table

After an EOI process, three Voice at the Table graduates were appointed to the committee. Voice at the Table then ran an inclusive practice workshop for the new committee. Maave Kennedy said “the very first time that our whole group got together was at the Voice at the Table training about inclusive meeting practice.”

One of the VATT Top Ten Tips is to roll out the welcome mat. People with cognitive disabilities can feel intimidated when attending committees for the first time. VATT graduate and Self Advocate Heather Smyth said that the workshop helped break the ice and set up inclusive ways of working. “We didn’t know each other that well but as the day went on everyone spoke, we played a couple of games and did other activities. So we got to know each other a little bit better”.

In addition to the inclusive practice workshop, VCOSS drew on resources and advice from Voice at the Table. Maeve Kennedy from VCOSS said that this “really shaped the way that we’ve approached with working with the ideas group.” The resources and practices don’t just ensure that people with cognitive disabilities have a real and equal voice at the table, they benefit everyone involved. Maave said, “It’s not just about things that work for people with cognitive disabilities. These things really make meeting experiences better for everybody.”

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“The meetings have been very good. People listen and we all have respect for each other. A lot of value is coming out of it”

Roger Astell VATT graduate and Self Advocate

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“I feel that I’ve been included and actually listened to and taken seriously.”

Heather Smyth VATT graduate and Self Advocate

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“It’s really adding a lot of richness and value to our project and I don’t think it would have been the same without it”.

Maeve Kennedy VCOSS