What if communities and government agencies, charities and foundations could combine their intelligence and resources around an agreed goal? How might we disrupt disadvantage so that young people in Australia have the ability to shape their own lives and reach their potential?  

As Australians we pride ourselves on being a meritocratic society, but the success of a few can hide the underlying truth: entrenched intergenerational advantage or disadvantage, like the property and power of the wealthy, is handed down from parent to child.

The 2021 Disrupting Disadvantage event series, hosted by the Paul Ramsay Foundation, brings together small groups to engage with some of the most central challenges to our common life. Participants tackle the opportunities to disrupt disadvantage, wrangle with the controversies, listen to new questions being formed, and reflect on long-held views.

Disruptive Events

Our next event in the 2021 Disrupting Disadvantage series focused on Disruptive Events.

More than two years have now passed since the early start to the Australian 2019/2020 Bushfire season. No sooner had the mega fires of the season been extinguished than reports of COVID-19 started to hit the mainstream media and a so-called once in a hundred years’ pandemic emerged. While we are still very much living amidst the deep disruption of these original events, and even experiencing new and persistent outbreaks of COVID-19, there is a pressing need to make sense of what they mean for us and our life together – locally, nationally and globally.

We cannot take for granted that disruptive events or shocks will necessarily bring us all closer together, so what can we learn from experiences of events that have been deeply disruptive but have enabled enduring, positive change for communities? What can we learn to recover well from disruptive events? What has been decisive in making the difference? And what role might each of us play?

This online event on September 23 heard from leaders both from Australia and overseas who shared their insights, encouraged us to reflect on what can be learned from the events we have experienced so recently, and posed the questions with which they are still grappling.

Take 2 minutes to catch up on this event

Watch the full video from Disruptive Questions

Mr Bhiamie Williamson, Research Associate and PhD Candidate, Australian National University

Bhiamie Williamson is a Euahlayi man from north-west New South Wales. Bhiamie graduate of the Australian National University and in 2017 from the Masters of Indigenous Governance at the University of Victoria, British Columbia, Canada.

Bhiamie also holds graduate certificates in Indigenous Governance from the Native Nations Institute at the University of Arizona and Indigenous Trauma and Recovery Practice from the University of Wollongong. Bhiamie’s expertise includes cultural land management, cultural burning with a focus on southern temperate Australia, and the impacts of disasters on Indigenous peoples.

Sharon Goldfield, Director Centre for Community Child Health RCH and Theme Director Population Health MCRI

Prof Goldfeld’s career interest is in policy-focused public health, made up of complementary, synergistic and cross-disciplinary streams of work focused on investigating, testing and translating sustainable policy relevant solutions that eliminate inequities for Australia’s children. Sharon has a decade of experience in state government as a senior policymaker in health and education, including principal medical advisor in the Victorian Department of Education and Training. Sharon was recently awarded the inaugural Marles Medal for excellent and original research that led to outstanding achievement in research impact.

Nor Shanino, Managing Director, Ubuntu Project

Nor Shanino is a community and youth worker who is passionate about the development and progress of young people in his community. Nor has lived experience of observing the difficulties faced by young people such as employment, over policing and access to opportunity. Accordingly, he has worked with Inner Melbourne Legal Services, Co-health as well as local councils in the inner-metro region to name a few, to deliver programs on drug and alcohol, family violence and employment.

Fiona Russell, Paediatrician

Professor Fiona Russell is a paediatrician with qualifications in public health and epidemiology. She has undertaken consultancies for WHO, UNICEF, and Australian Aid in the Asia-Pacific region, and Africa on the disease burden of vaccine preventable diseases, provided technical advice of new vaccine introduction in the region, and has written national child health policies to accelerate progress towards Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) four and five – to reduce child mortality and improve maternal health.

Disruptive Data

We recently held an online discussion event focused on Disruptive Data.

Measuring and studying data shows us that cycles of disadvantage are not random, but instead predictable in their patterns and persistent over time. When they are tracked and analysed, we believe they can be disrupted.

How can the use of data and information make cycles visible, enabling new actions to be taken that could disrupt these previously entrenched patterns? For example, can we identify positive deviants to indicate what works with new data or new analysis to help redesign policies and programs?

This online event on July 22 brought together leading data scientists, data journalists, data stewards, and data innovators to discuss these important questions, share new ideas and possible practical applications.

Presentation by Stefaan Verhulst, shared with permission

Alternatively, download the presentation here.

Catch up on some highlights of the discussion

Take 10 minutes to catch up on this event

Watch the full video from Disruptive Data

Stefaan Verhulst, The Governance Lab

Stefaan G. Verhulst is Co-Founder and Chief Research and Development Officer of the Governance Laboratory (The GovLab) at New York University (NYU), an action research center focused on improving governance using advances in science and technology – including data and collective intelligence.

