Posted by: Bin VFA | September 13, 2012

TEDx Canberra – part 2

So it’s about time I got stuck into this second instalment about the speakers at TEDx Canberra.  While the venue of The Playhouse was pretty nice and modern, and they did have some nice fruit for morning tea (yummy grapes!), we were rather disappointed with the vegan lunch on offer.  After waiting around for several minutes while all the other dietary groups were served and not even being acknowledged by the staff, eventually they served us up a sandwich each which consisted of dry bread and a couple of sliced vegetables.  So we decided to seek out some more food only to discover the vegetarian place we were heading too is now a book shop.  We wandered the city for a while and seeing all the places that were closed at 1:00 pm on a Saturday afternoon made me homesick for Melbourne.  And Las Vegan.  Which is a post in itself for another day.  In the end we got some rice from Wok in a Box which was fairly ordinary but at that point I was too hungry to care too much.  One of these days I’ll need to blog about all the awesome places to eat in Melbourne, including our second home :)

The first presentation after lunch was actually from a group of young hip hop dancers called Bliss.  To be honest, it doesn’t really feel fair for me to say too much as this really isn’t my thing and I wasn’t remotely interested.  A lot of others in the audience seemed to love them though.  And that’s the thing about these TEDx days, there is such variety and they don’t really expect that every speaker will resonate with every audience member.  And that’s okay.

The next presentation was from Greg Mews who was there to talk about how to make our living environments more cozy.  Unfortunately, while I actually have quite good hearing and I tend to also be pretty good face to face with understanding all kinds of accents, I had some trouble understanding Greg’s thick German accent through the sound system.  This was slightly disappointing as I was interested in what he had to say but because of the sound factor I was concentrating a little too much on figuring out the words to fully appreciate the discussion.  His concepts of living environments where people choose to come together in communal outdoor spaces was certainly appealing though.  This is why I love Melbourne so much and would love to ultimately live in an apartment in the city because the ‘vibe’ of the city is great, and the thought of being able to walk to shops, parks and cafes is really appealing.

Mike McGrath spoke next about his passion for human flight.  Mike has completed a massive amount of sky dives in his life and talked about a new opportunity coming to Australia where everyone from very young children upwards can fly in a wind tunnel.  He showed a video of some kids in the US doing it and it sure did look fun :)

The next speaker was David Lindberg who is an Executive from the Commonwealth Bank.  David talked about where technology is heading with regard to retail and methods of payment for the things we buy.  He talked about mobile checkout being a priority for Visa, Mastercard, Paypal and Google and the possibilities of being able to scan items anywhere with your phone and then have them delivered to your registered address and your account debited for the cost.  While a lot of the things David talked about sounded pretty cool I couldn’t help but think it was also a little frightening.  The thought of large corporations getting more power than they already have seems like a pretty dangerous concept to me when you look at some of what has been done with the power they already have.

Sally Richards has an adult son with a severe intellectual disability.  Sally talked about some of her experiences and the things she has learnt both from her son and also from having to navigate the system so that he could have a chance of a normal life.  Sally talked about the fact that Australia is 27th of 27 OECD countries with respect to the way we treat our people with disabilities.  The way that navigating the services becomes a ‘competitive misery game’ so that the people with the biggest complaints end up getting the scarce resources but even when they do, none of this contributes to any kind of decent life for the person with a disability.  Sally has worked towards getting her son Jackson into a new intentional community that he will move into in February next year along with 2 other young men with severe intellectual disabilities.  Because they will move in first, all the other people that choose to move into the community will know who their neighbours are and so there will not be any need to deal with neighbours complaining about having to live near ‘people like that’.  I really enjoyed Sally’s talk and it opened my eyes to a lot of things that I have been lucky enough to have never had to worry about.

Immediately after the afternoon tea break, Helen Perris came on for a musical interlude.  To be honest, I wasn’t that excited about a music segment as I was there to hear people talk and to learn but once she started performing I changed my mind.  Helen’s music was enjoyable and rather hilarious.  One of the songs she played (all her own) was about a run down house that she and her husband have recently purchased.  In the end I think it was a rather entertaining way to make sure we were all still awake and ready for the final session of the day.  And she challenged us all to find something negative in our lives and to find a creative way to turn it into something positive ~ a message that is always a good reminder.

The next talk was from Andrew Stoeckel and he talked about trade.  As this is something I have studied myself there wasn’t anything too terribly new or insightful in the talk though I did still enjoy Andrew’s presentation.

The next 2 talks were well and truly the highlight of the day for me and I tweeted at the time that it would have been worth coming just for them and I still feel that way now.

