News Movements spotted at ChangeFestNT21 by Moira Were

July 23, 2021

Collaborative for Impact are one of the National Conveners of ChangeFest, have developed and supported a set of foundations for the work of building a movement of systems change makers. These foundations are guiding the work of CFI practitioners and the Learning Programs and reflected in the widening CFI Network.

Collaboration for Impact is building a movement of systems change makers skilled and ready to support communities make the shifts towards equity and justice being called for across our nation.

This piece is making visible some of the national movements linked to social, economic and environmental justice initiatives.

ChangeFest 2021 was held on Larrakia country. The program, directed by local hosts led by Palmerston Indigenous Network, gathered participants who are all contributing to building this movement of changemakers. This is a short reflection on what I saw, heard and learnt about movement building at ChangeFest and place-based work from three specific inputs at ChangeFest.

Each of the three examples share some common features:

  • Intersectionality of issues
  • Equity as a core principle
  • Non-linear changemaking
  • Community at the centre of the work and practice

All of the examples also moved along a scale from personal experiences of belonging to being influential collectively and aspirations that grew from disconnection through to being convicted and influential collective responses.

COVID19 and Bushfires as a leadership stimulus

Day 1 of ChangeFest 21 had an online presentation from Dr Catherine Barrett who is best known for her leadership in establishing the Kindness Pandemic facebook group. At its peak there were more than half a million Australians sharing, connecting and linking their individual and community actions of kindness.  The global nature of the pandemic and the local nature of containment and support embody what movements are all about – taking the old adage Think Global Act Local to a 21st century interpretation.  COVID19 unlocked a lot of kindness and this kindness has enabled local leaders to come forward, develop their skills and join with others locally, across Australia and the world.

One of the features of this movement, was how it partnered and enabled alignment with other campaigns.  The wide range of other campaigns the Kindness Pandemic aligned with from The Dinosaur Squad to Black Lives Matter, points to the importance of solidarity and intersectionality of issues and communities. Systems change occurs when there is convergence of analysis and mobilisation.  It is a reminder to join with and the principle of saying yes to all that we share in common.

Post the Bushfires which preceded COVID19 arriving on our shores, ChangeFest had the benefit of hearing from Sabrina Davis, Humans of Kangaroo Island. She shared her story and the stories of many others in the dark days that followed the Island community when in the summer of 2019/2020 46% of the entire Island was burnt, including 96% of Flinders Chase National Park. It was at that boundary that Sabrina and her family lived and are now rebuilding. From the ashes and  horror, loss of wildlife, farm animals, human lives, and all kinds of flora and fauna species, what has risen along with the mental health challenges, is a tenacity and a wholeheartedness to find ways to call on each other and hear each others stories as part of the healing.  The radical generosity of others on and off the Island was tangible and Sabrina set about documenting these stories. A film is forthcoming.  Relationships between communities and peers – farmers to farmers in particular – drove home the truth that we are all in this together and in this climate emergency, some places are taking it harder than others.

Sabrina is one of the community leaders involved in the Menzies Foundation Leadership project and her evidence is contributing to building knowledge about the emergence of leaders.

It is clear in these two presentations the shift from belonging to being influential, with both of the presenters in these sessions being called on for public policy advice, participating in research and being in demand to share their stories of changemaking and mobilising others.

Heart Centred Change Making

There is an Uluru shaped hole in the heart of Australia as the journey to de-colonise begins to grow.  At ChangeFest there were oodles of ways this became visible, from the leadership of elders from Larrakia, Baabayn and Warril Yari Go through to the rap artists and drag queens at the community concert and everything in-between.

Thomas Mayor, Torres Strait Islander, author, activist and unionist provided formal input on his journey with the Uluru Statement and was joined in a unique performance from deadly MC and artist Edwin Fejo.  Lessons from adaptive leadership on how to notice the dances in our collaborative leadership were demonstrated by CFI leaders Liz Skelton and Mark Yettica-Paulson and were ably assisted musically by Grant Yettica-Paulson and other dancers. These tools to understand and deconstruct our behaviour are a central piece of Deep Collaboration and the training on offer to facilitators who want to learn and apply this practice.

Other glimpses included local people lining up when it was time for breaks for drinks and food, applauding and joining in some of the sessions and  sing-a-longs in the evening.  Holding the event in a public place, an act of radical transparency brought its challenges, however is a feature of any movement building, shifting some of the more familiar institutional barriers into the shared space.

I am going to call this movement the decolonisation movement and it showed up at ChangeFest in the visible leadership and co-leadership of sessions. It was also hard wired as an intention of ChangeFest to have sessions they were hosted by both Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal leadership.  This intention was not always fulfilled in action, and it is an area of focussed attention for the future with ongoing support from CFI.

The non-linear nature of this movement and the complexity and divergence of views about rallying around a common agenda such as the Uluru Statement does not take away from a shared position emerging on the principles of the Statement from the Heart – Voice, Truth, Treaty.

There was a session using the Statement as an instrument to help hack six areas close to ChangeFest, including the ChangeFest Statement itself.  This process unleashed some new ideas and certainly disrupted the usual conference panel / presenters approach to inputs.  As Aunty Faith Green said: ‘ Its time for a ChangeFest from the Heart statement.’


These are disruptive times, and many of the disruptors are hackers. By definition hackers are people finding new pathways, pivoting and turning upside down what is not working, by using what we already have.  This is a kind of improvisation.  Hacking as a methodology, is part of what makes an entrepreneur, and like necessity, it is the mother of invention.  Hackers by nature are impatient, using their technical expertise to overcome an obstacle or get a result that can’t be achieved from an existing configuration. This aligns with a wonderful energy within ChangeFest with so many people wanting urgent change.

The artistic work on the Universal Convention on the Rights and the Child entitled The Time is Now shared by La Boite Theatre demonstrated what a hack of this declaration could look like, by bringing the people, in this case, children, to be involved in the re-imaging of the rights of a child.  This reimagining the rights of the child to the right to a childhood.

Another hack from ChangeFest was in the online MoneyHack session where input from Jengis Osman on macro monetary theory was paired with the Uluru Statement from the Heart and has led to the emergence of hacking a primary health network funded wellbeing program in regional NSW.  More to be shared about this as it emerges.

Hacking as a current movement is usually confined to the online world and is mostly undertaken by men. However it has older associations with disruption and creating new pathways. Hacking shows up in systems that are not working, and this action demands that we develop significant ideas, more than reform, when what is really needed is a new system.  Hacking can bring new lens to old problems and that was a feature of the process at ChangeFest. There were lenses from the arts, colonial systems, First Nations perspectives, funding professionals, social service disciplines and many community members lived experiences – all perspectives which are generally not included in hacks.


As a practitioner I continue to learn from different movements about what works and therefore what might apply to our movement of building a community of systems change makers.  The lessons I want to call out for all of us in this work is:

  • Leadership is local
  • Leaders join with other leaders
  • Locals are joined and inspired by peers elsewhere
  • Outsiders, strangers are useful and their privileging locals and Aboriginal voices creates new insights
  • Value of understanding how to build online presence
  • Mobilising needs calls to action
  • Humbly, join with others already doing this work
  • Intersectionality and inclusion need to be factored in and don’t happen by accident
  • Don’t go alone, go with others
  • Listen to the elders
  • Have fun
  • Bring young voices into the centre
  • Put principles at the heart of your changemaking

Moira Were AM