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The 6 most extraordinary moments at TEDxMelbourne

TEDxMelbourne lead image
Photograph: Teresa Noble

It’s one thing to listen to TED talks online; it's another thing entirely to be there in person. On Tuesday September 19, 15 speakers from across the globe took to the Melbourne Convention and Exhibition Centre to present their big ideas and audacious goals to a crowd of hundreds. This year’s theme was ‘Rebels, Revolutionaries, and Us’ – an apt topic for the tumultuous state of today’s world.

Each luminary interpreted this theme differently, and some of them revealed some truly eye-opening – and even inspiring – nuggets of wisdom. Here are our highlights…

1. When a former child soldier taught us the meaning of forgiveness

Deng Adut at TEDxMelbourne

Photograph: Teresa Noble

Deng Adut is many things: a criminal lawyer, public speaker, author, and the 2017 NSW Australian of the Year. He is also a former child soldier, taken from his family in South Sudan at the age of six and forced into fighting for the Sudan People’s Liberation Army. He arrived in Sydney as a refugee as a young boy, and eventually, became a lawyer and a passionate advocate for human rights.

On Tuesday, Adut spoke in conversation with TEDxMelbourne’s Joanna Woo. When asked how he manages to reconcile with his traumatic past and move forward, Adut responded calmly, yet resolutely: “I don’t have enemies. I have forgiven myself, and my enemies. Do I really have time to be angry?” While we’re sure Adut wouldn’t claim to have all the answers in life, he offered one of the most powerful insights into living peacefully that we’d ever come across. “Just be a good person – this cycle of repeating the same wrong things over and over is what got humanity to this place. Try to be whole, try to be yourself. When you don’t know who you are you will make a lot of mistakes.”

2. ...and took a stand for marriage equality

Deng Adut at TEDxMelbourne

Photograph: Teresa Noble

Meaningful gestures don’t have to be huge ones; and the moment when Deng pulled up the leg of his trousers to reveal bright rainbow socks sent a surge of cheering through the crowd. “I’ll be voting yes,” he said, proudly. “Don’t deny other people rights."

3. When we entertained the concept of an Australian east-coast ‘mega-region’, connected by a high-speed ‘hyperloop'

Sander van Amelsvoort at TEDxMelbourne

Photograph: Teresa Noble

A train in a vacuum tube that travels 1,000km per hour, running commuters from Melbourne to Sydney in less than an hour? In Sander van Amelsvoort’s opinion, the ‘hyperloop’ isn’t just a viable possibility, it’s a necessity if Australia wants to compete economically on the world stage in the years to come. Van Amelsvoort – who is director of policy and research at the Committee for Melbourne – made a strong case that instead of being rivals, Melbourne and Sydney need to team up. He argued that in the years to come, the world will be run from economic ‘mega-regions’ (think the area encompassing Boston, New York and Washington DC, for example) – and that if Melbourne and Sydney can’t team up, then Australia will fall behind. A high-speed train (plus high speed internet) would also alleviate pressures on the housing markets, as it would be easy to live in regional Victoria and commute into the capitals in a matter of minutes.

4. When a designer asked us to imagine a future where the physical and the virtual world are indistinguishable

Mond Qu at TEDxMelbourne

Photograph: Ryan Lowe

Picture this: you’re standing in your living room, wearing virtual reality glasses. Effortlessly, you’re able to transform the space around you into anything you can dream of; a space filled with lavish furniture, a bare white cube, or even a jungle. This is one of the dreams of Melbourne designer Mond Qu, who – inspired by the idea that hardly any architectural designs actually get built – has been designing the “unmakeable” through virtual technology. “One day we won’t be able to tell the difference between the physical and the virtual world,” he said. “Our conventional idea of place is being consumed by a digital landscape.”

5. When we learned about the power of negativity

Crowd shot at TEDxMelbourne

Photograph: Teresa Noble

It may seem counter-intuitive at first, but sometimes, being negative is important. Iona Macgregor is an advertising strategist on a mission to fight indifference and apathy by creating meaningful content. And sometimes, creating meaningful messages means acknowledging what isn’t OK about the current state of the world. “If we constantly look on the bright side, we’re assuming that the status quo is OK. We’re assuming that whatever got us here will continue to make things better,” she said. In our daily lives, Mcgregor also recommends that we don’t try to ignore problems or accept things that aren’t good enough. “Dare to be negative, dare to say no. If you want to move forward, use negativity.”

6. When Electric Fields blew everyone's minds with a live performance 

Electric Fields at TEDxMelbourne

Photograph: RedSecret Photography

Halfway through the day, South Australian electro-pop duo Electric Fields unleashed three of their moving, and very danceable tracks from their 2016 record Inma. Blending the sublime voice of Zaachariaha Fielding – who often sings in his traditional language of the Anangu Pitjantjatjara Yankunytjatjara people – and the producing talents of Michael Ross, Electric Fields were an unexpected highlight of the day. Have a listen to them; they might just become your new favourite band.

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