Each year, a stellar list of speakers and hundreds of delegates come together to listen, debate, network, exchange tips and strategies, and - perhaps most importantly - recharge.
Since its inception in 2003 the conference has provided a platform for the Communities in Control principles:
- that for communities to survive and thrive, they must be in charge of their own destinies;
- that communities must have the practical support they need to set their own priorities, design their own approaches, and create their own solutions; and
- that when those first two principles are met, communities will be stronger, safer, healthier and more vibrant.
Local communities are the laboratories of innovation and agility. They deliver targeted social and economic outcomes, and have laboriously and painfully accumulated a vast stock of knowledge about what works and what doesn't. Any government that fails to respect that knowledge will fail; yet most governments respect only coordinated power or unquestioning support, and think that community groups can be picked off or bought off and silenced one by one.
Every year for more than a decade we have offered an opportunity for community group workers and others at the grassroots (particularly local governments) to look up from the coalface and look around them and see what could be possible. Our speakers - visionaries and statisticians, saints and entertainers, executives and academics - have filled in the outlines of a community-driven realignment of Australia's fundamental assumptions.
Our unwavering message has been that when communities are in charge of their own destinies and are able to set their own priorities, when they receive the practical support they need to design their own approaches and create their own solutions, Australia is a happier, healthier, and livelier place on every scale from the nation to the street.
What does it mean for communities to have control over their own destinies?
The answer to this question is at the root of the Communities in Control conference concept - and indeed the creation of Our Community, which works to help community groups to become sufficiently viable, effective and sustainable.
The conference launched in 2003, the first event anchored by two world leaders in social epidemiology - Len Syme and Lisa Berkman.
Organisers hoped for about 300 participants but as word spread, the groundswell of interest grew and the venue was changed three times to cater for what eventually turned out be a crowd of more than 1300 (a level that has been sustained most years since).
Speakers at the conference painted a picture of the future - of individuals and support agencies and governments supporting community groups to be strong, vital and participative so that they can in turn allow individuals to achieve wide-ranging, long-lasting health and wellbeing.
Highly successful two-day Communities in Control conferences have followed each year since 2003.
Best of all, though, is the opportunity that Communities in Control provides for delegates to lift their gaze from the daily grind, to hear the latest community sector research and developments, to be challenged, to reconnect with others in or supportive of the community sector, and to reaffirm their commitment to and enthusiasm for the work they do.
An exciting program is always assured thanks to the many months of work by the organisers and the continuing commitment of sponsors, whose support allows organisers to bring to the conference an incredible array of international experts and deep-thinking local speakers and keep the conference fees very low.
What people say...
“Without exception, exceptional!”
“Inspirational! I have never seen so many people in one room who were totally riveted by the speakers and the topics.”
“In both my professional and academic pursuits I have gained so much, nothing more significant than renewed enthusiasm and a reminder about what really matters!”
“I am inspired and honoured by the company I have kept at the conference and know that what I have learned here will sustain the hope and love I have for my community and our children’s future.”
“I am not sure how you continue to get such great speakers, but keep it up!”
“Excellent conference - and networking!”
“What can I say!!! Wow. I turned up on Tuesday expecting to see about 100 people. I did not expect to see so many people involved in the community segment at a conference.”
“Great to attend a conference with representation of such diverse community groups/organisations, and from a range of sectors. Great to feel empowered at a local level and that this can make a difference globally.”