Ideas and Society in 2018

The Ideas and Society program is a series of debates and public lectures convened by Professor Robert Manne that consider critical questions of the times. The program brings some of Australia’s leading thinkers and public figures to the University. It aims to deepen the understanding of these critical issues and enlivens intellectual life.

All events are streamed live on the day and can be watched after the event on our YouTube channel.

Bendigo Writers Festival: On Borrowed Time

Bendigo Writers Festival is a premier event on the Victorian cultural calendar, attracting local and international authors of standing across a wide range of fiction and non-fiction genres. As a key partner and sponsor, La Trobe University makes a strategic, programming and educational contribution to the festival.

Robert Manne’s writing has been reinvigorated and his love of life intensified, despite his sharpened understanding that we are all living on “borrowed time”. Robert talks with Jeff Sparrow about the importance of personal and social values.

Challenges Facing Australian Governance

Kevin Rudd and Terry Moran served their country during challenging times, dominated by the global financial crisis and the attempt to forge an international climate change agreement. Despite two years or more of consistent public approval, in June 2010 Rudd lost the Prime Ministership in circumstances that remain controversial. Drawing on their extensive real-world experiences, Rudd and Moran will be discussing how well Australia is governed, the major obstacles standing in the way of good government and, most importantly, how government in Australia might be improved.

Among the questions they will consider are: Why has trust in Australia’s political and business elites declined in recent times? What role does the parliament now play in the government of Australia? Has factionalism damaged the effectiveness of our two major political parties? What role does the Cabinet play? How effective is the Commonwealth public service? How far does the so-called 24/7 media cycle influence the actions of government? How healthy is the relationship between the Commonwealth and the state governments? Can fresh ideas or policies succeed in Canberra? Why have the past eight years of federal politics been so turbulent? And, most importantly, what changes are required for the governance of Australia to become more efficient, just and democratic.

Indigenous Australians: The Promise of the Future

For the past three decades Noel Pearson has been recognised as one of Indigenous Australians’ most important leaders. But he has also come to be seen as one of our country’s most significant thinkers, notable for his intellectual penetration and originality as well as for his courage—his independence from both the Left and the Right.

In the late 1990s Noel Pearson broke through a taboo by speaking openly about the damage alcohol, drugs and welfare dependency were doing to his people. Working closely with the Cape York communities, and with an emphasis on the solid education of the young, he has pioneered an experiment aimed at finding a new way for his people: full engagement in the globalised economy without the surrender of cultural identity. In recent years he has turned his attention to the vital but still unresolved question of Indigenous constitutional recognition.

Noel was joined by Professor Megan Davis, a distinguished member of the younger generation of Indigenous leaders. As a professor of constitutional law, a member of a key United Nations Indigenous forum and a member of both the Expert Panel on Constitutional Recognition and then the Referendum Council, Megan has written a series of complex and powerful essays on the challenges facing Indigenous women, the struggles of her people for both self-determination and meaningful constitutional recognition, and the hopes invested in the Uluru Statement from the Heart.

How human rights can be defended and extended

Many people would agree that Gillian Triggs and Julian Burnside are the two most significant defenders of human rights in contemporary Australia. La Trobe University’s Ideas & Society Program is immensely pleased and proud to be able to announce that they have agreed to come together, as part
of our “Better Australia?” series, in what promises to be a fascinating conversation of national importance.

Gillian Triggs is a distinguished international lawyer who has held professorships in the Law Schools of both the University of Sydney and the University of Melbourne. Between 2012 and 2017 she was President of Australia’s Human Rights and Equal Opportunities Commission, where she served with
integrity, grace and courage in the face of unrelenting political pressure.

Julian Burnside AO QC, a highly successful commercial lawyer, is best known as Australia’s most eloquent, principled and unwavering human rights advocate. He has worked pro bono on countless asylum seeker cases but was also the lead barrister in the Trevorrow case, the first successful stolen
generations litigation.

Australian Foreign Policy in a contested Indo-Pacific Region

The future of the Indo-Pacific region is being buffeted by an array of complex forces including the return of great power rivalry, rising illiberalism, and growing nationalism. La Trobe University was privileged to be able to host Australia’s Foreign Minister, the Hon Julie Bishop MP, who delivered the first keynote address in Australia on foreign policy since the publication of the Turnbull Government’s foreign policy White Paper in November 2017.

Minister Bishop discussed the significant foreign policy challenges Australia is facing in the Indo-Pacific and how Australia can promote its interests in the fast-changing regional and international environment.

The Foreign Minister’s address was followed by a La Trobe University panel discussion with Professor Nick Bisley, Head of the School of Humanities and Social Sciences; Vice-Chancellor’s Fellow Tony Walker, and Dr Rebecca Strating lecturer in international relations in the Department of Politics and Philosophy.

Looking Outward: The Case for Compassion and Hope

We live at a time when our region and our world seem burdened by many heart-breaking and apparently insoluble problems—radical inequality between wealthy and impoverished nations; destitution caused by famine and war; never-ending refugee flows; political acts of ethnic cleansing and even genocide.

Tim Costello has devoted his life to searching for practical solutions to problems faced by peoples across the globe in situations of distress and to encouraging his fellow citizens to assist in such vital work. As Tim recounts his experience from his most recent trip to the Bangladesh Rohingya refugee camps, his message is not one of despair but of compassion and of hope.

There is no broadcaster in this country more highly regarded for their professionalism, fair-mindedness and penetration than ABC Melbourne’s Jon Faine, who has become a part of the democratic architecture of his home state, Victoria.