The 2015 QCOSS State Conference was held in Brisbane in October 2015, with the theme of ‘individuals building thriving communities’. Nearly 250 delegates attended the two-day event and feedback from participants, sponsors and exhibitors was very positive and encouraging.

Watch highlights of the conference on StudioQ

Conference wrap-up – day one and two 

Welcome to country

Danny Doyle
”That was the best welcome to country I have ever seen.”

This year’s Welcome to Country was delivered by Danny Doyle, and it was certainly a unique and powerful way to open our conference. We thank Danny for sharing his culture with us and inviting us to participate in the ancient custom of a smoking ceremony.

A message from the Minister

Queensland’s social services sector is a diverse and powerful entity, and one that is undergoing “significant and transformational journey”, as described by the Hon Shannon Fentiman in her opening video address. “We need a clear vision for the community services sector of tomorrow,” she said. The concurrent sessions were designed to support, encourage and aid in the shaping of this vision. 

Keynote session with Community Solutions’ Jessica Venegas

Jessica Venegas

“There is no one person that cannot be homed...”

This statement was made by our keynote speaker Jessica Venegas from Community Solutions in the United States. Jessica’s keynote speech certainly got a lot of people talking and excited to return to their communities and organisations and examine ways in which they could implement some of the learnings.

Watch Jessica on StudioQ

In the round hosted by Jenny Brockie

Jenny Brockie

“This is an ambitious format...looking forward to seeing how it unfolds...”

We were delighted to be joined by renowned Australian journalist and Insight host Jenny Brockie, who helped deliver a new and exciting – and yes ambitious - session for delegates exploring how we can better protect our most vulnerable consumers. With a panel of engaging, inspiring and outspoken guests, the conversation was incredibly robust and fascinating. I found this session to be so heart-felt and informative, and I certainly gained a new perspective on how we must change our mindset and engage more broadly if we are to ensure that a market-driven social services sector in Queensland does not leave anyone behind.

Guests on the panel included: Michael Hogan, Department of Communities, Child Safety and Disability Services; Ray Jeffery, National Disability Insurance Agency; Gabrielle Borggaard, Domestic Violence Action Centre; Samantha Way, Palm Beach Neighbourhood Centre; Nicole Gibson, National Mental Health Commission ; Graham White, ATSILS; David Cant, Brisbane Housing Company; Loretta Kreet, Legal Aid Queensland; Melinda McDonald, ACCC; Kevin Cocks, Anti-Discrimination Commission Queensland; Paige Armstrong, Queenslanders with Disability Network; Bryony Walters, Emerging Voices participant; an empty chair was maintained so delegates could join and also to remember those unable to be with us.

“The consumers who raised issues during the "in the round" session - truly inspirational”

Concurrent sessions

The afternoon’s five concurrent sessions tackled the topics of technology changing the way we deliver services; organisational rebranding; service integration using data and relationships; the government’s response to the issue of domestic and family violence; and young people shaping their own future. What a wealth of information and opportunities to contribute and be part of the shift towards individuals and communities taking more control and effecting real change in Queensland. 

Social benefit bonds

Social benefit bonds

“...great idea and great to see Queensland Treasury conducting the pilot program. A good solution for not-for-profits, governments and ethical investors.”

The last session on day one keep the momentum up and provided many with further insights into a topic many have shown a keen interest since the concept of social benefit bonds was announced by the Hon Curtis Pitt as part of the Queensland Budget earlier this year. The session provided a detailed overview of the concept, how they could work, and what opportunities it may provide for Queensland’s social services sector. The panel chaired by (right to left in photo) Jerry Marston included Adam Allen, Christine Crain and Progessor Gary Sturgess.

Watch the social benefit bonds panel on StudioQ

Networking function

Day one ended with an opportunity to relax and catch up with friends collegues and meet new people.  There was definitely a buzz inthe exhibition area as people moved around and spent the time speaking to people. 

Conscious leadership masterclass

“In under 4 years the 100K Homes campaign housed as many people as are homeless in Australia. We can do this too!!”

“Jessica Venegas is one of the most inspirational and passionate people I have ever met.”

This masterclass kicked off with a consolidated history of homelessness policy, and government consultation mechanisms in Queensland, highlighting the need for meaningful conversation between government and sector partners to work together to produce the right results.

We heard from the Department of Housing and Public Works’ Strategy and Policy team about the process for developing the government’s hew housing assistance strategy, and participants had an opportunity to feedback on key strategies for consideration.

A panel talked about collaborative works undertaken in Queensland to date and about the qualities of courage, tenacity and generosity that contribute to good leadership. 

Jessica used a variety of methods to teach us some tricks to take home, including a game where participants were encouraged to communicate with one another and think creatively to improve their performance. 

Finally we thought about our story, and the qualities of that story that are shared throughout communities, and how we can use those shared experiences to lead with courage, build partnerships and generate commitment to achieve lasting change.

The science of storytelling masterclass

“Full & Frank makes it clear.... story telling is intentional, and ongoing.  And part of your brand.”

Juanita from Full & Frank took us through the science of why storytelling is essential and how to make sure we are telling the right stories!  

Thought provoking content with excellent examples of when storytelling is done well.  Who is our hero and how do we inspire people to take action to support our mission.

We left with ideas and inspiration to really make a difference.

Watch highlights of Juanita's masterclass on StudioQ

Financially fair masterclass

“A unique opportunity that brought together people working towards financial resilience to share our ideas and vision.”

Sharing of case studies in the morning highlighted a range of systemic and individual issues that need attention to build financial resilience – including lack of employment stability, relationship breakdown, domestic violence and mental health.  The case studies also showed emerging issues and trends which are compounding problems for vulnerable people – such as online gambling, regional unemployment, drought, and predatory financial practices.

The day also showcased a range of creative responses that are in place and collaborative / innovative approaches which are emerging. This highlighted that a vast range of creative responses is required to tackle the issue across the spectrum – from measures around early intervention and prevention as well as emergency relief and support for highly complex legal problems and crisis situations – all need to be in the mix in an integrated approach. 

There was strong interest in continuing the conversation!

In closing

“Big tick. Great success. Well done QCOSS and all the speakers.”

This year’s conference was designed to encourage participants to think more broadly about the role of their organisation or service and how it can better interact, engage and work with other community service providers, citizens and stakeholders to improve the lives of all Queenslanders. I hope that delegates are able to put some of the learnings and perspectives into action and build thriving Queensland communities.

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