Crucial Conversations: the latest podcast series by Hamish Sewell

Cathy McMahon with her sister Cathy in her new home in Brisbane

Cathy McMahon with her sister Cathy in her new home in Brisbane

Crucial Conversations is a seven part podcast series—with five highly produced audio stories at its centre and bookmarked by one lead in and one lead out panel discussion. Having produced one podcast series within the disability sector prior to now, I was commissioned by the Community Resource Unit, a nationally recognised advocacy group working in the disability sector - this series was undertaken with the support of the Anne Cross Foundation.

The series zeroes in on five extraordinary journeys of different people, who are now leaders working in the field in Queensland today, and who have wittingly, or unwittingly weighted into the fray of things in order to bring about real and significant change. Keven Cocks was paralysed in a football incident in his early 20s and went on to head the Human Right Commission in Qld: Josie McMahon, who is technically blind, recently extricated her twin sister, Cathy out of one of Queensland’s oldest institutions after 47 years, and is now supporting Cathy to live in her own home. If these stories are born out of courage and bravery, and are anything but predictable, they come from out of the shadows of a particularly difficult period: where the Peterson state government conveniently turned a blind eye to the disability sector—let alone the myriad other not for profit, family-run, community initiatives. Ironically today Queensland, which has had a lot of catching up with other states to do, has earned itself something of a unique brand when it comes to its resilience and determination within the national disability sector. I worked as the producer alongside CRU and this was a great experience. I worked alongside Hugh Rose Miller on all things practical and CRU’s CEO Margaret Rogers on the big picture stuff. These two were able to coordinate meetings, point me to the right people in the right time and they were generous and frank in their exchanges.

With the roll out of the NDIS now in full swing around Australia, and the shift away from an institutional service delivery model, this is a time of great change— both structurally and philosophically. Part of this change has seen people who loosely fall within the ambit of the disability sector, becoming a lot a lot more active and vocal about their rights and their very real needs. Many now refuse to accept tacit recognition and are rightfully demanding real and meaningful engagement with a broader society that is so often struggling to catch up or willing to broker concessions. This podcast series might be born in Queensland, but its stories reflects a climate of survival and the powerful lifelong relationships —in this case all the storytellers know each other albeit have developed significant relationships with CRU over the years—that underpin such change more broadly. While there is clearly so much more to do, like so many voices born out of women’s rights, migrants or the LGBTQI community, these stories, are now having ‘their time.’ And in this respect, this podcast series is of its time and when it comes to the disability sector in Australia, CRU are leading the way here. They appreciate how many people who are living with disabilities are increasingly using their mobile devices to tap into the zeitgeist. They know podcasts are where it’s happening. Rather than go for the weekly interview format or the delivery of information, these stories are artful and intimate and could be likened to This American Life or some of the best documentaries from Radio National. CRU have pulled off what few other organisations have pulled off and I believe these stories will resonate for many yeas to come.

Crucial Conversations can be download on itunes or listen to from here. Please share with your friends and leave us a review on itunes.

Hamish Sewell