Ideas Worth Spreading Part 4 – TEDxCanberra

This is my fourth edition on Ideas Worth Spreading – as experienced at TEDxCanberra, held a week ago.

Following is my take on the ideas posed by the final dozen presenters, which I have not yet covered.

Mitchell Whitelaw

Mitchell Whitelaw immersed us in the spectacular digital cultural collections at the University of Canberra, and taught us more on the notion that “search” is an attitude! From this point he expanded on the system of “show everything”, “show relationships”, “offer clues”, “kindle discovery” and that “humans are smart”. Thanks Mitchell – just amazing!

Kristin Alford

Kristin Alford advocated a more integrated visualization of the future and regaled us with integrated stories of disasters past, such as the Black Saturday Bushfires and the how the stories of the people were the most meaningful and inspiring. Her wish is to have more integrated stories in the future. Let’s hope her wish is realised!

Marco Ostini

Marco Ostini, is obsessed with space science and reflects that “talk is cheap” and our current responses to space exploration is woefully inadequate, after the ubiquitous beginnings of the “space race” in 1969. He also had a didactic message about our misconceptions of space being a “race”. He believes in collaboration and wanted us to visualize the personal reality of space. It’s not a race, but “the final frontier”. The Google Revolution through competition is an indicator of the accessibility of such a venture. Via Open Source technology and the Whit Space Mission, he is participating in what he sees as a global responsibility, and that means us, yet we are the only nation of the G20 countries not committed! Now that’s an idea worth spreading!

Liz Dawson

Liz Dawson is making an impact on Homelessness, one of our greatest challenges this century, and certainly Canberra is no exception. She is one of the instigators of an exciting new program, which involves finding a better way to address this equity issue, through a Canberra Housing Proposal. If you are interested in the details, she can be reached via email at

Pondering, if she is perhaps related to Smokey Dawson? He was also a great Aussie, for sure!

Ash Donaldson

Ash, a former pilot, but now is a keen explorer of the power of the mind, particularly in relation to errors in our perception. He demonstrated the idea that that in some stressful situations, our intuition takes over and our brains make up stories. He was most entertaining and refreshingly original. We are often told of the power of our minds, but not so often about the shortcomings! It’s called “Cognitive Dissonance” in psychology, and it’s the mechanism we use to explain irrational behaviour.

Ash shared with us his take on scientific method of enquiry, which starts with a theory and then tests the theory to come up with a conclusion. He mentioned that tiny increments of knowledge ahs filtered through in this manner and given us measure so progress thus far.

But with recent advances in science and the understanding about our internal cognitive biases, what if we didn’t start with a conclusion and then try to find evidence to fit what we are testing?

Let’s not start with the conclusions! What Ash was offering us, through his TED talk, was a fresh approach!

Francis Owusu & Kulture Break

These guys are starting to break down barriers. Having already worked with over 80,000 people, in schools, communities and jails, Francis is already beginning to realise his dream of “making a difference”. The performance of these young men was a tribute to that goal. The audience warmed to them like a fireplace on a frosty Canberra morning. The applause was real and a tribute to their mission!

Dr William DeJean

As an educator, I had a vested interest in hearing Dr William DeJean’s talk on his bold and audacious mini education revolution, AVID, which has already been successfully trialled in the US with 400,000 students.
I was not disappointed. William’s presentation used the analogy of weight lifting and building up one’s physical prowess in order to compete in a physically challenging event. (Ie. Through training and skills, etc).
He said (and rightly so), that our schools produce the achievement gap by the very nature of the programs we offer. We all know, that for many students, it is far too easy for them to fall through the gaps. AVID’s mission is to close that achievement gap by preparing all students with the skills and knowledge they need to succeed. The program targets the “MISSING MIDDLE”, the students who are invisible and underachieving.

Julia Gillard need not re-invent the wheel. Here is a program with much promise. Let ‘s let her know about it, so we can truly implement a system that has already empowered so many young lives.

