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Getting To Better Together

Arts & Culture Podcasts

For the vast majority of us, the future has to be better than it is right now, and the only way that will happen is for as many of us as possible to contribute to the direction that it develops. Join Richard Bawden and his guests in the fortnightly episodes as they explore ideas, opinions, provide facts and evidence in support of the aim of getting to better together. If you are among the many who seek to involve themselves in developing a better future, please come and join the conversation. The Mission of this podcast miniseries is to actively contribute to critical public discussions about how the most pressing issues of the day might be more responsibly, effectively, and communally addressed within the context of the continuing development of states of sustainable and inclusive well-being in an ever-changing world.


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For the vast majority of us, the future has to be better than it is right now, and the only way that will happen is for as many of us as possible to contribute to the direction that it develops. Join Richard Bawden and his guests in the fortnightly episodes as they explore ideas, opinions, provide facts and evidence in support of the aim of getting to better together. If you are among the many who seek to involve themselves in developing a better future, please come and join the conversation. The Mission of this podcast miniseries is to actively contribute to critical public discussions about how the most pressing issues of the day might be more responsibly, effectively, and communally addressed within the context of the continuing development of states of sustainable and inclusive well-being in an ever-changing world.




The Right Thing to Do

There is much talk these days about the ethical challenges that generative artificial intelligence technologies pose. While most of us might be hazy about what these are, they themselves are in little doubt. A question to ChatGPT on these lines will result in a list of areas of concern that include job displacement, intellectual property, transparency, bias, and fairness. Upon reflection, there is nothing terribly unexpected here. Any one of us would recognise these matters as raising issues to do with what we consider to be morally right or wrong, or good or bad, or just or unjust. In fact, we pride ourselves in our uniqueness as a species, in this way. We believe that we are alone in our capacities to anticipate the future consequences of our actions, as well as being able to make ethical judgements about these potential outcomes. But included in the list of ethical concerns recognised by ChatGPT about itself, as it were, is an indication of a technological self-awareness with the comment that the development and use of generative AI technologies “raises questions about the moral status and consciousness of AI systems themselves”. Suddenly we are faced with the possibility that we have created machines that might be able to exhibit consciousness, have a conscience, and have capacities for making their own moral judgements. If this is a possibility, should we just let them do that, or should we ensure that such development is nipped in the bud? In this episode, our host Richard Bawden discusses this and other questions about ethics and morality related to AI with his guest, Declan Humphreys. Declan is the newly appointed Lecturer in Cybersecurity at the University of the Sunshine Coast, where he is developing research into the ethical design and use of AI. He received his PhD in philosophy from the University of New England, with a focus on the ethical impacts of new and emerging technologies.


No Mean Achievement

It has recently been announced that the University of the Sunshine Coast has been assessed by the Times Higher Education (THE) Impact Rankings, as being within the top 2% of more than 1500 universities across the globe for its performance with respect to the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). It was ranked first in Queensland and sixth among all Australian institutions. Carefully calibrated indicators are used in assessment process to provide comprehensive and balanced comparison across four domains of university functions: research, stewardship, outreach, and teaching. Of the seventeen goals of sustainable development identified by the UN and published as Agenda 2030, the quality of education, climate action, zero hunger, responsible consumption and production, and life on land are among those that are specifically evaluated. Richard’s guest in this episode, Carmine Buss, is helping to lead sustainability initiatives at the University of the Sunshine Coast. Carmine is a psychology PhD student and humanitarian affairs green ambassador. She comes to her doctoral research into environmental psychology following a truly outstanding undergraduate career, which was capped in 2021 by her receiving the Chancellor’s Medal, The Student Leadership Award, and the University Medal for Academic Excellence.


Does this Change Everything?

The emergence of generative artificial intelligence and easily accessible large language models like ChatGPT, have the capability of challenging our self-perceptions and what we mean by intelligence, sentience, and consciousness. These new technologies have triggered major concerns that AI has or will soon have the capacity to genuinely “change everything”. And as many see it, this is extremely concerning - nothing less than an existential threat to all of humanity. Richard’s guest today, Dr Erica Mealy, is among those who are very well qualified to help us understand what is at stake here. Erica is an award winning academic at the university of the Sunshine Coast where she is a lecturer in Computer Science with a special interest in, and concern for the vital interface between AI technology and ethics. She has been writing code for more than 20 years and has become, in her own words, a ‘Technology and Design Evangelist’.


