The Advocacy Effect – Full Program


Australian Federation of Disability Organisations (AFDO)

Disability Advocacy Conference 2022

Monday 17 October, 2022

The Jasper Hotel, 489 Elizabeth Street, Melbourne



Ross Joyce, CEO, AFDO

The Advocacy Effect


AFDO has a long, proud history of advocating on behalf of our member organisations and people with disability and their families across Australia, from both disability specific or population based communities. We ensure that the voices of people with disability are legitimately kept front and centre in government policies, legislation, processes, operations, inquiries, reviews, and initiatives.


This Conference attempts to unpack and examine the impact and effect that advocacy has in a variety of areas, from large-scale policy and strategy like Australia’s Disability Strategy to the basics of economic participation through employment.


It also poses questions for us:

Who are the new group of advocates coming forward to take on the continual challenges for people with disability?

How do we build their capacity, understand their priorities, and ensure a new age for advocacy?

How do we connect those of us “weathered” advocates with newer individuals and groups and impart our experience, knowledge, skills, and understanding to ensure the best continuation for PwD advocacy going forward?


I hope all our delegates here today, and online, can take this opportunity to recharge their advocacy batteries, to reconnect with their peers and to take heart on the future of all our efforts for the betterment and inclusion of people with disability.


Ross Joyce

Ross brings a wealth of not-for-profit experience, representation of disadvantaged communities, and business acumen to his role. His extensive experience includes long-term Director and a passionate advocate for the NDIS at Annecto – “the people network” – a national disability, veterans, aged and carers service provider, co-Founder & former Executive Director of UrCommunity – a charity focused on improving social inclusion and empowerment – of people with disability, youth, older Australians, refugee and asylum seekers and Aboriginal & Torres Strait Islanders experiencing disadvantage, and Executive for Headspace Western and Northern Melbourne, addressing youth mental health.

Ross has been CEO of AFDO since 2017 and remains passionately committed to working towards a truly inclusive society.




Elizabeth (Liz) Reid AM, President, AFDO Board

(nominated by Physical Disability Australia)


Today marks my last day as President of the AFDO Board and indeed my final day as an AFDO Board Member.


I would like to thank my fellow Board members who have served with me over the past nine years and continue to bring their passion and dedication to the table; the tireless and energetic AFDO staff; and finally, the reason for our being, AFDO’s member organisations.


It’s been a wild ride for the sector in that time. We’ve seen the NDIS trials and then the full Scheme roll out, major changes in how disability specific communities were funded to support their members plus significant, and it seemed constant, changes in the political landscape. Our greatest challenge was the change to funding models that saw many in the sector, including AFDO, having to lobby for survival during 2014 and 2015.


The tenacity and resourcefulness of people with disability and their allies remains a constant. In the last five years, in concert with our CEO Ross Joyce, the AFDO Board implemented a significant decision to move to a larger team and increase the organisation’s footprint and social impact.  We undertook a strategic realignment and refresh, incorporating a deep dive into what our members really wanted from their Federation and what was important for them as they represented their own members. The result is a more targeted approach to contemporary issues affecting people with disability. In turn, this is reflected in the amount and quality of submissions prepared by AFDO on behalf of its members, as well as the range and breadth of consultation engaged in, resources produced, and disability specific project work that AFDO now undertakes.


AFDO today stands as a proud reflection of, and agent for, our members. And we are truly nothing without our members. It has been both an honour and a privilege to work with all of those that have made this possible and I wish the organisation every continued success in its mission to speak up loud and proud and clear for Australians with disability.


Liz Reid

Liz has over 30 years’ experience in the community, disability, and social justice sectors. She has dedicated her career to assisting others to seek equitable economic and social opportunities to participate fully in their communities. Liz is CEO of YouthWorX NT, a not-for-profit organisation committed to supporting Territorians in their lifelong social, economic, and career success.


Liz is the current PDA representative on the AFDO Board; member of the City of Darwin Access and Inclusion Advisory Committee; and a member of the National Disability Insurance Agency Independent Advisory Council. She was awarded the Member of the Order of Australia (AM) Medal in 2020, for service to people with disability, youth, and social inclusion.


Liz has a disability which requires her to use a wheelchair to conserve energy to do the fun things in life!




9.00am – 10.00am

Registration and refreshments

1st Floor

The Jasper Hotel, 489 Elizabeth Street, Melbourne


The Advocacy Effect takes place on Wurundjeri land.

