National advocacy is our core function here at MS Australia and I’m proud to be coordinating the National Advocates Program. In late October, MS Australia held the annual National Advocates Conference in Canberra. All Advocates from across the country came together for the two day event to discuss key priorities for those with Multiple Sclerosis. Importantly, they got to meet with key policy makers to profile issues currently facing more than 23,000 Australians living with MS.
All National Advocates are volunteers who have MS, or care for someone who does. They know first-hand the challenges of living with MS and it can be powerful meeting with politicians and policy makers and sharing these perspectives.
I’m very pleased to say the conference was a success, with participants honing their advocacy and campaign skills in a workshop delivered by political adviser, John Whelan. Furthering their skills, a media workshop was delivered from MSA Communications Manager Lee Davelaar, preparing Advocates for media interviews. Three industry guest speakers also attended to provide insight into what makes a successful advocacy campaign. We concluded the first day with a productive brainstorm and discussion. The Advocates agreed on future priorities and opportunities for advocacy and campaigning. These priorities include aged care/ disability care age cut off at 65, young people in nursing homes and early intervention. In addition to these priorities, the National Advocates group also identified the following two opportunities for specific advocacy campaigns in 2015:
- Discrimination in tax on people with a disability (particularly people with MS who have a reduced, or no, capacity to work and are reliant on a superannuation pension)
- The impact of the removal of block funding for NDIS Tier 2 services
A highlight of the conference was the Parliamentary Friends of MS (PFMS) Morning Tea, held in Parliament House. The event was hosted by PFMS Co-chair, Senator Kate Lundy and was well attended by Senators, MPs, and their staff. The Advocates met key decision-makers and arranged separate meetings to further discuss issues affecting people with MS.
The Conference gave the Advocates a chance to establish and renew friendships, and cement their advocacy messaging. I’m thrilled to see what this committed team will accomplish in the upcoming year and am very much looking forward to working closely with them.
Together we will make a difference!
Andrew Potter, Guest Blogger