Saturday, February 22, 2014

Where are the best free Sydney talks?

You can get a lot of free talks online (TED Talks on is an excellent example) but where can you go to listen to the talks live, where you have the opportunity to mingle with the speakers and other liked minded people, ask questions and get feedback? Attending sessions live are always better than watching a talk online as not only can you listen to a presentation but you can also read a speaker’s body language and get the vibe of the audience. Not to mention, you will definitely have a heightened awareness of the current issues we face and will be better equipped to have an intelligent discussion within your social or business circles.

Over the past few months I have heard and even the opportunity to meet in person some of the most distinguished people and speakers this country and the world has to offer. I have met former Labor Foreign Minister and NSW Premier Bob Carr; listened to former
Justice Michael Kirby; Former Treasury Secretary, Dr Ken Henry; and the Managing Director of the International Monetary Fund, Christine Lagarde.

Where can you go for free talks?

1 ABC Q&A Live Studio Recording

You can be a part of ABC’s Q&A program which goes to air live on Monday evenings. The recordings are on at the ABC Studios in Ultimo and you can
register here if you want to be part of the studio audience and ask questions.

Q&A puts together politicians, egalitarians, larrikins, pundits and punters on a panel to thrash out current hot issues. As the ABC describes it, it’s all about ‘democracy in action’. It doesn't matter who you are, or where you're from. Everybody can have a go and take it up to our politicians and opinion makers. We are extremely lucky to be living in a country where this sort of opinionated discussion can occur.

I was fortunate to attend a special ABC live recording at the Seymour Theatre with the Managing Director of the International Monetary Fund, Christine Lagarde who was thoughtful and constructive in her responses to some pretty clever questions. Madame Lagarde underscore many times the importance of investment in health and education, as these will lay the foundations to help economies grow. Without being derogatory to the current Australian politics around environmental policy, she was unequivocal that managing environmental degradation is a priority.

Managing Director of the International Monetary Fund, Christine Lagarde, who is in Sydney for the G20 Finance Ministers meeting

What makes Q&A work are the questions the audience asks, all live to air. Tony Jones, an Australian journalist, hosts Q&A and does an excellent job in moderating the show.

The advantages of seeing a live studio recording is you will get to see how the show is made from the very beginning, and the things that need to be done before a show goes to air. The Executive Producer comes out to talk to the audience before the recording and the discussions are quite candid and humorous.

The program is energetic, intellectual, opinionated and stimulating, and just something different.

The audience at the ABC Q&A special recording with Christine Lagarde at the Seymour Centre on 21 February 2014

#2 Sydney Talks

A website,, is regularly updated to inform you where and when talks are being held around Sydney. And these are no amateur talks – the talks have good quality speakers with interesting topics. The talks cover topics such as politics, science, history and the arts.

Personally, I’m interested in economics and world issues so through Sydney Talks I was made aware of talks delivered by:

a. Dr Ken Henry, a distinguished speaker and a great thinker, and former head of Australia’s Treasury. The session I went to was at the University of NSW where Dr Ken Henry was on a panel with other academics discussing ‘sustainable growth’. It was only after attending this session I really understood how the emissions trading system works through the New York apartment garbage bin quota analogy explained by Professor of Economics, Graciela Chichilnisky of Columbia University and fully appreciated the fact we currently don’t put a price on things like ruining the environment.

b. Foreign affairs issues in China and the US. This talk was delivered by the former Foreign Minister and NSW Premier, Bob Carr at the University of Sydney. I met him in person because he came up to me before the talk (I was in the second row) and he politely introduced himself to me. That’s not an experience that happens with online talks.

c. Former High Court of Australia Judge, Michael Kirby discussed his role as Chair of the United Nations’ Commission inquiry into human rights abuses in North Korea at a lecture held at the University of Sydney. He discussed the methodology in gathering evidence for this inquiry given the closed nature of North Korea. Justice Kirby referred to the victims' testimonies which are all publicly available on the United Nations website. His talked was powerful and left me shocked, disgusted, angry, sad and curious. The shocking treatment of people in North Korea today is something not seen since the Nazi days. I actually did read and listened to the testimonies on the
United Nations website – it’s truly sickening. I won’t delve into the details as I understand it will be disturbing for some readers but I encourage you to peruse it. As Justice Kirby noted at the lecture, we must never assume something like that cannot happen in Australia. Germany was a more civilised country than Australia, and yet they had the Nazi regime. It does only take one psycho in the community to get these things started. The UN Commission’s report is out now for the world to see. History bends in the direction of justice, and we can only hope this will be the case for North Korea.

Final word

Whilst the sessions I attended appear to be dominated by baby boomers or the retired population in the audience, I would like to see the younger generation, the leaders of the future attend and listen to these events (and it was great to see a few high school kids at ABC’s Q&A). They aren’t boring, and indeed quite the contrary - the talks are very engaging. So get out there and spread the word about these talks. There are no shortage of ideas and great thinkers to help shape the minds of future leaders.

No comments:

Post a Comment