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Conversations at the Crossroads: In conversation with Joe Camilleri

  • 22 September 2023
In early 2022, I became part of an online group that explored aspects of climate change, focusing on the cultural shift required to create more sustainable communities. Although the group was never more than 10 people, the level of collective knowledge and experience it contained — from analysis of scientific data to activism with Lock the Gate and other community projects — made for rich conversation. And a lot of learning. This group was part of a project called ‘Conversations that Matter’, which was set up by the Conversations at the Crossroads initiative.

What follows is an interview with Professor Joe Camilleri, Convenor of Conversations at the Crossroads, who explains what this ever-growing network is, why it’s important, and the wider social need it serves. He also extends an invitation to Eureka Street readers to consider contributing their knowledge and wisdom.

When did Conversations at the Crossroads start?

Almost three years ago.

What was the motivation or drive for Conversations at the Crossroads?

The drive was based on two things. I became very concerned, as many of us had been for quite some time, that the level of public conversation was, to put it crudely, rather low. Anything one could do to raise it even just a little bit would be important.

This was also building on my substantial experience of nearly 10 years in establishing and then becoming the Founding Director of the Centre for Dialogue at La Trobe University. I thought this could be applied to something not so academic, and try to reach a wider audience.  That was the main factor behind us getting this initiative underway. It should be said ‘Conversation’ yes, but the crucial bit is ‘at the Crossroads’.

Could you elaborate on ‘at the Crossroads’?

I would argue that never before in human history have we been faced with so many life-threatening challenges. Not just the two existential threats that immediately come to mind — climate change and the risk and danger of nuclear war — but so many other things.

There’s the mass displacement of people the world over — record numbers, around the 100 million mark; ongoing conflicts in so many parts of the world; states and governments that are failing in quick succession; but also the glaring inequalities within and between countries; and still abject poverty side by side with extraordinary levels of consumption. Additionally, there’s mental illness, which is rife in many parts of the world.

Generally there is