It was only recently that Canberra was recognised as being one of the most liveable cities in the world by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development. On Saturday October 11, Canberra was given yet another reason to celebrate the inventiveness and innovation of her city.

Now in its fifth year, the TEDxCanberra conference was staged in the main auditorium at the Canberra Theatre Centre. The conference brought together a company of local Canberran speakers and presenters from interstate to deliver short, powerful and passionate talks that shared their ideas and areas of expertise. The conference, this year titled “Unchartered”, featured 18 keynote presentations on topics ranging from the value of wonky carrots and the plight of poultry to the fear-mongering ploys of terrorism and the possibilities of entrepreneuring social business.

This year, the TEDxCanberra team of volunteers was headed by Creative Catalyst and Licensee Stephen Collins. Talking with Woroni, Collins described how the live audience and online viewers should expect to engage with the talks with their “heads, hand and heart.”

“For the head we want people to think…for the heart we want them to feel something, and with their hands we want them to do something”.

“We want to push the boundaries of ideas we’ve already looked at, and new ideas, and discover something new about them”.

Notably, four of the eighteen speakers were linked with the Australian National University. Eleanor Gates-Stuart from the ANU Centre for the Public Awareness of Science, phD candidate at the ANU School of Art Erica Seccombe, Head of the Space Plasma, Power and Propulsion laboratory Professor Christine Charles, and Lecturer at the ANU College of Engineering and Computer Science Dr Steve Lee addressed the packed auditorium in Canberra’s CBD.

Dr Lee discussed the need for playfulness in scientific enquiry. He revealed his latest invention, developed alongside a team of collaborators, which harnessed the optic qualities of droplets to create magnifying lenses. His simple message “science favours the playful mind” encouraged the audience to go about investigation and endeavour with a spontaneous and creative attitude.

Professor Christine Charles concluded the presentations of the day with a hands-on demonstration of the characteristics of plasma. She spoke of her dreams to navigate the unchartered in space research, and of the potential construction of plasma rockets capable of journeying to Mars.

Visual artist and micro-photagrapher Seccombe allowed audiences a visual insight into her PhD project Grow: Visualising Nature in Nanoscale. The video, captured by 3D Microcomputed Tomography Rays at the ANU Deparment of Mathematics, required attendees to don pairs of 3D glasses in order to appreciate the aesthetics of a mung bean sprout in real time. Seccombe described how the element of time and the element of human response to her work added two additional dimensions to the video, making it a “work in the fifth dimension”.

All talks were graphically recorded throughout the day by Canberran artist Gavin Blake from Fever Picture. His visual annotation of the presentations captured key information and quotes to provide a summary of the ideas shared on stage. The large white boards were placed in the foyer for display after each of the talks.

TEDx events allow local teams of volunteers to independently run TED conferences in their area. TED conferences were originally conceived in 1984 to spread ideas from the fields of Technology, Entertainment and Design.


TEDxCanberra 2014 talks will be made available online. For further details, visit their website

We acknowledge the Ngunnawal and Ngambri people, who are the Traditional Custodians of the land on which Woroni, Woroni Radio and Woroni TV are created, edited, published, printed and distributed. We pay our respects to Elders past and present and emerging. We acknowledge that the name Woroni was taken from the Wadi Wadi Nation without permission, and we are striving to do better for future reconciliation.