TedxMacUni Summary

Social awareness

We arrived at Macquarie University, Building Y3A with little idea of what was instore for us.  Would it be an interactive day, a big day, a small room, inspiring or intellectual?  There were so many options.  All we knew was that it would be about change.  And in that day, change we did.

The amazing curators of TedxMacUni welcomed us.  Frances Houwing and Liam Darmody did a most fantastic job of organising and running the day.  They deserve a standing ovation.

The official part of the day began with a true Welcome to Country.  This was not a speech done 'because we have to', rather a meaningful acknowledgement of what we can all learn from the traditional owners of this land. We need to show commitment to each other and to our communities communities. Schools, industry and government are helping to connect those with common goals or values.  We need to work together to achieve.

The Aboriginal ancestors showed us the perfect models of sustainability. We did not own land, rather it owned us. The land gave us all that we needed. Now, we are forced to wonder what will be left for the future. The roads are littered with rubbish, there is so much waste across our nation. The education system in Aboriginal culture is incredibly sophisticated and these aspects have evolved yet sustained the buffeting of time. Where Aboriginal culture is hanging on through the torrent of Western influence, our land is weakening under increased stress and a lack of tending.  Hopefully the coming together of minds at TedxMacUni will begin more change towards caring for all, rather than just a small proportion of our society, environment and education.

Glen Gerreyn
Director, Oxygen Factory

Glen draws much of his inspiration from the infamous words of Nelson Mandela in his "Long Walk to Freedom".

Ulcerative colitis, an inflammatory bowel disease, brought Glen's Olympic dream to an unexpected end when he was still very young.  After much time feeling 'sorry' for himself, Glen got his hands on a huge warehouse space that he wanted to turn into a youth centre.  With no money and a yet-to-be-formed organisation, he managed to convince the landlord to give him six months of free rent.  Big companies were going to be his main source of cash but after 114 knocked back proposals, things weren't looking up.  He persisted anyway.

Using credit with all of the companies necessary to run his event, an evening that was meant to attract all of 250 people, 2500 turned up.  All of the sudden, things were looking up.  Glen found himself on the front page of the local paper, sponsors coming in and money to run his youth centre.

Not so long after, Glen found himself with Young Australian of the Year, QLD on his mantlepiece in 1998.  He had a vision for the future that got him out of his sickbed.

You have to have a dream that at least motivates you.

Glen's aim now is to end fatherlessness, addiction and depression.  He worries that in a period of 13 years there was a 600% increase in medication for things like ADHD.  He wonders when we got too busy or when kids got too hard to raise and so we supplemented with drugs.  He says that we have been filling the emptiness with toys and gadgets and relationships. We have been filling ourselves with external things because we don't contain internal things worth having. We need purpose because there is nothing that satisfied the human spirit more.

We all came to planet with Seeds of Greatness.  We just need to make these seeds grow.

Five steps to growing our greatness:
  1. Plant it in good soil - we need good coaches, good mentors, good teachers and good role models to foster our growth
  2. Water the seed - success doesn't come easy; we need to practice, train, study and rehearse
  3. Pull out the weeds  - all of the doubt, fear and negativity needs to be addressed
  4. Seasons - there will always be ebbs and flows, peaks and valleys so don't give up during the dark seasons. Spring is around the corner
  5. Wait for seed to grow into a tree where you can sit in the shade, eat the fruit of your success and enjoy.
Successful, people see big things in little things.

An oak tree is nothing more than a nut that held it's ground.

Linh Do
National Director, Change&Switch

What I wish i didn't know when I was 20
Linh has done an awful lot with her first 20 years of life and took this point - the way in which people revere her for her achievements at an age rather than for their absolute value - to examine our impacts in this world.  Linh wonders if she would receive so much respect should she be 54 and achieving the same things.  She doesn't want special treatment solely for her age.