Before joining NYU full time, Stefaan spent more than a decade as Chief of Research for the Markle Foundation, where he continues to serve as Senior Advisor. He is also Editor-in-Chief of Data & Policy; the research director of the MacArthur Research Network on Opening Governance; Chair of the Data for Children Collaborative with Unicef; and a member of the High-Level Expert Group to the European Commission on Business-to-Government Data Sharing.

In 2018 he was recognized as one of the 10 Most Influential Academics in Digital Government globally (as part of the Top 100 in Digital Government) by the global policy platform Apolitical.

Raymond Lovett, Director, Mayi Kuwayu Study

Dr Raymond Lovett is the Program leader for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health at the National Centre for Epidemiology and Population Health, Research School of Population Health at the Australian National University (ANU).

Ray is an Aboriginal (Wongaibon/Ngiyampaa) social epidemiologist with extensive experience in health services research, large scale data analysis for public health policy development and evaluation.

The emphasis of Dr Lovett’s research has involved the integration of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander culture with improving health outcomes and health services.

Deborah Cobb-Clark, Professor of Economics, University of Sydney

Deborah Cobb-Clark is Professor of Economics at the University of Sydney.

She is Deputy Director of the ARC Centre of Excellence for Children and Families over the Life Course; Program Coordinator for the Gender and Families Research Network at the Institute of Labor Economics (IZA) in Bonn, Germany; an elected Fellow of the Academy of Social Sciences in Australia; and a Distinguished Fellow of the Economic Society of Australia.

Her research agenda centres on the effect of economic and social policy on human development, mental health, intergenerational disadvantage, sexual and racial harassment, health, old-age support, education, immigration and youth transitions.

Zoë Condliffe, Founder, She’s A Crowd

Zoë Condliffe is a data activist, gender advocate, researcher and Founder & CEO of She’s A Crowd.

Zoë started her first social enterprise in rural Cambodia and has since gained experience across the university, NGO and start-up sectors, becoming an outspoken leader in the social change sector.

In 2016 Zoë started working in gender and youth advocacy for Plan International Australia, where she pioneered the digital crowdmapping tool for street harassment, Free To Be, the Youth Activist Series and Girls’ Walks. From there she decided to start her company She’s A Crowd, to leverage the power of storytelling to address the gender data gap.

Disruptive Questions

In the rush to form opinions on the topic of the day, to identify the solution before clearly understanding the problem, to defend our stance, and to work hard for social change, the value in asking questions is usually overlooked, if not significantly underrated.

Our first Disrupting Disadvantage event, held in Sydney on 10 June 2021, focused on ‘Disruptive Questions’.

What is a good question? How can questions inspire us and promote the common good? What is constructive disruption – and how do we stimulate it?

This event featured a panel of Leila Smith, Professor Marc Stears, Professor Marcia Langton AM and the Foundation’s CEO Professor Glyn Davis AC, hosted by Fred Dust and Professor Tim Soutphommasane.

Take 2 minutes to catch up on this event

Watch the full video from Disruptive Questions

Fred Dust, Founder, Making Conversation

In his former role as Global Manging Partner at IDEO, Fred connected with leaders across the commercial, government and philanthropic sectors, and innovated their practices through design thinking.

As the founder of Making Conversation, Fred has advanced his methodology of open, constructive dialogue to combat the pervading global climate of polarization and social disconnection.

Marcia Langton, Associate Provost, The University of Melbourne

Professor Marcia Langton AM is an Aboriginal woman of Iman descent.

She is an anthropologist and geographer with a strong research track record on Aboriginal alcohol use and harms, family violence, Aboriginal land tenure, management of environments and native title, and aspects of Aboriginal culture, art and performance and the shift to modernity. Professor Langton has held the Foundation Chair of Australian Indigenous Studies at the University of Melbourne since 2000, and was appointed Associate Provost in 2017.

Marc Stears, Director of the Sydney Policy Lab

Professor Marc Stears, Director of the Sydney Policy Lab at the University of Sydney, has an international reputation as one of the leading scholars of democratic change and social movements.

Prior to arriving in Sydney in 2018, Marc had been Professor of Political Theory at the University of Oxford and Chief Executive of the New Economics Foundation, one of the UK’s largest think tanks.

Marc has published seven books with the world’s leading academic presses, including his most recent work, Out of the Ordinary: How Everyday Life Once Inspired a Nation and How it Can Again.

Leila Smith, CEO, Aurora Education Foundation

Leila Smith is the CEO of the Aurora Education Foundation and has experience in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health and education sectors, in policy development, organisational growth, and program delivery in the not-for-profit sector, private sector, federal government, and academia. Leila is a Wiradjuri woman whose family is from central New South Wales.

Raised in Canberra, Leila holds a Masters of Public Policy from the University of Cambridge and a Bachelor’s degree with first class honours in Sociology from the Australian National University.

Prior to Aurora, Leila was the Knowledge Translation Manager at the Lowitja Institute, and a Senior Management Consultant at Nous Group. She also led the Policy and Programs team at the Australian Indigenous Doctors’ Association.

Thank you to all participants in the 2021 Disrupting Disadvantage series. We look forward to continuing this important discussion.