The ACOSS National Conference 2019

National Convention Centre Canberra

26-27 November 2019 

The 2019 conference theme is: Harnessing Community for Effective Action, and is about exploring the ways in which the power of community can be harnessed to drive systemic change at the local and national level.

Through the conference theme, we will consider a number of cross cutting questions, such as:

  • How do we harness the power of local community action to influence national policy debates?
  • How do we bridge the divide between urban and rural communities to deliver better policy outcomes for all?
  • How can we talk about poverty to win hearts and minds to solve it?

This theme will be interwoven through the conference keynotes, master classes, policy forums and workshops, allowing attendees to explore: how to communicate more effectively about poverty and inequality; the power of local community action in shaping national policy debates; the good, the bad and the ugly uses of data in our sector; alternative funding streams, including philanthropy and partnerships; and the fundamentals of successful strategic campaigning.

The conference offers attendees the opportunity to participate in key learning and development opportunities, to be a part of an important knowledge exchange as well as the opportunity to network with representatives from the sector, government and business with shared interests.

Harnessing Community for Effective Action is about working better, together.

Please download the digital Conference Program, here.


  • ACOSS National Conference 2019 – Opening Night
    Conference Opening, Monday 25 November 2019
    Preview Screening, 'In My Blood It Runs' - ALLOCATION EXHAUSTED
    Opening the Conference on Monday 25 November is a special preview evening screening event. From award-winning Director, Maya Newell (Gayby Baby), comes the important new documentary, In My Blood It Runs. 🎞 The film provides a rare insight into the world of 10-year old Dujuan, an Arrernte/Garrwa boy living in Alice Springs, and the battle his family faces to keep him safe, grounded in language, culture and identity. 🎥 The screening will be followed by a special panel discussion focused on exploring the key themes visited in the film. 🎤 The discussion includes Renee Phillips (Co-founding member of the National Indigenous Youth Education Coalition), Jane Vadiveloo (Founding CEO of Children's Ground) and Sophie Trevitt (Solicitor, advocate, campaigner). ALLOCATION NOW EXHAUSTED. Information for those who have registered: CINEMA LOCATION: PALACE ELECTRIC CINEMA - 2 Phillip Law Street, Canberra ACT, Australia. (02) 6222 4900 The screening will be followed by a half hour panel discussion.
  • ACOSS National Conference 2019 – Day One
    Tuesday 26 November
    8:00 AM - 8:50 AM - Ongoing.
    Registrations Open
    Register! Coffee and tea on arrival
    8:40AM - 8:50AM
    Welcome to Country performed by Roslyn Brown (Chairperson of the United Ngunnawal Elders Council).
    Roslyn Brown is an Aboriginal woman descended from the Bell and Brown families of the Ngunnawal people. Roslyn serves as a member of the ACT Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Elected Body (ATSIEB), is the Chairperson of the United Ngunnawal Elders Council, Co-chair of the Ngunnawal Bush Healing Farm and a member of the CIT Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Advisory committee.
    8:50AM - 9:00AM
    Welcome to ACOSS National Conference 2019 with Dr Cassandra Goldie (ACOSS CEO).
    Welcome to ACOSS National Conference 2019 with Dr Cassandra Goldie (ACOSS CEO). Cassandra has deep public policy expertise in economic and social issues, civil society, social justice and human rights and is a regular media and public commentator and conference presenter. Prior to joining ACOSS, Cassandra held senior roles in both the not-for-profit and public sectors at local, national and international level, including with the Australian Human Rights Commission, the Darwin Community Legal Service, Legal Aid Western Australia, and the global Centre on Housing Rights and Evictions.
    9:00AM - 9:15AM
    Anne Ruston, Minister for Families and Social Services
    9:15AM - 9:55AM
    Abigail Scott Paul, Joseph Rowntree Foundation, on "How can we talk about poverty to win hearts and minds to solve it?"
    Keynote: Abigail Scott Paul (Joseph Rowntree Foundation). Q & A facilitated by Toni Wren (Anti-Poverty Week Executive Director)
    9:55AM - 10:20AM
    Morning Tea
    Take a break and freshen up!
    10:20AM - 10:50AM
