7 February 2024

The conference has been around for a long time, and there is nothing else quite like it in Australia.

Image: A group of people we support and staff sitting together at the conference.

A crowd was present around the Life Without Barriers booth at the Having a Say Conference in Geelong. The source of its popularity was Rob and Steven, two men who choose Life Without Barriers’ Supported Independent Living (SIL) services, who were engaging all who passed by and making sure no one left empty-handed.

The duo took over the stand and drew more attention than the Life Without Barriers staff who were there to work.

Image: Robert and Steven chat with a woman at the Life Without Barriers stall.

This was Rob’s first time at the conference, and it was clear for all to see that he was in his element as he chatted enthusiastically with people who stopped by.

“I’m here on the Life Without Barriers table. I am giving people things. I give books, seeds, diary. Giving lots away” Rob said.

Rob introduced himself, saying, “I am captain of my basketball team. Tomorrow, I play at 10.30 at Court 3.”

Then, taking out his diary, he showed a date in February.

“My birthday,” he said, and his grin widened as people wished him a happy birthday. Rob told people that he liked his service from Life Without Barriers, openly displaying his affection for his Life Without Barriers staff with a hug.

“I meet all peoples. Kids come up to me and say hi,” he said, referring to a group of young Having a Say volunteers.

“And another woman came up to say hello. I made about 400 friends,” Rob said proudly.

Image: Three young girls wearing orange VALID t-shirts stand with Robert, smiling at the camera.

Steven, who was also at the Life Without Barriers stall, said, “I’m giving out pamphlets.”

Steven has been a member of VALiD for five years and has been coming to Having a Say for the last three years. Steven said it is important for him attend.

“I like talking about rights. Human rights, that sort of stuff,” he said.

While it was the first time at the conference for some, whether new or old friends, everyone who attended was joyful being amongst their community. Steven said that he liked coming to the conference “cos of friends - being with friends. I got friends here.”

Rob and Steven attended the conference with other people who use Life Without Barriers’ SIL services, who all live in different homes. The group was accompanied by Life Without Barriers support staff to the event. Six of the participants are members of their respective Speak Up For Yourself (SUFY) groups. They are local self-advocacy groups for Life Without Barriers residents in Melbourne and are facilitated in partnership with VALiD.

Dennis, based in Melbourne, Victoria, is also a member of SUFY and came to the conference.

“People with disabilities need support by being educated and knowing right from wrong, and how to ask for things in life to make your life worthwhile – like living your best life for your abilities and dealing with things you have to deal with every day." Dennis said.

You can read more from Dennis here.

Image: Robert and Steven sit together at the Life Without Barriers stall.

Life Without Barriers is very proud to support the annual Having a Say conference, which is presented by VALiD in association with Inclusion Australia.

This year’s theme was ‘The Future is Ours’, and the event kicked off with welcome speeches and special guests, including the Mayor of Greater Geelong Trent Sutton, the Victorian Disability Work Commissioner Dan Stubbs and a performance by MusicSpace.

There was plenty to do and learn over the two days - from informative workshops on many topics, including the NDIS Review and how people can engage as members of company and advisory boards, to fun 'come and try' activities like Harley Davidson bike rides, tango dance lessons and hair and make-up classes. Even with so many fun highlights, the standout events were the Having a Say Got Talent Competition and the ever-popular conference disco.

Image: A large group of people taking part in the disco.

Looking for disability support?

We’re a trusted NDIS provider that personalises services based on your needs.

Related Stories