AFDO acknowledges the traditional owners of country throughout Australia, and their continuing connection to land, sea, and community. We pay our respects to them, to their cultures, and to their elders both past and present.



Welcome to Country


Welcome to Delegates

Ross Joyce, CEO AFDO


Introduction to The Hon Minister Amanda Rishworth MP

Trevor Carroll, Vice President AFDO & International Coordinator

(Nominated by Disability Justice Australia)

Trevor is the CEO at Disability Justice Australia (DJA) and represents AFDO as an elected Director and Information Officer on the Board of Disabled Peoples International (DPI), as the Chair of the DPI Asia-Pacific Region, member of the Pacific Disability Forum (PDF), member of the Australian Electoral Commission Disability Advisory Committee; and on the Executive of the Australian Disability and Development Consortium (ADDC).

Trevor acquired an incomplete spinal cord injury in the mid 1990’s and has since acquired bi-lateral sensorineural hearing loss and Meniere’s disease. He is passionate about protecting and enhancing the human rights of people with disability.





The Hon Minister Amanda Rishworth MP

Minister for Social Services

Amanda is a member of Federal Labor’s Cabinet as Minister for Social Services.

Amanda was previously Shadow Minister for Early Childhood Education and Development and Shadow Minister for Youth. Prior to that, she was Shadow Minister for Veterans’ Affairs and Defence Personnel.

Amanda was educated at state schools in Adelaide and was a volunteer swimming instructor and surf life saver.

During her university studies, Amanda worked as a sales assistant and developed a strong interest in workplace fairness. Amanda followed this passion to work in the trade union movement, both as a union representative and an occupational health and safety trainer.

Amanda graduated with a Bachelor of Psychology Honours from Flinders University and a Masters Degree in Psychology from Adelaide University. After graduating, Amanda practised as a psychologist working with General Practitioners in the delivery of mental health care to the community.

Amanda lives in Hallett Cove with her husband Tim and their two young sons, Percy and Oscar.





Australia’s Disability Strategy – Page to Pavement: How should it deliver.

Dr Ben Gauntlett, Disability Discrimination Commissioner, Australian Human Rights Commission, Australia’s Disability Strategy Advisory Council, Chair.

Dr Ben Gauntlett commenced his five-year term as Disability Discrimination Commissioner at the Australian Human Rights Commission on May 7, 2019. Prior to commencing as Disability Discrimination Commissioner, Ben worked as a barrister in Western Australia and Victoria with a broad ranging practice. He has also worked as an associate at the High Court of Australia, as Counsel Assisting the Solicitor-General of the Commonwealth, a solicitor for a large commercial law firm, and taught law in Australia and the United Kingdom. Ben studied at the University of Oxford as a Rhodes Scholar.


As Disability Discrimination Commissioner, Ben advocates to remove barriers to people with disability participating in society and to ensure the human rights of people with disability are respected.




Lunch & Entertainment from Eliza Hull

Conference foyer


Policy Officer Meet Up

Room 6



1.00pm – 1.45pm

SHOW US THE JOBS: Employment Advocacy

Employment rates for people with disability haven’t moved for decades.

Where do we place our advocacy energies to make a shift?

Or do we head straight for disruption and what do the options look like?


Facilitator: Nadia Mattiazzo, CEO Women with Disabilities Victoria

As a blind person, Nadia Mattiazzo has experienced the challenges which access to mainstream services can bring. As an NDIS participant, she has successfully challenged NDIA planning decisions, as well as supported others to understand and engage with the Scheme. Nadia has held a number of management roles in local government and community organisations which relate directly to community development, program delivery, and individual and systemic advocacy within the disability field. She was responsible for Yarra City Council’s implementation of the rollout of the NDIS in the Yarra region and is a passionate advocate for access to all forms of media, including availability of audio description for all forms of art.


In her time as CEO of WDV, Nadia has presented at the Disability Royal Commission and represented the organisation on various committees and working groups which relate directly to family safety and violence prevention. Nadia enjoys a challenging discussion and intends to never settle for less than what she believes she is worth.



Andrea Comastri, CEO Hotel Etico

Andrea is Co-founder of Hotel Etico Australia, the first social enterprise hotel in Australia, employing and training young people with disability, challenging the wider community to see both the human and economic value of an inclusive society that focuses on abilities.

A strong believer in the transformative power of social enterprises to facilitate change and create sustainable impact, Andrea has held senior roles in charities and philanthropy and advisory roles in State and Federal advisory bodies in areas as diverse as disability, youth unemployment, homelessness, domestic violence, and drug and alcohol addiction.