In the academic world, every seven years you take a sabbatical year to research future projects or research.  Linh can see how this sort of reflection could be useful for everyone.  And when she's asked "what will you do with your life when you graduate?" she wants the world to know she needs some cleansing time to work these things out.  2012 is going to be her sabbatical.

Time is this constant, this thing that keeps going with or without you.  It doesn't change all that much about outcomes except that your behaviours alter with the fear of where time is disappearing.

Ehon Chan

Founder and CEO, Spur Projects - Soften the Fck Up

Why do men spend half of their life chancing money sacrificing health then the other half chancing health and sacrificing money?

The idea of home is a little skewed for Ehon, living in seven citiies in the last few years.  There are lots of places that can be considered home for him. Home is where you feel.. a sense of belonging and purpose, trust. You know someone is going to look after you.

In Kutching, where Ehon grew up, they didn't have much. He was raised by a village and everyone shared everything. The kids wore uniforms that belong to someone's cousin's neighbour's daughter's best friend.  You never quite knew where the items had originated but you did know that the item was valuable - because someone would have it after you.

Each morning the house, doors and windows would be opened. All of the doors and windows here are closed.  Does this make the Malaysian way wrong in Australia?  Why are all of the houses kept closed? Will we lose our sense of home through the open windows or will someone else's take ahold of our space?

What does it mean to be giving and sharing? As a youth, Ehon volunteered a lot, an effort made possible by his amazing mother who would wake up at 4am to cook for hundreds of people.

And then the horror came.

On November 13 2002 (not entirely sure I heard the year correctly), Ehon came home from 3 day awesome holiday with good friends. The holiday without parents where sixteen year old boys get to misbehave. He crashed in bed, woke up at 7.30am but went back to bed because he was still tired. It was back in the days when inboxes could only receive 200 messages...and he was at 197. He got three new messages overnight.  All of them were asking if he'd heard the 'sad news.'  He had a new voicemail - a friend crying on the other end... Ryan....swimming...cramp...hospital...passed away.  Ehon was sixteen.  He wasn't supposed to be grieving for his best friend, he should have been experimenting. Ryan - the brother and the mentor. Seeing him, gone, Ehon saw himself dead. He wondered, why is this happening to me? He start to reflect inwards and backwards. The sorrys and thank yous and things you didn't day because they weren't cool. Why the hell am I living? He realised that what matters is the change you make in other people's lives.

Three months ago, Ehon started Soften the Fck Up - a space for men to reconstruct experiences. Since its inception, Ehon has received stories that make him cry with empathy almost every single night.  These are people who've struggled with depression and suicide since they were much younger.
He reflects, humanity has lost its way, now being filled with greed and selfishness.

We need to reconnect humanity. What does it mean to be alive. The nature of being human is in compassion, empathy, love and kindness.

Everyone wants to be home. To have purpose, a sense of belonging and a sense of trust.

Home is love compassion and hope.

Take a seed of hope home.

We need to build tribes to create better futures.

Chantelle Baxter

Director and co-founder of One Girl

Chantelle started out with a good life.  With a good education, good job prospects, friends and anything she needed at her fingertips.  It was a concern for her, then to reach her 20s and wonder - Why am I still not happy? A war in Darfur shocked her into action. A little spark ignited inside.  She set off to Africa to make a difference. She raised money to build a primary school in Africa. Sierra Leone was the least developed city in the world at that stage.  She hated it at first - the world was so different, so lacking compared to what she knew at home.  It was only with the self-reflection induced by a friend that she realised why she was really there.  And what she could really do.  And that was when she fell in love with a meaningful life.

From there, Chantelle ended up starting One Girl - a way to sponsor the education of girls in Sierra Leone.  It's the beginning of something great.

David Christian

Professor of Modern History, Macquarie University

What is Big History? It's the nature and trajectory of a species (and those around it).  Thinking about this makes you wonder... Are we alone in the universe or are there others in the world like us?

The idea of Big History gives us perspective on our own trajectory and the way that we treat our own land.

