Text reads: Children and young people with disability.
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My time at Summit 2024

CYDA Youth Councillor Louise Weekley gives a day-by-day account of their time at this year’s National Youth Disability Summit. 

I have always been a shy and anxious person. If you had told me 12 months ago that I would be in a room of more than 40 people I had never met, in a city I’d never visited, I would have probably curled up into a ball of pure anxiety. But I did end up in such a scenario, and I didn’t fold. Instead, attending the National Youth Disability Summit 2024 was an incredibly empowering experience.

Over the past year, I have been helping design this event as part of my role on CYDA’s Youth Council. Collaborating over Zoom, we planned everything – from themes, attendees and location to activities and speakers. My fellow council members did a fantastic job, and I feel privileged to have worked alongside them. Even so, when the day came, I became anxious about finally meeting them in person. When it was to fly out, I did not want to go. I remember asking my wife whether I could just stay with her and our daughter to which she of course replied: “No way, you have been looking forward to this for so long.” I’m glad she gave me that final push because all the anxiety was worth the experience.

Day 1

I woke up nice and early so I could walk to the Summit. My anxiety was high but, within 60 minutes, it had almost completely gone away. Everyone was incredibly welcoming, making it easy to connect. Emily Unity, the first speaker and a well-known advocate, was down-to-earth and humble. I deeply related to their approach to imposter syndrome – something Em said they still battle with despite their success.

Next came the Summit’s first activity, one of many which would give everyone a chance to share their ideas and lived experiences. I found this to be one of the most empowering parts of the Summit. We were all in a safe space and people found it easy to share. I loved listening to all the amazing ideas. Most people at my table spoke about some of their negative experiences but followed up with how these had motivated them to try to create change. This is exactly what we aimed for when designing the Summit and it was rewarding to see it play out in real time. 

I was also lucky to be on the panel about ‘creating change’, alongside Youth Council members Grace, Izzie, and Ezra. I thought I was just rambling but I had so many people come up to me after and tell me they related to what I said. It was awesome.

Day 2

On the second day, we heard from WA Senator Jordon Steele-John, quite possibly the greatest empowering role model of our time. As people with disability, political trauma is something that we deal with quite often. The disability community has never been seen as full equals in the government’s eyes and we are often made to feel like just numbers, like a cost burden. Jordon addressed all of this and is quite possibly the first politician that I have ever felt empowered by. Listening to him talk, I felt a sense of healing and validation that I had never felt before. I genuinely want to thank him for the words he said.

Never in my life have I felt more empowered than I did at the Summit. It has given me so much hope for the road ahead. I know what I want my future to look like, and while I am going to have to work for it, no matter how hard it gets, it will be worth it. As Jordon Steele-John told attendees at the end of his speech: stay unpalatable.

This article is an extract from CYDA’s The Platform Newsletter. Receive monthly updates by subscribing below.

A young person with fair skin, short brown hair and wire rimmed glasses wearing a white linen button up over a white t-shirt, smiling and leaning on a tree.

About the author:

Louise is a member of CYDA’s Youth Council currently studying a bachelor of disability and developmental education. She is a disability support worker and passionate about working in the field. Louise identifies as part of the LGBTQIA+ community and is passionate about sharing her journey as a young mum, wife and human living with a disability.

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