Conversation at the Crossroads is a growing community based in Melbourne with both a local and global mission to connect people from all walks of life to address the most pressing issues of our time.
Through our events and conversations, we aim to increase awareness and understanding of why things are the way they are and how we can collaborate to fix them.
We’re all aware the world is under a lot of pressure economically, politically, environmentally, and socially. Not only are we facing a pandemic that has affected every life on this planet, but unprecedented fires, climate change, threats to civil liberties, and many other interconnected issues loom large.
The world seems set on a collision course to destruction, and many feel powerless to stop it. But we believe change is possible and we’re at a pivotal moment in time with more opportunities than ever to be a part of this change.
The Best of Times, The Worst of Times – Navigating Life at the Crossroads
Conversation at the Crossroads presents an innovative series to stimulate, inform and upskill. It combines lectures, presentations by world experts in their respective fields, Q&A, debates, role play, small conversation groups, brainstorming sessions and skilling workshops.
Hosted by Professor Joseph Camilleri, the series comprises seven 3-hour sessions run on consecutive Tuesdays from 26th April to June 7th 2022.
- The Ukraine Crisis: A Response to Joseph CamilleriBELINDA PROBERT: I am grateful to Joe Camilleri for his online talk about the essential elements of the current war in Ukraine, as it forced me to think more carefully about my own views and also to search for well-founded discussions about the crisis that has emerged. In doing so, I found myself even more critical of the position Joe took and his failure to give prominence to any alternative perspective.
- The Best of Times, The Worst of TimesJOSEPH CAMILLERI: The best of times, the worst of times. Few words better describe the contradictions of our world precariously poised between noble aspirations and sordid politics. Three questions immediately arise: Are the contradictions deepening? If so, why? Can anything be done about it?
- The Problem of InequalityROBERT HINKLEY: A great deal has been written recently about economic inequality. It seems the rich are getting richer and everyone else is getting poorer. In America, this growing inequality is borne out by statistics collected by the Economics Department of the University of California at Berkeley.
- Surface and Deep InequalityERIK W. ASLAKSEN: When we speak of inequality in general, we most often think of inequality of income and/or wealth, quantities that can easily be measured and where the effects of inequality are readily observed.
- Peace with Justice an Election PrioritySTUART REES: The language of warfare, of AUKUS purchase of nuclear submarines, of prospects for war with Russia or China dominates discussion of Australian foreign and defence policy. This obsession with force and violence as a means of security is prompted by centuries of military swagger nurtured by political fears to speak of peace.
- Climate Change and the Covid19 PandemicROD ANDERSON: It’s surprising that the relationship between these two enormous issues hasn’t had more public discussion. There has of course been lots of talk about the origin of the pandemic, with most scientists in the field favouring a wet market in Wuhan over escape from a virology laboratory in that city. If we consider the broader question of where these and other dreadful zoonoses come from, the more fundamental, causal role of climate change in our current pandemic becomes clear.
- Lean on me: Support workers fight for the trans community during the pandemic (Part I)EMANUELLE ARNOLD: Underfunded, overworked and underresourced. Trans-friendly services rely on people who self-identify as a part of the trans and gender diverse population. Thus, they are also a part of one of the “most medically and socially marginalised groups in our community.” The impact of the COVID-19 pandemic and subsequent lockdowns has been profound on the community, fortifying the roadblocks to adequate support and medical care.
- Australia is not exempt from committing war crimes in Afghanistan (Part II)RASHAD SEEDEEN: Much has been said over the United States supporting limited reforms that have created a number of freedoms and opportunities for Afghan civilians, most notably women. Yet these praises systematically ignore how the U.S. Government funded and armed militias who committed varied human rights violations including rape, torture and extrajudicial killings of civilians.
- The debt Australia owes the people of Afghanistan (Part I)RASHAD SEEDEEN: The world witnessed scenes of desperate Afghans crowding the tarmac and clinging on to planes as they departed the Kabul airport, horrifying many and triggering past traumas for scores of refugees. The rush to exit Afghanistan was precipitated by the entry of Taliban forces into the city of Kabul, securing the near-complete capture of Afghanistan from occupying U.S. forces within days of their withdrawal.