How likely is it that there are other humanoid creatures out there?

Being born human is a very rare privilege.

The Drake equation, mostly just a series of questions, helps us consider how many habitable planets may be out there.  We know that at least three planets nearby are habitable. The equation suggests that 40 billion habitable planets exist in our gallaxy. On our planet, life appeared almost as soon as it was possible. This means that there are 40 billion planets with possibility of life. The problem is that these life forms are most likely to be bacteria. If we want to have intelligent conversations, we want to meet intelligent individuals with richly developed language in order to build up their own stock of technology. We are the first species on our planet capable of collective learning. 

Of course, it doesn't matter what you look like. There were many evolutionary stages between bacteria and looking like us and it is therefore quite likely that other planets would intelligent creatures with a completely different physique. It took almost four billion years to develop the human species. You need a habitable planet that stays habitable for billions of years.  How likely is THAT?

The temperature at the surface must remain liquid, must have stable sun, and must have stable orbit. There were 40 billion planets with this possibility. One in every thousand planets may give rise to humanoid species. 

The definition of humanoids gives us an idea of a typical humanoid history. 

Stage One
We slowly build technologies and numbers of individuals increase with improved skill. Writing empowered synergised learning on Earth. There will eventually be an explosion of new technologies.

Stage Two
This is a dangerous and damaging crisis. The species will stagger. There may be a flame deluge. We are in danger of strangling our biosphere. We are acidifying oceans, carbonating atmosphere, driving the extinction of other creatures. Are we ruining ourselves? Is this common amongst other humanoid species? If other humanoid species follow this trajectory, there may only be one or two around at the same time as so many others would have destroyed themselves.

Stage Three
If we survive Stage Two, we can flourish. The greatest challenge is getting to Stage Three. You need to see the dangers and swerve to avoid them. We need all 7 billion people on this planet to change direction to avoid disaster...and then we might make it to Stage Three.

Think about the words of Vishnu -  I am death, the destroyer of worlds. 

There are other dangers associated with technological precocity. It is difficult to swerve away from obese and resource-hungry technologies of Stage Two. We need to be less needy of resources. We can slow consumption growth through a decrease in population growth. There are new motors being engineered that are the size of a single molecule. We need to change our ideas of the good life. We privately know that over-consumption is not the answer. The best things about life are not that expensive. We need this perspective on our own fate to go further.

We need to enjoy the unique privilege of own existence.

At any on time there may be two thousand humanoid species alive if it is possible to get to Stage Three. We may not be alone.

Claire Foggart
A Love Story

Claire told us of the harrowing, upsetting and difficult journey she and her family faced as her daughter fought Acute Lymphoblastic Leukaemia.  As her daughter lay desperately sick in hospital, all Claire could do was wait for a donor to come to their aid.  She wanted to find someone, but there is a distinct lack of awareness around bone marrow donation.  Few people know that they can do this, thinking you must be a relative of the sick individual, and fewer still wish to engage in a procedure perceived as incredibly painful.  Claire wants you all to sign up to the Australian Bone Marrow Donation Registry to help save lives of people like her daughter.

Andrew Tyndale
Founder and Director, Grace Mutual

There is currently a need for aged-care beds and affordable housing in Australia.  The proposed cost of providing new centres and upgrading current ones to be fit for care is about $100 billion. At the moment about 50% of aged-care beds are not fit for purpose.

If we look at Foundations, while the numbers are a little fuzzy, about $5 billion exists in trust funds in Australia. Individuals claimed tax donations of about $2 billion each year and if you consider the number of donations not claimed, it would be possible to hypothesise a total of $5 billion invested from donations. This would give us $10 billion to foot a $100 billion bill. So where do we get the other $90 billion from?