Peter Kennedy started his talk by saying ‘What you do is more important than what you believe.”   This phrase was repeated several times during his talk and really is the crux of the man’s philosophy and what has led to him making a real difference.  As a Catholic priest for 28 years, Peter Kennedy built his parish into one that eventually was open to everybody.  He allowed women to speak to the congregation and presided over gay commitment ceremonies.  He welcomed everybody including the homeless and those who had suffered abuse at the hands of other members of the church.  Then some people, who Peter likes to call the ‘Temple Police’ reported him to the Vatican.  At this point he received correspondence from the Vatican effectively telling him to ‘shape up or ship out’.  After considering the situation and having discussions with his congregation, he chose the latter.  So Peter and his congregation left the Catholic church and walked down the street to the Trades and Labour Council building, which is still where they meet every Sunday.  They like to say that the TLC on the building stands for ‘Totally Lapsed Catholics’ :).

As well as providing a community to many people that may not have found one otherwise, Peter Kennedy and his St Marys in Exile congregation do some great practical work including projects to provide housing opportunities to people who would be otherwise homeless.  As an atheist who gets frustrated on a daily basis at the intolerance, hypocrisy and pure meanness of most religious leaders and groups out there, I found it really refreshing to see a religious leader stand up and say that he wouldn’t sacrifice his humanity for the doctrine of his religion.

Then the next  speaker was Leslie Cannold, the person that had originally turned me onto the event in the first place.  I have followed her on twitter and read some of the articles she has written but none of that comes close to hearing her speak in person.  As I have mentioned in a previous post, I am unequivocally prochoice, but it’s not something I’ve really thought about a great deal until the last couple of years.  As a feminist of course, reproductive rights are a no brainer, but Leslie’s message went further than that.  It’s not just about having the legal right to make that choice but it’s about not being made to feel shame about it.  It’s about removing the stigma.  It’s about the fact that shame = silence = ignorance = shame = silence = ignorance, etc and so the negative cycle continues….  On the other hand, if we can reach out to women and make sure that they know that they can be open and they can share and there will be no shame, then we can begin a positive cycle instead.  Because in the same manner, empathy = connection = empowerment = empathy = connection = empowerment, etc.  This is an article that Leslie wrote recently on the same topic and I highly recommend you read it.  I can guarantee it won’t be quite as inspiring as hearing her passion as we were lucky enough to experience on the weekend, but the message is still there and it is still good.

Leslie’s group, Reproductive Choice Australia, is throwing a flashmob in Melbourne on 30 September to end the stigma and I’ve heard since that Canberra has taken up the call to do the same.  As Leslie finished, with regard to the shame regarding abortion we need to stand up and say “Not by my hand.  Not on my watch.”

I almost don’t want to go on from here as I would love to leave it at that but seeing as I’ve mentioned all the other speakers I feel I need to finish the job.  The final speaker was Scott Leggo who is a landscape photographer.  His photography was quite spectacular and he certainly did have a great message.  That we need to ‘be’ in nature more and appreciate the world and our part in it and be more thoughtful about seemingly small decisions like using disposable plastic cutlery, etc.  I complete agree with the message and it’s maybe unfair to say so as it was the very end of the day and there had been a lot of sitting and listening, but I didn’t find Scott to be a particularly compelling speaker and he seemed to just repeat himself several times, which was the last thing we wanted when we were keen to stand up, get out and track down some dinner.

After the debacle that was lunch, we managed to just sneak in for a really lovely dinner at Au Lac, a vegetarian restaurant that has a great atmosphere, wonderful staff and really delicious food.  I ordered a Vietnamese crepe which was a bit of a risk for me but it was simply delicious and even though I wasn’t interested in more rice after lunch, I’m pretty sure I ended up eating more than my share of the rice (oops!) as it was just so very tasty I didn’t want to stop eating it.

All in all, a great day and I especially appreciate that I got to share it with my partner who for some strange reason seems to enjoy sharing these things as much as I do.  I’m pretty lucky.

~ B


  1. B, it’s obviously in the past, and there’s not much we can do now apart from express our regret you couldn’t get attention for your food needs. We dealt with around 17 special dietary variants on the day, including you, and covering nearly 1/4 of our attendees. It may be that you slipped through the cracks for us.
    Certainly, if you’d sought the attention of our catering manager, Jane, she’d have ensured you were fed properly and to your needs.
    If you’re at TEDxCanberra next year, please do make sure you get proper attention.
    I’m glad you enjoyed the event, but I am very sorry we let you down on food.

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