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Igniting the stage as MC for Occupational Therapy Australia's National Conference 2023

Updated: Jul 10, 2023



Hello, my fellow adventurer of the world of occupational therapy!

I'm literally buzzing with excitement to share my incredible experience as the MC at Occupational Therapy Australia's National Conference, held in sunny Cairns in 2023. I'm also highly caffeinated, so brace yourself for a whirlwind adventure through this unforgettable conference filled with cheekiness, candid storytelling, and, of course, plenty of laughs.


MC Spotlight reel made by OTA👇


Setting the Stage:

Before we get into it, I want to acknowledge the traditional custodians of the lands on which I was afforded this opportunity; the Gimuy Walubara Yidinydji, Gungganydji, Djabuganydji, and Yalanji peoples. I pay my respects to elders who are past, present and emerging.


From the moment I stepped on stage, I knew we were about to embark on a special journey. The Welcome To Country was an incredible experience to be part of, and I will hold onto it forever. Armed with my conference agenda, stories of my lived experiences, and a sprinkle of humour, I kicked off the conference, ready to engage and entertain the delegates for three action-packed days. Little did I know that I was in for an experience that would leave an indelible mark on my heart.


Video of the Welcome To Country 👇


Embracing Lived Experiences:

I was fortunate to get to introduce, interview, and witness the personification of brilliance that is Turia Pitt. Turia's skill in sharing her key messages of hope, authenticity, vulnerability, and redefining and embracing beauty - told through her powerful story is mind-blowing. My mind was also blown to find out that Turia has a crocodile named after her, and that one of her proudest achievements is being 'an answer' on Hard Quiz.


A particular highlight of the conference was the plenary session, where I had the honour of facilitating an expert panel featuring the lived experiences of four remarkable individuals - Saran Chamberlain, Thomas Banks, Melanie Heyworth, and Peter Tully. Their stories were raw, authentic, and profoundly impactful. We laughed, we cried, and we connected on a deeply human level (just casually in front of 1200 fancy-pants health professionals). Together, we explored the importance of connection, storytelling, and hope. Our plenary panel reminded everyone that our experiences shape us, and sharing them creates powerful bonds and lasting impact.



A Twitterverse Filled with Gratitude:

The outpouring of love and appreciation on Twitter has simply been unbelievable. Starting off Prof. Natasha Lannin (@NatashaLannin), Aprof. Libby Callaway (@libby_callaway), and Dr. Laura Joliffe (@LJJolliffe) are always in my corner and championing my work. Dr. Lauren Christie (@LaurenJChristie) expressed her gratitude for the privilege of hearing my story and the reminder of the power of connection and hope. Jacki Liddle (@jacki_liddle) praised the conference for spotlighting lived experience expertise and kindly commended my style of leadership. Melanie Hoyle (@melanie_hoyle) couldn't resist sharing one of her favourite quotes from the conference - my "3P's of privilege" my position, my pigmentation, and my penis. - accurate, funny, and absolutely genius!". I'm glad you got the gag, Mel 😉.


Select an Image👇


Acknowledging Remarkable Contributions:

I would be remiss not to acknowledge the remarkable individuals who made this conference a roaring success. A heartfelt thank you goes to Samantha Hunter and Carol McKinstry (AKA Sam and Caz), the incredible CEO and President of Occupational Therapy Australia, for their unwavering support and leadership.


I also extend my deepest appreciation to the entire crew at Occupational Therapy Australia - shoutout to Jenny, Brigitte, and Ali (and Jesse). From the tireless organizers to the dedicated volunteers, you all worked tirelessly to make this conference shine.

And finally to the visionary Chief of the Scientific Committee, Priscilla Ennals, who sparked the fire that ignited the "Ignite" conference theme. Priscilla, without your passion and vision, I wouldn't have had the opportunity to participate in this unforgettable event. Props to you, Cill! (Click Here to Watch the 2015 interview that sparked our connection!)


Conclusion:

As I reflect on my time as the MC at Occupational Therapy Australia's National Conference 2023, my heart swells with gratitude and pride. It was a privilege to be a part of this extraordinary event, surrounded by brilliant minds, compassionate hearts, and a community dedicated to improving lives through occupational therapy. Together, we embarked on a giant journey, navigating our way using narratives, and I am indebted and proud of each and every one of the 1200 delegates who joined me. I'm also indebted to my first OT who helped to motivate and mobilise my journey as an inpatient, Amy Zuluaga. Your commitment to getting to know me as a person, not a patient, inspired so much of my journey forward - and for this I will be eternally gratefully (and constantly sharing our - sometimes inappropriate due to coarse language - stories as inspiration). Speaking of inspiration, did I mention how much OT's make you feel safe on (and rip up) a dance floor? I seldom enter a d-floor with confidence, so this experience meant so much!


To Sam, Caz, Cill, and the entire crew at Occupational Therapy Australia, thank you from the bottom of my heart. Your collective efforts created an unforgettable conference experience that will forever be etched in our memories. You have inspired us all to push boundaries, embrace lived experiences, and share our stories to strengthen the "we, us, ours" spirit in this remarkable field.



With immense love and appreciation,

Cal.






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