- Afghanistan debacle exposes the limits to EmpireJOSEPH CAMILLERI: The chaotic scenes at Kabul airport are symbolic of a military intervention that has brought the people of Afghanistan nothing but loss and destruction. The United States and its allies, not least Australia, have a great deal to answer for. This twenty-year war has been an unmitigated disaster from beginning to end. And what an ignominious end it is, especially for the United States.
- We must devise effective strategies for change (Part II)KRISTIAN CAMILLERI: If we are to make inroads on the policy of mandatory detention, and many other issues, we must find ways to engage the wider public in more critical discussion. This is what Conversation at the Crossroads aspires to do.
- Australia’s detention policies: The grim reality we seem powerless to change (Part I)KRISTIAN CAMILLERI: The recent revelations regarding Tharnicaa Murugappan, a three-year old girl who contracted at sepsis at the Christmas Island detention centre, have once again put Australia’s policy of mandatory detention in the spotlight.
- At home in the land: The Plenty-Yarra CorridorGEOFF LACEY: If we are to live sustainably on the earth then a profound change in consciousness is necessary. It is a matter of looking at the natural world and experiencing it in a new way. We need to know it intimately—in its landscapes and ecosystems, its web of connections, and its history—starting from our local place.
- Why empathy and compassion matterLYN BENDER: Empathy has recently seeped into the political lexicon. The Prime Minister, not renowned for his compassion, is widely rumoured to have an empathy coach. The impact of this on policies and decisions, is not yet evident.
- Our new “canaries in the coal mine”MICHAEL HAMEL-GREEN: A little late in life I discovered the joy of birds and birdwatching. Yet, with each species seen for the first time, my joy is tempered by what I see happening. So many birds are now under threat from climate change, floods, bush fires, pollution, hunting, mining, and development.
- The non-violent vaccineSTUART REES: Several dangerous pandemics threaten people’s lives. Only one is the familiar Covid infection. A long lasting, insidious virus concerns men’s violence, their supposed problem solving via anger, fists, guns, knives, machetes, boots and batons to oppress any one who gets in their way. Their targets are usually physically weaker people, women, children, dissidents and in the case of men in uniform, the political opponents of their state government employers.
- The imploding university empireRICHARD HIL: It’s estimated that over 17,000 university academics and other staff have already lost their jobs since the outbreak of the pandemic. The projected number of job losses is around 21,000 although the truth is, no-one really knows what the final figure will be.
- When will we stop the desecration of Indigenous sacred sites?JOSEPH CAMILLERI: Indigenous culture remains the tragic casualty of corporate greed and government indifference.
- Is COVID-19 the pandemic we had to have?JOSEPH CAMILLERI: We’re learning the hard way what works against COVID-19. But there are deeper lessons we would do well to digest. In the space of a year, the virus has infected close to 110 million people, caused over 2.4 million deaths, driven health and other frontline workers to physical and emotional exhaustion, and brought hospitals to near breaking point.
- Can Australia transition from being a belligerent nation to a regional and global peace nation?ALLAN PATIENCE: At the very heart of Australian foreign and defence policy is an obsessive belief bordering on paranoia that the country must be intimately allied to “great and powerful friends” to deter any threats to its security. From the earliest days of white settlement until the Japanese over-ran Singapore in 1942, that “friend” was assumed to be Britain.
- Between War and Peace: Australia’s Past and FutureSUE WAREHAM: Whether Australia and other nations plan for a world at peace or a world at war will determine much about our future. The latter would preclude solutions to just about every pressing global issue. The former would offer hope of a sustainable future for all. This paper advocates three steps that Australia could begin with.
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In the spirit of reconciliation, Conversation at the Crossroads acknowledges the Traditional Custodians of country throughout Australia and their ongoing connections to land, sea and community. We pay our respect to their Elders past and present and extend that respect to all Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples today. Our conversations take place on land that was never ceded. Always was, always will be Aboriginal Land.
At Conversation at the Crossroads, we strongly support LGBTQIA+ rights and freedoms.