Bolshy Divas – gathering grass roots voices and stories to effect policy change

Nothing communicates a policy change or program evaluation like a story of someone whose life was changed, however when it comes to making decisions based on the evidence, one anecdote isn’t enough. But what if you have lots and lots of anecdotes? Then you have a very strong picture of what life is like for the beneficiaries of policies and services.

The Bolshy Divas are an anonymous grassroots collective formed in Western Australia and have become a national voice on disability reform. They campaign for genuine consultation, jargon-free documents and transparent processes.

My favourite part of Karen Soldatic and Terence Love’s article New forms of disability activism: who on earth are the Bolshy Divas? from Ramp Up on the ABC reads:

Faced with resistance from the WA Government to disability reform, in 2010, they amassed forces and gathered 100 stories of unmet need virtually overnight. These stories were presented to Premiers and the Prime Minister at the COAG meeting when the WA Government wavered on their commitment to a National Disability Insurance Scheme. The WA Premier, Colin Barnett, backflipped and slipped into the ranks of NDIS supporters, leaving WA Government staff and advisors perplexed…

I love the humour and realism of the Bolshy Divas’ campaigns, also their respect for the human qualities of the politicians they target.

Governments in Australia find it difficult to consult effectively with the diverse range of beneficiaries of their services – working with groups like the Bolshy Divas to access community voices would strengthen the evidence available to make and illustrate policy.

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