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Event in the spotlight: TEDx Sydney 2014

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TEDx Sydney 2014 took place on Saturday, 26 April in the Concert Hall at the Sydney Opera House.

Sixteen speakers delivered their talks to a full house of some 2200 attendees plus an additional 300-strong crowd in the Opera House Studio.

Over the course of the day, each of the four sessions explored a broad theme: ‘Passages’, ‘Blood’, ‘Enhance’ and ‘Rethink’.

Acclaimed author Markus Zusak was the first speaker of session one, ‘Passages’, entertaining the audience with his tale of how early failure delivered the tools for both beautiful memories and the capacity to work to the full extent of his ability.

Adam Alter enlightened the audience about the malleability of what we would usually consider to be fixed personality traits such as honesty.

Stella Young dismissed the way our culture views disability as ‘inspiration porn’, proposing normalising the physical limits of our bodies as a healthy alternative.

And Barat Ali Batoor told his harrowing story of the reality of seeking asylum in Australia in 2013.

Session 2 was titled ‘Blood’ and opened with Cyndi Shannon Weickert’s research into the genetics of schizophrenia, a decades-long journey inspired by her brother’s battle with the condition.

Former soldier David Kilkullen addressed the role of technology and assertive action in empowering slum dwellers in developing countries.

Former NSW State Coroner Mary Jerram demystified the difference between justice and vengeance and why the latter has no place in the coroner’s court.

And autistic artist Tim Sharp and his mother Judy had the audience both in tears and on their feet with the story of their journey through life as mother and son.

‘Enhance’, the third session, commenced with Oliver Percovich’s talk about using a skateboard to deliver social change in Afghanistan, where 40% of skateboarders are girls.

Neuroethicist Nicole Vincent shared her concerns about the proximity of a ‘smart’ pill and its implications for our collective future.

Punchbowl Boys’ High School principal Jihad Dib inspired the audience with the story of how he’s turned around the fortunes of a Sydney school, and Year 11 Canberra student Jake Coppinger explained how his invention has the potential to revolutionise how we live, as well as why it could only have been achieved in the age of the Internet.

Session 4 invited the audience to ‘Rethink’ the way it looks at lighting in cities, thanks to lighting architect Mark Major.

Prof Richard Banati challenged the audience to look at plastic in new ways; Clio Cresswell enlightened everyone on the irrefutable connection between sex and mathematics and Barry Traill urged people to reconsider their attitude to wilderness and role of humans in preserving biodiversity.

Throughout the day, a refreshing variety of musical, comedy and short film acts interspersed the talks and kept everyone on the edge of their seats – beginning with an earthy rendition of ‘dirtsong’ from Black Arm Band and ending with a candid and poignant performance from Megan Washington.

Team food coordinated a spectacular array of long tables with soup, freshly-baked bread and hand-churned butter and delicious curries designed to share, all made from produce grown in refugee and asylum seeker-run community gardens.

Forty-eight satellite events across the world ensured the event stretched far beyond the walls and sails of the Sydney Opera House.

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