10 August 2021

TEDxCanberra: a day of ideas, inspiration and desire to make a difference

| Lottie Twyford
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Edwina Robinson speaking onstage at TEDxCanberra

Edwina Robinson, who pioneered urban microforests in Canberra, speaking at TEDxCanberra on Sunday, 8 August. Photo: Thomas Lucraft.

There’s only one kind of event where the day begins with a man’s reflections on the power of literacy and ends with a woman’s impassioned plea to listen to female voices – traversing advances in artificial intelligence and its implications for First Nations people, microforests and fatherhood along the way.

The event was TEDxCanberra, on Sunday, 8 August, where around 350 people gathered to hear speakers, poets and performers deliver inspirational, hard-hitting TED talks.

As a TED newbie, I wasn’t quite sure what to expect as my only real experience with the events was having watched online videos of them.

I knew they cover pretty much any topic and are all about sharing ideas that have the potential to change the world for the better, or simply start a conversation, sometimes one that can be uncomfortable and difficult.

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The online TED videos are a global phenomenon, with the most popular TED talk having garnered more than 71 million views on the TED site, and a further 20 million views on YouTube.

That particular talk was delivered by Sir Ken Robinson in 2007, who asked the question: ‘Do schools kill creativity?’

However, I learnt that TEDx events are slightly different. The ‘x’ stands for independently organised, but it’s also allowed TED’s reach to multiply across the globe.

All of the talks are recorded, and the Canberra ones alone have been viewed one million times since they began in 2010.

Even on Sunday, TEDxCanberra was not the only event running across the globe, with talks happening in countries such as the US, New Zealand, Djibouti, Ireland and Ecuador.

Like the Canberra event, these international talks were all powered by volunteers who were on hand on the day to ensure the event ran smoothly.

Also keeping things on time was MC Wayne Herbert, who provided a humorous interlude between each of the speakers’ presentations. This was a nice way of keeping a balance between light and shade, especially as some of the talks were quite serious or emotional.

The audience was relatively diverse, although I’d hazard a guess and say the majority of attendees were aged in their 30s and 40s.

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One interesting aspect was that almost none of the speakers delivered presentations directly relating to the COVID-19 pandemic.

A few took elements from it and ran with them. Dr Elise Klein explored how the Federal Government implemented a basic income during the pandemic, despite this being something they have always remained in staunch opposition to.

Some speakers elicited emotion from the room, particularly Joshua Stanley who divulged a very personal tale about fatherhood, including the pain and grief of losing his daughter when she was a toddler.

A moving performance by The Australian Voice Collective about mental health and resilience also kept emotions running high, and the day ended with Virginia Haussegger’s call to action for both women and men to ensure women’s voices and stories are truly heard.

It’s a rare occasion to sit among an audience as engaged as this one was for such a long period of time, but it really did make it much easier to remain focused and switched-on all day.

Changing up the topics and delivery methods helped, too, and you definitely felt there was a buzz in the air.

Personally, I left TEDxCanberra with a desire to ‘do something’, whether that is to learn more about a project, get more involved with community initiatives, or just think more deeply about a certain issue. Or all of the above, I’m not sure.

Check out TEDxCanberra online where all speakers’ presentations will soon be available to view.

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