Peter Williams

The Black Saturday fires featured again in the TED talks and Peter Williams demonstrated through his moving and recreation of the events that led him through technology to dramatically impact on the recovery process that community is now famous for.

He gave effectively us, Lessons from Flowerdale, which can be extrapolated and applied to our lives in any disaster situation. He pointed out that there is no “they”! Instead,“ he maintains, “You are the they”! The Australian spirit and the commitment to community are the way can own your own recovery through any trauma. He emphasized that there is no model. You have to create your own recovery, using networks. You’ll need to find your inspiration and punch above your weight, which clearly, Peter did! Thank you for this very moving and inspirational talk about how we can own our own outcomes!

Pay it forward!

Sunny Forsyth

Speaking of inspiration, Sunny Forsyth, an engineer who has been working in Lao, gave us a lesson on how to create a simple water filter to create clean drinking water.

He discovered a passion and is transforming lives. He is tackling one of the biggest challenges in the world today and demonstrates the “ground up” approach where each man or woman can make a difference!

If he isn’t an indication of “cognitive surplus”, I don’t know what is! As a “keenager” from the Baby-boomer generation, I am only too pleased to leave this planet in the capable hands of this young man and others like him!

Canberra’s Own – Julie Posetti

It was with joy that I discovered Julie Posetti, a local Canberra academic with spunk! Her PHD topic was the “Twitterization” of Journalism” and she traced for us the twitter reports recently, from “The First #Spill”, where Turnbull was ousted and followed the twist and turn of events as they unfolded up to the election we had to have!

This, she contends, has had a transformative effect on journalists, as they curate events through Twitter feeds. But her message is not altogether a negative one! (And as Julie is an obsessive twitterer herself, she has mileage on this matter!)

She made the following observations:

• Twitter has potential as a vehicle for participatory democracy in Australia.
• Twitter facilitates non-professional engagement of the masses
• Twitter can bypass information from professional journalists
• In the race to tweet, there is a cross pollination of information
• Competitiveness has a new sharp edge
• Tweeting renders political reporting processes more transparent
• Twitter is a new dissemination point for breaking political news
• There is now an issue of the clash of personal and professional spheres
• Historically their audiences have shielded journalists from criticism. This is no longer the case.
• Journalists are the audience, who formerly were journalists.
• The potential to develop collaborative journalism is the good news!

We need more academics like Julie, who are on the “edge” of global communication!

Ed Bosworth

Ed Bosworh, Head of Risk Reward at Westpac, told us that the GFC was not yet history and we need to stay tuned!

It was interesting that his Bio in the Conference program stated that “Ed’s not entirely about banking; he’s completed several OxFam Trailwalker events in Australia, New Zealand and Hong Kong.”

It rather illustrates the negative bias we have in this day and age towards “bankers”, and I guess it’s a sad indictment of the state of affairs, when you have to qualify what you do for a living!

Hats off to Ed! He obviously enjoys what he does. He gave us clarity in explaining what actually happened in the GFC, which was insightful in laying out the “big picture” in just how strong our banks are in Australia.

He left us with the reassurance that banks will be playing to their strengths, for the good of us all.

The jury is still out on this one, I guess. But thanks, Ed for giving us your perspectives.

Will Steffen

Director of the Climate Change Institute at the ANU, Will knows about climate change!

I for one, learnt new vocabulary, like Anthropocene and Holocene, (yes, I admit my ignorance in these matters of science), but more importantly, as human beings are moving into a new era, so is our planet.

Will traced the changing enterprise from 1750 to 2000 and now is the time when we have to accept planet boundaries.

Climate change is real! Will has even challenged Senator Steve Fielding in a Crikey letter made public last year!

This is an idea Will thinks we are all compelled to pass on!


About Suzanne Kiraly

Suzanne Kiraly is a writer, an educator, a niche market publisher and social media trainer. She is a "keenager" and always sees the glass half full! Visit her web sites:;;;
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5 Responses to Ideas Worth Spreading Part 4 – TEDxCanberra

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