Welcome Diversity – a one day conference promoting inclusive practice

On the 13th of May, ‘Welcome Diversity – A One – Day Conference on Promoting Inclusive Practice’ took place in Trowbridge. It was organised by West-Wiltshire Multi-Faith Forum (WWMFF) in collaboration with Dr Wendy Sims-Schouten, colleagues from the University of Portsmouth and the Mental Health in Childhood and Education Hub. There were about 60 professionals from across Wiltshire and Portsmouth present during the conference. The mayor of Wiltshire also attended the conference and gave a speech in relation to the importance of diversity.

What happened at the conference?

After the introduction from Glenys Henriette, Chair of West Wiltshire Multi-Faith Forum, Dr Sam Warner, chartered and consultant clinical psychologist from Manchester with specific expertise in trauma, abuse, neglect and loss presented her topic around ‘Abuse and Child Protection’. She explores the psychology behind abusive childhood and how it continues to have an impact on our adulthood. Furthermore, she expressed her personal experiences, with racism and her attitudes towards dealing with it. She also shared her professional experiences with different clients with extreme cases of abuse. This is a very important topic and Dr Sam Warner presented it in a very informative as well as in a comical and light-hearted way which was taken well by the professionals in the audience.

Dr Wendy Sims-Schouten, Associate Professor in Childhood Studies, University of Portsmouth and Founder of the Mental Health in Childhood and Education (MICE) Hub presented her research on ‘Mental Health, Wellbeing & Safeguarding: Challenges & Solutions for BAME Families as Service Users’. She shared the key findings obtained from the research. She was very informative and passionately expressed her concerns in relation to discrimination experienced by BAME families. She explained the statistics, facts and other research that refer to discrimination and inadequate services available for the BAME families. The audience acknowledged the findings from the research and were interested in improving their practice. They asked questions about training in regards to the topic such as unconscious bias and were interacting with other audience members in order to find relevant information.

After lunch, an activity was set by Dr Ann Emerson, Lecturer in International Education, University of Portsmouth and an expert in education, conflict, peacebuilding and the marginalization of minority populations. The activity required dividing the group into three teams: Alpha, Beta and anthropologists. All three groups were separated from each other and people who were alpha and beta were given instructions on how to communicate with only people from their group and use a distinctive language that only they can understand. All of the participants were brought together and asked to interact with each other using the instructions. The role of the anthropologists was to observe and understand what the two groups were trying to do. They could perceive that there was a conflict between those two groups, there was a barrier to communication as they were unable to understand each other. Dr Ann Emerson then required all the participants to reflect on how they felt when they could not communicate with each other. Answers included: isolated, frustrated, angry and disrespected. The moral of the activity was to look at barriers such as language and culture in the society and how it has an impact on people. One of the member from the audience explained that she needs to look a certain way or talk a certain way in order to be taken seriously by professionals and the woman next to her found it quite shocking as she has never had to think about that and acknowledged that it is a privilege that people of minority do not have. 

Dr Sukhbinder Hamilton, Senior Lecturer in Education, the University of Portsmouth and an expert in inclusion and diversity started her workshop by sharing her experiences of discrimination and how it feels to be an Asian- British woman. She followed her talk by an activity that required groups of people to be seated on different tables. Keywords such as knowledge, attitude and access were handed to people in each table and were requested to discuss what each word meant to them as a professionals practicing in a diverse society.

Overall, it was well organised and a successful conference that aimed to raise awareness around important subjects that are often overlooked and require a serious consideration.