The Alliance for Suicide Prevention

The concept of universities engaging with communities and organisations beyond their walls, is a recurring theme throughout this podcast series. Indeed, it was the submission by the distinguished American scholar, Ernest Boyer a quarter of a century ago, that universities should become much more vigorous partners in the search for answers to the most pressing social problems of the day, that was one of the central motivations for us launching this endeavour in the first place. To date in the series, our primary focus has been on the nature and significance of some of these most critical social, economic, and ecological issues that include climate change and the COVID-19 pandemic. To date we have placed less emphasis on the actual practicalities of the engagement process. How do individual and groups of academics actively engage with members of the public in mutually beneficial ways? How do universities as formal institutions go about developing partnerships with the communities of their region as well as with other public organisations in both the public and private sectors? In this episode we turn our attention to exploring an actual example of how this university, of the Sunshine Coast, is engaging with a wide range of community groups, commercial businesses, and other organisations and institutions. In this instance, the initiative is a specific and vital quest to contribute to the reduction in the number of suicide attempts and completions up here on the Sunshine Coast of Queensland. Richard’s guest today is Mervat Quirke who is the Manager of Strategic Partnerships/Community Engagement and Development at the Thompson Institute at the University of the Sunshine Coast which is a world-class hub for research, teaching, and clinical services for Australia’s most pressing mental health issues.


A Perspective on the Voice

At some date between August and December of this year, we Australians are going to be asked to vote in a referendum on whether we do or do not approve of altering the nation’s Constitution “to recognise the First Peoples of Australia by establishing an Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Voice”. The issue is particularly complicated by the long history in this country of fractured relationships between the indigenous and non-indigenous peoples. It is a sobering realisation that it is only 50 years or so since a referendum was passed to recognise Aboriginal people as citizens of the Commonwealth of Australia. An extraordinary state of affairs given that the Aboriginal peoples had been living on this land for around 65 millennia whilst those issuing the edict had not even been here for one quarter of one millennium. The situation leading to the current referendum proposal, demands reasoned discussions and debates, and clarification of points of difference. Tragically, the arguments between the supporters and the non-supporters of the current proposition, are becoming increasingly fierce. Circumstances demand the need for the clarification of misunderstandings of intentions along with the exposure of deliberate attempts to spread misinformation, disinformation, alternative facts, and fake news! Richard’s guest in this episode is Tony Gleeson who is attempting to respond to these challenges. Tony certainly fits the category of a “thoughtful and committed citizen” as the farmer that he has long been. He has also had an illustrious career as a scientist with the NSW Department of Agriculture, CSIRO, and the NSW Oversees Trade Authority. He was a senior policy advisor and Chief of Staff for the Australian Minister for Primary Industries and Energy in the Hawke government.


Social Entrepreneurship

While the international development and leadership aspects of the title of our Centre here at the University of the Sunshine Coast are generally well-understood, the meaning of ‘the phrase in the middle’ – social entrepreneurship – is less familiar to many. The word entrepreneurship itself tends to confuse the issue. Images of market-driven, profit seeking commercial enterprises in pursuit of private gain and economic growth readily spring to mind. However, the goals and purposes of social entrepreneurship are almost the opposite of these. Here the focus is on the creation of social value for the public good. Social entrepreneurs hold social concerns, often combined with environmental responsibilities, as central to their business strategies, or at least empathic sidelines. Following the principles of a circular economy, which reflect the basic ecological processes of nature, they seek to reuse, recycle, and reduce waste to a minimum and to use some private gain to support a public good. Richard’s guest in this episode is a wonderful example of one such. Robert Sinnerton works is what he refers to as the ‘business relocations business’, which conventionally often involves the landfill dumping of ‘redundant’ office furniture. Reacting against such waste and recognising that such furniture was still a very valuable resource that could be reused by those in need, he saw the opportunity to provide a public good through donating the furniture to schools and other educational institutions rather than dumping it. This is his inspiring tale as he relates it in conversation with Richard.


