Community conference in a search for the soul of the nation

Posted on 15 Jun 2023

By Greg Thom and Matthew Schulz

Higgins Missy performance202305 CIC15 005
Missy Higgins had the audience enthralled at the Communities in Control conference.
All pictures: Penny Stephens

Thought provoking conversations sparked by big ideas defined the 2023 Communities in Control conference.

Celebrating its 21st anniversary, the two-day event featured a stellar line-up of thought leaders and performers set the challenge to define the soul of our nation.

Nineteen guests took to the stage to share their insights on the biggest issues facing the country: from confronting racism and rising inequality to combatting the scourge of hate speech.

Celebrating its 21st anniversary, the two-day event featured a stellar line-up of thought leaders and performers set the challenge to define the soul of our nation.

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Nineteen guests took to the stage to share their insights on the biggest issues facing the country: from confronting racism and rising inequality to combatting the scourge of hate speech.

Wurundjeri elder Tony Garvey
Wurunderji elder Tony Garvey delivers the welcome to country.

The event was opened by a moving and heartfelt welcome to country by Wurundjeri Elder Tony Garvey, who eloquently articulated the importance First Nations Peoples invest in Country.

“Never can the land be taken away. The land will always belong to Aboriginal people as we are part of the land and the land is part of us.”

His words were a perfect segue to the stunning world premiere performance of Marrapurtangkali, a new work commissioned by Our Community inspired by the Uluru Statement from the Heart.

A newly commissioned work, "Marrapurtangkali" was performed at the Communities in Control conference to a standing ovation.

It was possible to hear a pin drop, as delegates immersed themselves in the haunting piece by Aunty Delmae Barton to the musical sounds of her son William, Veronique Serret, Mathew Hoy and Sam Anning.

The annual networking and professional development event that is Communities in Control has the bold aim to make communities stronger by gathering a diverse mix of progressive thinkers, entertainers and artists who inspire through words, music and ideas.

It has cemented its place on the calendar as a must not-miss forum that grants a platform for participants to re-energise, refocus and redouble their efforts to do good in the community.

Craig Foster
Former Socceroos captain and now human rights campaigner Craig Foster delivered an impassioned Joan Kirner Social Justice Oration.

Keynote speaker, former Socceroo, broadcaster and human rights activist Craig Foster AM, embodied this spirit of the power of community to advocate and achieve change, particularly when it comes to embracing First Nations and asylum seekers.

Delivering the Joan Kirner Social Justice Oration, Foster gave an inspiring, powerful and impassioned plea to do better for those who need our help and deserve our respect the most.

“The way that we treat the most vulnerable people has to be one of the key barometers of who we are.”

Denis Moriarty
Our Community's group managing director Denis Moriarty says that the conference is his favourite time of year.

Welcoming delegates to the conference, Our Community group managing director Denis Moriarty left no-one in doubt about the magnitude of what he hoped could be achieved by the gathering of intellectual firepower in the room.

“At the 2023 Communities in Control Conference, we're here to search for the soul of the nation.”

It was a journey supported by singer Missy Higgins, whose lilting voice and soulful guitar enthralled those lucky enough to see her electrifying performance on stage.

“It's an honor to be in a room with so many key thinkers … I'm sure you guys have come up with some incredible ideas,” she said.

“Thank you for attempting to improve the world for my children, our children's children, and everybody else’s children. I think you're all doing incredible work, so we're so happy to provide a little bit of entertainment for you."

Julianne Schultz
Professor Emerita Julianne Schultz's book was inspiration for the conference's theme.

The conference opening keynote speaker, Professor Emerita Julianne Schultz, got things off to a stimulating start, as she explored the central 2023 theme, “A search for the soul of the nation”.

“If the nation has a soul, it resides in the community sector,” her captivated audience drawn from across the community and NFP sector.

Emma Dawson
Per Capita executive director Emma Dawson.

Per Capita Australia executive director Emma Dawson followed up by launching The Australian Inequality Index, a ground-breaking interactive online data tool intended to democratise data and information.

She said the freely-available index – which assesses a range economic, social and demographic indicators - would empower people and communities to understand the complex causes and effects of inequality.

“Growing inequality threatens all of us, no matter how privileged we may be under our current economic system.”

Antoinette Lattouf
Antoinette Lattouf spoke about how to "lose friends and influence white people".

Broadcaster, journalist and advocate Antoinette Lattouf held a mirror up to the nation, challenging all of us to rethink our attitudes toward racism.

“Diversity is being asked to the party. Inclusion is being asked to dance.”

Holly Ransom
Leadership expert Holly Ransom.

Leadership expert Holly Ransom inspired delegates with advice on how to lead from the front in the community sector: “When we do the things we’re afraid of, the apocalypse doesn’t happen.”

Anjalee de Silva
Dr Anjalee de Silva explored the battles around free speech and hate speech.

Anti-discrimination and free speech expert Dr Anjalee de Silva highlighted the minefield that must be trodden by women who dare to speak their mind.

“Hate speech against women delegitimises democracy and represents a crisis of democracy in itself,” she said.

TechCrunch futurists Rebecca Maklad and Melissa Neighbour.

Day one finished with TechCrunch futurists Rebecca Maklad and Melissa Neighbour energetically extolling the virtues of “intelligent optimism” over constant negativity, even in the face of environmental crisis.

The ideas continued to flow on day two of CIC.

Cynthia Mitchell
Professor Cynthia Mitchell

Professor Emerita Cynthia Mitchell talked passionately about the importance of connecting with the natural world.

“The work we need to do now is not only to heal the rift between us and nature but also, to heal the rifts within ourselves.”

Marlikka Perdrisat
Marlikka Perdrisat is a representative of the Matuwarra Fitzroy River Council.

Sharing her upbringing as an indigenous Australian raised in the remote Kimberly region of WA, Marlikka Perdrisat eloquently explained why for her, country means community.

“For me, land, language and law are all entwined,” she said.

Simon Longstaff
Australia's leading ethicist Simon Longstaff.

Ethics Centre CEO Dr Simon Longstaff provided fascinating food for thought on the importance of community in helping us to see who we really are.

“It’s not how we control the world; it's how we connect with it and that is how I believe we will find the soul of this nation.”

Michelle H Lim
Loneliness researcher and CEO of Ending Loneliness Together, Michelle H. Lim.

Ending Loneliness Together CEO and clinical psychologist Dr Michelle H Lim provided an insight into the complexity and increasing impact of loneliness on society.

“You can be socially isolated but not lonely, and you can be lonely but not socially isolated.”

Lachlan McIver
Global health expert and environmental advocate Dr Lachlan McIver.

Dr Lachlan McIver shared his experience as a global health expert and environmental advocate to reinforce the undeniable link between climate change and health and why community engagement is key to tackling these pressing issues.

“The idea of community has the power to change lives, community has the power to save lives and together we can harness that power of communities which has the potential and power to make the world a better place.”

Craig Foster and Ron Kirner.
Craig Foster chats with Joan Kirner's widower Ron following his keynote address at the event.

Mr Moriarty declared the conference over, but not before telling delegates there was more to do.

"These past two days, we’ve done a lot of thinking, and now, it’s time to get to work. Go and change the world. And do it fast."

Veronique Serret
Veronique Serret during the world premiere of "Marrapurtangkali".

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