It’s time to amplify community voices

By: Caterina Giorgi   |   Chief Executive Officer of Foundation for Alcohol Research and Education   |   https://fare.org.au/

The long-fought successful campaign to see mandatory, visible pregnancy health warnings on all alcohol products in Australia made it clear that people’s experiences must be at the heart of political decisions.

“People often say that your disability shouldn’t define you, but it does define me; the alcohol that coursed through my developing body has determined my essential makeup and has coloured all my life experience. I cannot be extricated from it, or it from me. It is a fundamental part of how I see and interact with the world.”

This is Jessica’s experience of living with Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder (FASD), the leading cause of non-genetic, developmental disability in Australia.

FASD is caused by prenatal exposure to alcohol. People with FASD face challenges and need support with different aspects of their daily life, including their physical health, learning, memory, attention, communication, emotional regulation, and social skills.

Today, Jessica is an advocate who is raising awareness about FASD.

Photo of Caterina Giorgi 

Alcohol causes significant harm in Australia -- thousands of Australian communities, families and children are impacted by these harms every day. And that’s why now more than ever we deserve to have a say in the role that alcohol plays in our lives and communities.

But all too often community voices are drowned out by alcohol corporations, whose multimillion-dollar budgets afford them incredible influence over government policy.

Earlier this year, in July 2020, advocates and Australians with lived experience of FASD won a long-fought campaign to see mandatory, visible pregnancy health warnings on all alcohol products.

This was a result of advocacy by people like Jessica and Cheryl. Cheryl is a parent and full-time carer of a child living with FASD and wanted to share her experiences with decision-makers to help create this change.

FARE stepped in to provide support. Cheryl had her story, passion and intimate understanding of FASD, and FARE had an understanding of the media landscape and policymaking and a wealth of campaigning experience.

We worked closely with Cheryl so that she could share her story and call to action with the right people, at the right moment. We shared insights into the policymaking process, supported navigating conversations with decision-makers, and created video content to reach a wider audience via social media.

On one occasion, Cheryl was caravanning with her family, while I was speaking on the phone to her about the next steps of the campaign, all the while watching over her son as he carefully boiled a kettle to make her a cuppa.

While campaigning on the road in her caravan, there were several days when Cheryl didn’t have access to electricity. So her husband Pete would hook her laptop up to their car and idle it for a couple of hours, so she could keep communicating with decision-makers.

Together with Cheryl, we shared people’s stories, sent letters to decision-makers, made countless calls and spoke up in the media. In three months, we worked alongside more than 4,000 community leaders, families, health professionals, and researchers – and 180 organisations to ensure the stories and experiences of people like Cheryl were heard.

The result -- visible pregnancy health warnings on alcohol products are mandated across Australia and New Zealand.

This is people power in action. This is democracy in action.

Thousands of Australians around the country put incredible heart and energy into this campaign. Together we made sure that powerful alcohol corporations do not overpower communities and that decision-makers do what was right for future generations.

This was possible because we worked together, and communities had access to resources and felt supported in their advocacy.

Imagine the change we could bring about if community voices all over the country were amplified.

At FARE, we have built our expertise in research, advocacy, and campaigning for the past two decades. Now, building on the success of the labelling campaign and several other impactful campaigns, we are building a community of people like Jessica and Cheryl who will lead movements and bring about the change they want to see in their communities.

The Amplify Fund let's us do exactly that -- it provides a platform for FARE to share our campaigning and policymaking expertise and for everyday Australians to donate and amplify the voices of community leaders.

Community leaders across Australia know that their stories are powerful and that they can have an impact on how policies are implemented in our country. We truly believe that success is possible when people’s experiences are at the heart of campaigning.

Please click here to learn more about The Amplify Fund. You can also contact me personally on 02 6122 8600 or at caterina.giorgi@fare.org.au if you have any questions or would just like to have a chat.

If you want to learn more about the labelling campaign, come along to our free online event ‘Creating change together’ on Wednesday 2 December 2020.

Nov. 25, 2020

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