Welcome to Eureka Street

back to site


Conferences, summits, talkfests

  • 13 September 2022
Welcome to 'Stray Thoughts', where the Eureka Street editorial team muses on ethical and social challenges we've noted throughout the week.  A week ago, the Jobs Summit concluded with a flurry of announcements and a good dose of sneering about the sugar hit of a ‘talkfest’. The Reserve Bank’s announcement of a further interest rate rise, for the fifth consecutive month, was a reminder that policy announcements may have medium- and long-term effects, but they won’t resolve the short-term slide of real wages.

The announcements are no less worthwhile for that. We might well ask those who scorn the moves to build systemic policies that respond to our context, ‘What else is there to do?’ Knee-jerk reactions and band-aid solutions? Usually in the form of sending more cash into the economy, thereby kicking the problem down the road?

Similarly, those who suggest that gatherings like the Jobs Summit are not worth the time overlook the possibility of long-term solutions being found through people coming together and talking. Much of the talking was done, of course, prior to the Jobs Summit. But the date in the diary focusses the mind; preparatory conversations start to refine a common understanding of what is being sought, and maybe even why.

Last week, people from across the Catholic schools’ systems met in Melbourne at the National Catholic Education Conference. Similar objections may be raised about its usefulness. No doubt many teachers, left slugging it out in the classroom, would roll their eyes at such a gathering. Why take time out to talk when there are teacher shortages now?

We should be attentive to those who are engaged in the direct education of our young and what they might hope for from a conference like this. But we should recognise that bringing people together, getting them talking, can spark creativity and, just maybe, give rise to sharing old, underutilised ideas and collaborating to create new ones.


'Sometimes it is in hearing apparently unrelated ideas next to each other that minds are stimulated to creating new solutions.'  

As with the Jobs Summit, the value of such an event lies in the preparation — stakeholders working together to refine what they see as important, what they wish to present to delegates, and particularly what voices they seek to have heard. Identity for a community can be built this way. Those voices can spark ideas and conversations in those who attend such conferences. Sometimes the ideas will be quite tangential to