At the beginning of March, kutalayna collective and community will be welcoming over 400 changemakers to lutruwita (Tasmania, Australia) for ChangeFest 2023.
As part of this national celebration of community-led, place-based change, ChangeFest events are unique opportunities to bring a movement of changemakers to a community that is leading change in their place. Participants at ChangeFest events are able to listen and learn from the host community about the change they are driving, as well as sharing with each other the important and often hard work of community-led place-based change happening all across the country. As part of Health Justice Australia’s commitment to place-based change, I have been to two previous ChangeFest events and have been a National Convenor of ChangeFest since 2020.
The purpose of ChangeFest is outlined in the ChangeFest statement. As the next event gets closer, I have been reflecting on my experience of the ChangeFest Statement and particularly how it came about.
It started out as a well-intentioned effort at a policy statement to influence the then Federal Government. I remember being invited to a meeting in 2018 to ‘a fast-paced piece of work being collectively led by government, community, philanthropy and intermediaries to engage Federal Government in a national agenda around place-based collaboration’. Authored by people in mostly white, mostly metropolitan organisations across the corporate, philanthropic and non-profit sectors, the workshop led to a draft policy statement framed around place-based change, with a particular focus on thriving children.
Through a range of shared relationships and a perceived alignment in purpose, that statement was subsequently presented to the community hosts ahead of ChangeFest 2018, on Yagara and Yugambeh lands (Logan, Queensland).
I will never forget how the community leadership of ChangeFest2018 responded.
Once again, as has happened so many times in our colonised history, Aboriginal Elders had to do the hard work of rejecting that statement; of explaining how far it was from being community-led, or centring Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander perspectives.
Elders convened an Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander caucus and worked (through the night) to evolve the statement into something that actually reflected the principles and values of ChangeFest and the community-led, place-based change it celebrates.
There is no better demonstration of why ChangeFest matters.
And so from 1 March, I’ll be joining hundreds of friends, colleagues and strangers, to listen to and learn from community; and to think about how the health, legal assistance and other services I work with can support the leadership of the communities they support.