    Raise The Rate: Changing the debate, and changing lives.
    This session will highlight the stories of those in the community who are currently relying on Newstart, who have stepped forward to share their experiences and take action with the Raise the Rate campaign. It has been a huge year for Raise the Rate. The low rate of Newstart and Youth Allowance has consistently featured in media coverage and public debate as a major national political issue – partly because of courageous people, like our panellists, who have spoken about the realities of trying to get by on $40 a day (or less). We have not won yet. But we have won over public opinion. And we have new allies from across society: in the business community, in the health community, regional groups, local Councils. And never before have we had so many politicians from both sides of politics, along with a majority of all Senators, support the campaign. This session will feature individuals receiving payments speaking about why they decided to get involved in the Raise the Rate campaign, and how it has changed their life. There will also be an overview of what the campaign has achieved in 2019, and information about how you and your organisation can get involved. Speakers: Karen Perkins and Nigel Oglethorpe.
    10:50AM - 11:40AM
    Outlook for employment and income with Dr Guy Debelle (Reserve Bank of Australia) with Q & A facilitated by Patricia Karvelas (radio host, podcaster, political journalist and commentator).
    Keynote: Dr Debelle, Deputy Governor of the Reserve Bank will speak on the outlook for employment and income over the next few years and the implications for people on low incomes. Keynote followed by Q&A facilitated by Patricia Karvelas.
    11:40AM - 12:40PM
    Time to charge up for the Breakout sessions! Catch up with colleagues and make new contacts.
    12:40PM - 1:00PM
    Andrew Barr (ACT Chief Minister) with Q & A facilitated by Glenda Stevens (Chair of ACTCOSS).
    Keynote: Andrew Barr, ACT Chief Minister, has been a member of the Australian Capital Territory Legislative Assembly since April 2006, and Chief Minister since December 2014. Q & A facilitated by Glenda Stevens (Chair of ACTCOSS).
    1:00PM - 2:30PM
    Breakout One: Framing Masterclass with Abigail Scott Paul, Joseph Rowntree Foundation (JRF). REGISTRATION REQUIRED.
    Abigail is passionate about collaborating with others in winning hearts and minds to solve poverty. She is a framing advocate having led JRF's award-winning Talking about Poverty work. She is passionate about the role of authentic storytelling for systems change, and recently collaborated with Sean McAllister on the critically acclaimed documentary A Northern Soul. She is a true believer in using data and insight to inform the way JRF communicates with public audiences. To register for this session, please send your name and organisation details to [email protected]
    1:00PM - 2:30PM
    Breakout Two: Developing a Winning Campaign with Anita Tang, Daniel Stone and Tim Lo Surdo.
    When it comes to effective campaigning, nailing the strategy is crucial. This workshop explores key tools in strategic campaign planning, including theories of change mapping and power mapping. Hear from experts in digital campaigning and grassroots mobilisation, who will share the tools of their trade and explain how to bring all of these facets of a campaign together. Facilitators Anita Tang (Renowned developer of grassroots advocacy), Daniel Stone (digital communications specialist and founder of Principle Co.) and Tim Lo Surdo (Founder and National Director of Democracy in Colour).
    1:00PM - 2:30PM
    Breakout Three: How spatial analyses of poverty and inequality indicators can inform policy solutions. with Jacqueline Phillips, Adrian Pisarski, Ellen Witte, and Dr Bruce Bradbury.
    This session will explore current research into disadvantage at the local and regional level. Why is spatial research important? How can we harness it to develop better policy responses? What are some of the policy and methodological challenges spatial research presents? Preliminary findings from the ACOSS/UNSW Poverty and Inequality Partnership and the National Shelter Rental Affordability Index will be presented, with panellists joined by leading spatial researcher Professor Bill Randolph and Andrew Yule from Jesuit Social Services Australia to speak to the Dropping off The Edge research series. Also with Jacqueline Phillips (ACOSS Director of Policy and Advocacy), Adrian Pisarski (Executive Officer of National Shelter), Dr Bruce Bradbury (Social Policy Research Centre UNSW) and Ellen Witte (Principal & Partner, SGS Economics & Planning).
