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Adelaide Festival of Ideas: Opening « Previous | |Next »
July 6, 2007

afilogo.jpg I attended the opening of the 2007 Adelaide Festival of Ideas last night at the State Library of SA. The wine was great, the finger food tasty, the atmosphere convivial. the people chatty. As one would expect from a city with strong regionally based food culture and a noble social democratic tradition. As always Kerryn Goldsworthy has some interesting comments and insights.

The Premier's speech, with its mixed metaphors and jokes about being haunted by the spectre of Mark Latham, highlighted how the thinkers in residence programme had grown out of an earlier festival, and the positive effect this was having on shaping public policy in SA. Mike Rann came bearing gifts--a doubling in the funding for the festival. But he gave no indication as to how he envisioned the Festival could grow.

Mark Cully, the Chair of the Festival, spoke of the haunting horrors of 9/11 and the way that people going about their everyday attending the 2001 festival affirmed his hope in the future. Both Rann and Cully highlighted the depth and breadth of the themes in this a carbon neutral festival, and how it had continued to grow. Cully, however, gave no indication of how the Festival would grown in the future. Where does it go from here?

My suggestion is that we grow the Festival so that it becomes an event in the nation by going online and just not contained within the borders of SA. Adelaide is small and the economic and environmental constraints on SA mean that we have to be smart. Adelaide can become the place of ideas--an ideas laboratory for the nation if you like. Sustainability-- or to use a word gone out of fashion, ecologically sustainable development--is obvious choice. Where's the ideas/policy think tank?

But not just ideas. Adelaide has a chance to be different. The Festival is a success because it is so accessible --its all walkable. Connect that up with the ideas about food politics and wellness and we have a city that is able to develop solutions to overweightness and illhealth. It can become a people friendly city and develop ways so that people can walk the city.

After the affirmation of indigenous culture in the moving welcoming ceremony that painted a future of indigenous culture and a sharing of the fire with the audience. A frail Elliot Johnston was introduced by Peter Mares of National Interest and he opened proceedings by picking up on the politics alluded to in the welcoming ceremony. Frail he may be but Johnston gave a tight and sharp critique of John Howard's recent military style intervention into indigenous affairs.

Whatever reservations we nay have of the following five aspects of the intervention (Johnston had many) they do support the Howard/Brough claim that they are addressing grog and sexual abuse of children in indigenous communities in the Northern Territory. These aspects are banning alcohol, quarantining welfare, enforcing school attendance, health checks for children and an increased police presence.

Johnston, speaking as a citizen, argued that the other aspects of the Howard/Brough plan have little to do with sexual abuse of children : 5 year leases, scrapping the permit system , improving housing through market rates and leases, managers to be appointed. These strike at self-determination of indigenous people and should be resolutely opposed.

He's dead right. This is an enlightening critical thinking as a public reason at its best. It is insightful and, as a form of rhetoric that unifies reason and emotion, pushes prejudice and bigotry to one side. The message was cystal clear: some strands of the Coalition in Canberra may have embraced the counter Enlightenment with open arms to retain power, but Adelaide stands resolutely firm in its defence of an enlightening public reason. It will not be seduced by 'shock and awe' political prophets bearing false gifts and offering snake oil.

| Posted by Gary Sauer-Thompson at 7:25 AM | | Comments (3)


The good thing about what the Government is doing is that if it doesnt work something else can be tried in a few years time. Large numbers of Abo's will always be a pimple on Australias bum. Yes some will get jobs and some communities will do well and yes many will rediscover their heritage/art/culture but many more will just sit around with their hands out for many years to come just getting drunk and blaming the white man.

that ignores the self- determination issue that Johnston raised.

Its one thing to go out in the bush and establish communities that work. You would most likely get 50% success and the other 50% would be varied in their failure. That I think would be an achievable outcome.

There needs to be some sort of operation mounted in the cities too. The state of affairs in W.A with the Abo's is rotten to the core. And I mean its the Abo's that are rotten. Catch a train at night in Perth and you will see what I mean. Or take a walk through sunny Geraldton by night or many other towns. There is a great deal of contempt for these types of Indigenous that produce nothing. Put their hand out for money every week for booze and smokes and when that runs out go out and break into houses till the next dole day.
As I say it is one thing to go out in the bush and start solving the issue with people that will basically do what they are told and another entirely to solve the town Abo problem.