“WE’RE ALL GOING TO DIE” And Other Ideas From Day One Of Junket 2016

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There are very few moments in life in which you have the opportunity to talk to a room full of (sober) strangers about creative solutions to Indigenous reparations, then queefing, then the fact that none of us will ever, ever escape death. But, like we learned last year, Junket is no ordinary time.

At one point in the welcoming/pitching session of our annual unconference which kicked off yesterday afternoon, Lauren Rowe (founder of organ donation charity Gifted Life) cited her love of Oprah before pointing determinedly around the room. “YOU’RE going to die and YOU’RE going to die and YOU’RE going to die!” she yelled, encouragingly.

Junket 2016 was officially underway.

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We are having the best time! So many ideas to think about! Ha ha! Lauren, please don’t hurt us!

As you may have guessed from the topic areas, Junket is a bit of a mixed bag. For the second year in a row, we’ve gathered up around 200 of the most interesting and innovative young people in the country and thrown them in the deep end together. Canberra’s QT Hotel is currently stacked with comedians, politicians, artists, doctors, writers, activists, sportspeople, musicians, and more and they’re all about to debate and discuss some of the biggest issues facing Australia today.

The program of events was decided on the fly, with all attendees invited up on stage on Sunday to pitch their idea for a conversation, debate or workshop in 60 seconds.

After calling for a new progressive party to combat the far-right before the event, James Mathison used his time to advocate for new programs and initiatives to foster mental health in schools. Stephanie Anderson, a political reporter from the ABC, wanted to start a conversation about what an ideal news source would look like in 2016. Axis of Awesome frontwoman Jordan Raskopoulos asked for people to join her in a conversation about offence in comedy — how do we develop the right words and protocols to manage people’s freedom of expression against their right to take offence?

Fresh from debating Australian identity with a United Patriots Front leader on Hack Live, Indigenous activist and Junkee writer Nayuka Gorrie suggested we think of creative ways to work towards reconciliation and reparations. She raised an interesting point about who was and wasn’t acknowledging the traditional owners of the land — the Ngunnawal people — and entirely changed the dynamic on-stage. Before subsequently using some of their 60 seconds to reflect on race and respect, others then brought forward ideas on the future of arts and sex education, the barriers towards environmental sustainability, climate justice, treaty, the rise of Islamophobia in Australia, changing narratives about asylum seekers, marriage equality, marriage in general, and the nature of both time and reality itself.

The job of working through all of these pitches was super easy, and the programming committee aren’t even sad they missed the big, beautiful dinner that was going on downstairs, no siree, don’t even ask about it.

 All of these ideas have now been turned into a timetable of hour-long sessions which will kick off today at 9am. Everyone has a pretty enormous day ahead of them — a challenge which might prove a little tricky for some considering the pitch session and dinner was followed by a seemingly endless stream of vodka cocktails in the bar upstairs.

We won’t be reporting directly on each of today’s sessions as, like we learned last year, they work best as a free and open discussion with little outside pressure. That being said, we will be chatting to some great people who may want to share their ideas on the site over the coming weeks and months; many of whom may be doing so already over at #junket. You can follow that hashtag all day for updates and, if something takes your interest, start talking about it! To be here, raising big issues in the company of such intelligent and passionate people, is an absolute privilege, but it’s not the final goal. These ideas won’t mean much unless they then get brought in some way to a bigger audience; the more seats at the discussion table, the better.

Maybe this week is a good opportunity to start up your own weird, huge or heavy conversations? Despite what it may look like from this Leslie Knope-inspired neon monstrosity of a board, there’s plenty more out there to be discussed.