    1:00PM - 2:30PM
    Breakout Four: Partnerships - enhancing collaboration for effective impact with Georgina Byron, Diana Ferner, Michael Raper and Andrew Cairns
    Partnerships can be a lens through which all funding opportunities are viewed. A collaborative approach to funding arrangements can have potential for increased longevity and enhanced impact. However, partnering takes time, effort and commitment – on both sides – and is only of benefit if the whole is better than the sum of the parts. A good partnership will ensure that both parties are better able to achieve their goals together than they could without the partnership. It is mutually reinforcing and grows stronger and more versatile over time. Community sector organisations can expand both their resources and their capacity through partnering with commercial, philanthropic and other NFP organisations. This session will explore how this can be done and provide a range of practical insights, including how to identify key strategic partners as well as successful partnership implementation, monitoring and evaluation. Facilitators Georgina Byron (The Snow Foundation), Diana Ferner (Director of Social Ventures Australia), Michael Raper (partnership expert) and Andrew Cairns (CEO of Community Sector Banking).
    1:00PM - 2:30PM
    Breakout Five: Generating insights from your client and case management data with Marcus Harvey, Dr Tom Verhelst, Dr Arash Shahriari and Matthew James.
    Recent advances in non-profit technology options have made it much easier for non-profits to make the most of their data and understand their activities, outputs and outcomes. In this session we will explore how non-profits have leveraged advances such as data lakes, machine learning, cloud storage and analytics to generate service insights, improve their client services and tackle our social problems. With Marcus Harvey (INFOXCHANGE), Dr Tom Verhelst (Program Director at Griffith Universities Regional Innovation Data Lab), Dr Arash Shahriari (Senior Data Scientist The Australian Government) and Matthew James (Deputy Chief Executive Officer of the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare).
    2:30PM - 2:50PM
    Afternoon Tea
    Refreshments time for a new bounce into the afternoon!
    2:50PM - 4:10PM
    How do we harness the power of local community action to influence national policy debates? Creating change against the odds: lessons from the grassroots with Jeremy Poxon, Kathryn Wilkes, Ella Buckland, Charlie Wood and facilitated by Royce Kurmelovs.
    Plenary: How do you build a successful campaign with no funding? How do you organise people who are politically and financially marginalised, and stigmatised by the media? How do you achieve positive change from the ground up when you are locked out of the political institutions you seek to change? This session explores these questions by showcasing leaders who have overcome these challenges and built successful community movements against the odds. With Jeremy Poxon (Australian Unemployed Workers Union), Kathryn Wilkes (The No Cashless Welfare Debit Card Australia Group), Ella Buckland (Welfare rights advocate, campaigner and researcher), Charlie Wood (Campaigner, organiser, and policy advisor) and facilitated by Royce Kurmelovs (freelance journalist and author).
    4:10PM - 4:40PM
    Day One Conference Wrap Up with Dr Cassandra Goldie (ACOSS CEO).
    Dr Cassandra Goldie (ACOSS CEO) talks through the Key Takeouts from an incredibly insightful and challenging Day One!
    Karla Grant
    7:00PM - 11:00PM
    ACOSS National Conference 2019 and HESTA Community Sector Awards Dinner hosted by Karla Grant.
    Hosted by Karla Grant. Karla has spent the last 16 years presenting and producing Living Black, Australia’s longest running Indigenous current affairs television program, further demonstrating her commitment to giving Indigenous people a voice. Karla started at SBS over 20 years ago, as a presenter, producer, reporter and director of the Walkley award-winning ICAM (Indigenous Current Affairs Magazine) program. She was appointed Executive Producer of the network’s Indigenous Media Unit and from there she developed the concept for Living Black and began hosting the program in 2003. For the past 2 and a half years Karla held the position of Executive Editor of NITV’s Indigenous News and Current Affairs, overseeing the editorial for all of its news and current affairs programs.