Inclusion International President Klaus Lachwitz took part in the Having a Say Conference (Febr. 4 – 7, 2018) held in Geelong, Australia and organized by VALID Victoria and Inclusion Australia. It’s the largest and most well-known Conference where Self-advocates can speak up to be heard and to be respected. This year the Conference was attended by about 1000 persons, most of them self – advocates from all over Australia including guests from Singapore. The Conference Theme was: “Community – Here I come!” and the questions raised were: What gives life meaning and purpose? What does a good life look like? There were many lively discussions in different groups and many participants were talking about the importance of having a healthy life, a caring family and a meaningful job.

One of the main speakers was Robert Strike, born with multiple physical and intellectual disabilities he was put in a mental hospital aged three and a half years old and stayed there until he was seventeen. He was schooled on the grounds of the institution. Later he worked in a sheltered workshop for some time and volunteered at hospitals because of his skills in caring for people. He received coaching to become a trainer and did lots of public speaking. In 1987 he co-founded Disability Advocacy Sidney, a service which gives the voice to more than fifty disabled clients every year to help them live independently. He was very ambitious in his job and one of the reasons he described as follows: “In the institution we were stripped of our ability to make independent choices. We were told when to go to bed and when to get up. They chose your clothes for you. I hated that. I like to prove people wrong. I wanted to show people that we can do it.”

At the closing of the Having to Say Conference Robert Strike received the Robert Martin Award for his fighting for the human rights of persons with disabilities. He took part in the CRPD Conference of States Parties in New York and described and translated parts of the CRPD in plain language.

The Conference included many relaxing and funny events such as the Red Faces Auditions, a competition where the contestants are singing, dancing and entertaining.

Klaus also attended a Conference on Inclusive Employment organized by our member Inclusion Australia with about 100 self – advocates, parents, members of the board of Inclusion Australia,  experts and  entrepreneurs reporting their very positive experiences with persons with intellectual disabilities working at the open labour market.