Update on the 2016 Conference

I hope this finds you well.
I’d like to let you know of a number of developments since the Conference in August 2017.

Below are some notes on the latest news:

  • Feedback from the Conference was positive overall. Many people are now asking, where and when will the next one occur?
  • Our New Zealand friends are talking of holding a future Conference – maybe 2020 – do you know of any others on the horizon between now and then?
  • The 20+ hours of recordings of the presentations given in the main Auditorium have been edited down to approximately 8 hours, and circulated to attendees. Let me know if you missed that communication.
  • Much work was done to produce a Collection of the presentations. Rather than a formal Proceedings as such, it is a Collection including keynotes, elective sessions, stories, art work, and the cartoons which were all part of the event (now available in USB form).
photo of USB

The Conference Collection is on a credit card style USB.

The USBs were sent out to all conference delegates who responded to our email requesting postal addresses.

If you did not receive yours, please contact us to let us know your mailing address. Additional copies can be ordered, and are also for sale to non-delegates, for $25.00 each (or $20 each for orders of five or more). See the Order form for USBs.

  • Twitter remains an option for your comments, using the hashtag #EmbraceConf……
  • Arising from the Conference, in Victoria we have seen two significant acknowledgements of the need to recognise the importance of spirituality in the lives of people with disabilities, within both faith communities and the wider community including disability services.

Both these developments are important as they provide the basis for dialogue and ongoing action. In the case of the Uniting Church Synod of Victoria and Tasmania they have been used in our ongoing advocacy to senior NDIS personnel regarding the recognition of spirituality’s importance and inclusion in the planning process of the NDIS.

Are there other developments arising from the Conference which you would like to share on our Facebook page?

The Conference revealed a desire and need to find a way of keeping in touch. So many of us are ‘doing our thing’ in personal, practical service or academic areas, or combinations of these three. And with such a large geographic spread across Australia-New Zealand and around the world, people wished to find ways of staying connected.

What are your thoughts on establishing ‘special interest groups’?  Some examples of groups might include the following:

  • individuals wanting to share experiences of participation in faith communities (or not) from their experience of disability, with a view to mutual support and sharing of issues and solutions
  • staff/volunteers/agencies working to support people with disabilities and wishing to further enhance the expression of an individual’s spirituality
  • academics who wish to be linked to share research and inquiry for mutual benefit and expansion of knowledge
  • local/state connections.
    And within each of these, as well as other suggestions, there are myriad other possible groups!

Given the inaugural Conference took place in 1996 in Brisbane, is it now time for this 21 year-old movement to ‘come of age’, enhance the connections already made and look to a future in which connections and actions are deepened?

I would be interested in your response to these ideas and am happy to do what I can to make more linkages possible. I’d be happy to initially be a point-of-contact in working on future linkages. It might include Facebook Groups, or email lists of particular interests, or……? All suggestions welcome.

All the best with your endeavours, and I hope to hear from you in the near future.

andy.calder@victas.uca.org.au or 03 9251 5489


Statement from Conference Convenor – August 2016



Andy Calder Conference Convenor

This multi-faith Australasian Conference reflects a growing interest
in issues of faith and meaning in the lived experience of disability.
The name of the Conference is drawn from a book with a similar title,
written by Miroslav Volf, and acknowledges the struggles and joys that
are found in the experience of disability and faith.

Some of the themes being explored during the conference are ethics,
care, inclusion in faith communities, friendship, discrimination, love,
justice and liberation.

In Australia an increasing number of people are actively exploring
the intersection of disability and spirituality. An excellent Conference
program will present perspectives across the faith spectrum, with
opportunities for dialogue and formation of new networks. It will appeal
to people who live with a disability as well as families, carers,
academics and practitioners (volunteers and staff).

The Conference has the support of a wide number of organisations
including the Jewish Christian Muslim Association (JCMA) and the Faith
Communities Council of Victoria (FCCV). The Uniting Church Synod of
Victoria and Tasmania is providing the Conference Secretariat.

Prior to our Conference the International Association for the Scientific Study of Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities (IASSIDD) Congress is being held in Melbourne. Two esteemed speakers from the Congress will be keynoters at our Conference: Prof Hans Reinders is Chair of Ethics at VU University, Holland, and editor of the journal Religion and Disability. Rev Bill Gaventa is
Director of the Summer Institute of Theology and Disability and
President-elect of the American Association on Intellectual and
Developmental Disabilities (AAIDD).

We are also delighted that an Australian cast of presenters are also on board: Prof David Tacey an interdisciplinary scholar who is widely published for his knowledge of Australian spirituality and Dr Lorna Hallahan who
will offer her perspective on the place of spirituality within the new
National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS). The title of David’s
keynote for this conference is: ‘The contours of Australian
spirituality’ and the title of Lorna’s keynote is: Not simply a
functional issue: spirituality considered in the NDIS?

A feature of the conference will be a tribute to the late Rev Dr Christopher Newell AM.
Christopher was a visionary social activist and disability advocate
widely published across fields including ethics, telecommunications,
pastoral care and spirituality. For more information click here Tribute Rev Canon Dr Christopher Newell.

There will also be an exhibition of artworks to be launched by Libby Byrne that reflect people’s experience of disability and spirituality, as it relates to the conference theme.

Join us for this unique event in Melbourne and at the same time treat
yourself to what the city voted ‘The Most Liveable in the World’ has on

Andy Calder, Conference Convenor

Rev Dr Christopher Newell AM

Rev Dr Christopher Newell AM


View and download Brochure.




* The running program and speakers list is subject to change.

The Conference thanks all organisational sponsors, and individuals.

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