COMMENT: Taking the TEDx stage to inspire, educate

There was a palpable sense of inspiration at Friday’s TEDx Sydney event at the Bega Valley Commemorative Civic Centre.

More than 20 speakers and performances as varied as the colours on the building’s exterior took to the stage in Darling Harbour to pass on their collective knowledge and experience.

That the whole event was streamed live to an appreciative audience in Bega – at a fraction of the cost it would have been to attend in Sydney – was just the first of the ideas getting the crowd inspired.

We heard from a survivor of the 2005 London tube bombing, a professor of cognitive science exploring connections between human and machine learning, the transgender lead singer of Axis of Awesome and the research behind male eating disorders and muscle dysmorphia.

The musical interludes were just as varied, with performances by powerful Australian hip-hop artist L-Fresh the Lion, songstress Sarah Blasko, and Queen’s Bohemian Rhapsody performed in sign language by Andy Dexterity!

The Bega District News transplanted our newsroom to the workstations in the rear of the TEDx Sydney live stream event for the day and are (hopefully) much wiser for it. Among the standouts was the headliner talk by journalist Peter Greste, late on Friday. 

The former Al Jazeera reporter was arrested in Egypt and jailed for two years simply for doing his job. He spoke of the “grey areas” of the modern day war harking back to those fateful words from US President George Dubya “You’re either with us, or against us”.

So where does that leave a journalist dedicated to providing balanced, informed and fair coverage of a conflict (i.e. needing to speak to “the other side”)? In jail for 400 days in Greste’s case.

To be fair to some of the other wonderful speakers on the day, Greste was not as easy to follow – but given he was trying to fit 17 years of a war on terror, and his own coverage of it, into a speech of under 15 minutes it’s forgivable.

His argument for freedom of the press and providing balanced coverage of world conflicts – perhaps more important now than ever – was definitely food for thought.

And on a more personal observation, whomever prepared the arancini balls served as after-TEDx nibbles should get their own five minutes on the round red stage. Absolutely delicious!

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