The Australian super funds management industry is enormous. It is nearly $1.5 trillion and grew by $162 billion last year. It is concentrated in control as there are less than 400 funds with large amounts of cash.
Trustees are required to make acceptable returns for acceptable risks. There is a gulf between need and the pool of supply. Can we bridge the gulf? It will take three groups to achieve this. Organisations and intermediaries are important because they understand goverment priorities and needs.  Our government needs to make clear social policy and then not change it as change is risk.  This will make it easier for the organisations and intermediaries to make change happen.

By working with the intermediaries to use government money to stimulate and "prime the pump", social infrastructure will get a leg up.

Anders Sorman-Nilsson

Founder and Creative Director, Thinque

The world have changed and the world is changing. The fastest growing economy is communist. 

Norway is bankrupt.

Change doesn't care if you like it or not.

Jeff Cook brought data and organization to Apple.  The Apple concept store on fifth avenue open 24/7, 365 days per year.  Shanghai has as many people as all of Australia.  They also foresee far larger growth than we shall over the next thirty or so years.

So how do we get to the future, and what do we want to be there?

The computer market dropped four percent in the last year while other technologies (tablets, smartphones) increased their sales.  The McKinsey Institute says we're looking for T-shaped people those with both a breadth of knowledge and appreciation of data while having a focus.

We need to socially analyze data because there is more to the story than ones and zeros.
We need to consider brand karma - where more green and yellow leads to a more positive perception. Just think - VISA and MasterCard make more money each year than the major banks.
We are all high maintenance.

We need to treat people not how we want to be treated outselves but how THEY want to be treated, which requires a whole new level of thought.

We need to learn how to think in reverse to usual in order to understand others better.  We need to empower ourselves in these changes.

Just think - the fastest growing Facebook market is currently 50-60 year old women.
We are demanding personalization and corporations must take that on board.  Buses in London have LCD screens that shift advertising depending on the geographical area.  The buses have it right - the message changes with the direction.

Aaron Tait

Executive Director, Spark*
Aaron dreams of a world with no AIDS or Malaria or poverty, a world where every kid is in school.
As a young man, Aaron serve in the armed forces in Iraq.  He was stationed there following the September 11 attacks on the World Trade Centre.  He had to enforce sanctions where no food or medicine was allowed into  Middle Eastern countries without a UN stamp. As a result, a quarter of a million women and children died.  Aaron couldn't let go of these inequities, where supplies didn't get to those who needed them.  He knew he had to do something different.  He also learnt during some aid work that he couldn't just go gung-ho into a new area and force his Western ideals on the locals.  Change needs to be led by the people on the ground, by the people who understand the issues best.  Since then, he started Spark*, which focuses on partnering eager Australians with locals in other countries making a difference.  Through fundraising in Australia, we can help those with fantastic ideas get projects working in their communities.  This is fostering locals making change happen for themselves.  This is empowerment.

Sonnie Abdalla
Creator, Sponsor Schooling Project

As a young person, studying and travelling, Sonnie has seen more poverty than most of us.  With this backdrop, against the wonderful opportunities he has here in Australia, Sonnie found his purpose.  He wants to put an end to the extreme suffering and exploitation of children.  He wants children to get education.  He can see technology as the solution.

Children need mentoring.  Children need assistance. They need to be in school long enough to break the chains of poverty.  We need emotional connection to the kids to really make a difference. The social network can bring this change closer.

Stephanie Lorenzo
Founder and CEO, Project Futures

Project Futures - empowering and engaging people, young or old, to combat sex trafficking globally.  Stephanie started out her speech by telling us of the great work of Project Futures and how much change they have made.  What touch me most, however, was the story of one young lady who was sold into sex slavery at the tender age of ten.  Now 16, she is receiving the education she always deserved.  Even more, this beautiful soul is making a new life for herself, rather than dwelling on the harsh negatives that have played out in her life.

We are the Generation F - we are planning for the future.

And that was that.  A day of amazing speeches, great conversations and new friends.  I am never very good at leaving these sorts of things and found myself still dawdling with these curious minds into the evening.  Eventually, I needed to go home to ponder all of the wonder in this world.

We can be the change in the world in which we live.


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