Andrea helped set up and manage the philanthropic PAYCE Foundation, where he established a hospitality based social enterprise that employed and trained young people facing barriers to employment. Andrea is Honorary Industry Fellow at the UTS Business School.


Keryl Neville, CEO LEAD Canberra, Vice President Disability Employment Australia.

Keryl began her career as an occupational therapist and quickly realised her passion was for championing meaningful, real world employment opportunities for people with disability. She joined LEAD, a local Canberra organisation established by her mother and disability advocate Mary Neville, which provides community connection, employment, and support services to people with disability. Keryl believes everyone deserves the opportunity to make a contribution and can be supported to achieve their potential through opportunities to be active in the community.


Keryl has been a Board member of Disability Employment Australia for several terms over the last two decades and currently serves as Vice President.


Natasha Thomson, AFDO Social Security Consultant, Technical Experts Social Security (TESS) Working Group

Natasha has built strong self-advocacy skills through her personal health journey with Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome (EDS), Postural Orthostatic Tachycardia Syndrome (POTS), and a motor vehicle accident.

Pivoting from being a passive patient to an assertive manager of her own health led Natasha to appropriate management of her conditions.

Natasha actively amplifies the voices of people who have similar experiences in the hope that it can bring widespread and much needed change to structures and systems. Natasha became involved with AFDO in 2019 bringing with her the voice of a person with lived experience of being disabled and navigating the social security system.


2.00pm – 2.45pm

GROWING NEW ADVOCATES: The next generation speaks up.

Systemic advocacy never sleeps and as the current generation of disability advocates reflects on their gains, we ask the new generation of advocates to step up, speak up, and tell us what they need – and what they don’t.


Facilitator: Mary Henley-Collopy

Mary Henley-Collopy joined Australian Federation of Disability Organisations (AFDO) as a Director on the AFDO Board in 2019.  Since leaving the Board, Mary has stepped into the role of AFDO Expert Consultant on National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS), bringing a wealth of professional and personal knowledge as a person with a disability and an NDIS participant. She has over 35 years’ experience working as a Social Worker in both the public and private sectors.

Mary was born with a permanent disability stemming from Thalidomide damage – resulting in four limb foreshortening.



Georgie McDaid, National Union of Students

Georgie is the National Disabilities Officer at the National Union of Students, the peak representation body for all post-secondary students. She is currently in her third year of Sciences/Arts in biotechnology and sociology at Swinburne. Georgie has lived experience of physical disability and neurodivergence as she lives with Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome and is autistic. She is a passionate advocate for raising representation of disabled students in institutions and ensuring fair and just outcomes for all with disability.


Emily Porter, National Health Ambassador, Down Syndrome Victoria

Emily is a passionate advocate for people with Down syndrome. Her advocacy work has seen her travel to Canberra to speak at Parliament House, as well as become a National Health Ambassador for Down Syndrome Australia. She has been a valued member of Down Syndrome Victoria’s Advisory Network for two years. Emily is married and lives with her husband Michael.


Alyce Gumley, Young Leaders Program Facilitator, Young Disability Advocates Service (YDAS)

Alyce Gumley (she/her) is a 27-year-old woman, living on Wurundjeri Country and proudly lives with Bipolar I. Working at Youth Disability Advocacy Service in the Young Leaders Team as a facilitator, Alyce uses her lived experience and passion for seeing young disabled people thrive in leadership positions within the Australian Workforce. While working for YDAS, Alyce is completing a Bachelor of Youth Work at Australian Catholic University and is the founder of a grass-roots organisation – Making Noise – which raises awareness and money for women who have experienced gender-based violence.


2.45pm – 3.30 pm

Afternoon tea

Conference foyer


3.30pm – 4.45pm

Interactive session


Ever wondered how to improve the odds of your issue drawing media attention?  Our final session is an energetic sharing of advocacy know-how and how to use media to amplify your message.

Facilitator:  David Latham, Principal, First Tier Media

David Latham is a registered lobbyist, campaigner, and media consultant of many years’ experience. David has represented some of Australia’s leading NFPs and peak bodies in the disability, health, arts, youth homelessness, aquaculture, and construction industries. He ran the Fund the Arts campaign leading into the federal election and Hands off Boston Bay leading into the SA state election.


4.45pm – 5.00pm

Conference close

Ross Joyce, CEO AFDO



AFDO Annual General Meeting

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