From 27-29 October, MS Australia held its annual National Advocates Conference in Canberra. All 12 Advocates from across Australia came together for the two day event to discuss key priorities for people with multiple sclerosis and to meet with key policy makers to profile issues currently facing more than 23,000 Australians living with MS.
Participants were able to hone their advocacy and campaign skills in a workshop delivered by political adviser, John Whelan. A media workshop followed from MSA Communications Manager Lee Davelaar, preparing Advocates for media interviews. Three industry guest speakers also attended to provide insight into what makes a successful advocacy campaign.
A productive workshop concluded the first day, with Advocates agreeing on future priorities and opportunities for advocacy and campaigning. In summary, these include aged care/ disability care age cut off at 65, young people in nursing homes and early intervention.
A highlight of the conference was the Parliamentary Friends of MS (PFMS) morning tea, held in Parliament House. The event was hosted by Co-chair of the PFMS, Senator Kate Lundy and was well attended by Senators, MPs, and their staff. The Advocates had an opportunity to meet key policy and decision-makers and their local MPs and arrange separate meetings to further discuss current issues affecting those with MS.
Andrew Potter, MSA National Advocates Coordinator said the advocacy program is unique and helps to bring about change.
“All National Advocates are volunteers who have MS, or care for someone who does. They know first-hand the challenges of living with MS and it can be powerful meeting with politicians and policy makes and sharing these perspectives,” said Andrew.
The conference gave the Advocates a chance to establish and renew friendships, and an energised and cohesive team of Advocates has emerged, excited about advancing MSA’s advocacy priorities for the upcoming year.
Special thanks to Genzyme and Novartis for their sponsorship of the 2014 National Advocates Conference.