Infrastructure at the Roof of the World

The merest mention of Nepal evokes immediate images of the majestic grandeur of the Himalayan mountains, of precipitous gorges and mountain passes, and of course, of Mount Everest herself, the highest mountain on the planet, standing some 8.8 thousand metres above sea level. Yet tragically, this country is no paradise on Earth. Literally sandwiched between the two most highly populated and rapidly developing mega-nations, of India to the south and China to the north and east, Nepal, with some 30 million people, is one of the least economically developed nations on the planet. It is estimated that one in four Nepalis live below the poverty line while the nation’s economic growth continues to be adversely affected by political uncertainty, multi-factorial social conflict and, most significantly, by a host of natural disasters. It certainly experiences much more than its fair share of such natural disasters as earthquakes, floods, fire, drought, and landslides leading to its status as one of the most disaster-prone nations on earth. One can only begin to imagine the scope of the challenges that these circumstances present to those in Nepal who assume responsibilities for the design, development, investment in, and maintenance of infrastructures that facilitate crucial economic development such as roads, power, information technologies, water and sanitation. Where does one even start? This was the question with which our host Richard Bawden, opened his conversation in this episode with someone who is intimately involved with precisely these matters in Nepal and who was a recent participant in a CIDSEL international short course on infrastructure development. Saumitra Neupane is a political economist specialising in policies, institutions, and markets of water and energy resources. For the past decade, he has been engaged in several research and reform initiatives in Nepal’s water, energy, agriculture, and infrastructure sectors. At present, he serves as the Executive Director at Policy Entrepreneurs Inc. and is leading PEI’s strategic initiative on infrastructure diplomacy.


The Sacrificial Valley

All too often it seems, the pressing issues of the day that demand the attention of us all, are just too vast, too remote, too mind-bogglingly complex, that that attention is left wanting. We leave it to ‘them’ – to governments, corporations, our formal institutions, and so on - to fix the changing climate, the threats to world peace, the instabilities of financial systems, the loss of biodiversity and the quality of the environment. We feel overwhelmed not just by the immensity of the challenges but also by the sheer volume of the noise of information, knowledge, attitudes, opinions, mindsets and biases that fills the air of the ecosystems of the media upon which we increasingly rely for the basis of our decisions about how we should be better living our lives. But then, on the rarest of occasions, come individuals and community groups that challenge that status quo: Inspired and inspiring people who shift the focus from the global to the local in taking informed actions that illustrate what can and should be done to right systemic wrongs. Richard’s guest in this episode provides just such an inspiration. For many years, Dr John Drinan, scientist, writer, environmentalist, farmer, and genuinely concerned citizen, has, with others, been actively highlighting the many environmental, social and economic impacts of coal mining on the Hunter Valley region of New South Wales. John is the author of a recently published outstanding book, The Sacrificial Valley, in which he eloquently and passionately describes the complexities of the changes that the open mining of coal has brought to his ‘homeland’ and the role that corporations and governments have played in contributing to the circumstances where: “Once-grand landscapes are gone, replaced by featureless ridges and mountainous piles of spoil, interrupted by man-made drainage lines and huge empty hole in the ground. Streams above and below ground are broken and contaminated. The air is filthy”.


Some Further Sole Reflections

In this episode, as a solo presentation, the host of our podcasts, Emeritus Professor Richard Bawden, reflects on the Mission of the mini-series and discusses some of the key challenges that have been highlighted over the past two years and 40 plus episodes of the initiative. The basic purpose of the endeavour, he argues, has been to contribute to critical public discussions about how the most pressing and complex issues of our times might be more responsibly, effectively and collectively addressed from the perspective of the continuing quest for the development of states of sustainable and inclusive well-being in an ever-changing, volatile, uncertain and complex world. A key issue that arises in this context relates to where we can seek the trustworthy evidence that we need to support what we need to know. How do we inform ourselves at a time in human history when in addition to the extraordinary amount of information available to us through so many different channels of media, we are also prey to so much confusing jargon, to disinformation, misinformation, fake news and alternative facts, to denialism, and plain lies and deceit? Richard is an adjunct professor at the University of the Sunshine Coast with a long and varied history of life as an academic, mostly elsewhere, starting ‘way-back-when’ as an agricultural scientist in England. Subsequently he has followed an often tortuous and turbulent path, literally across five continents, pursuing questions about how we come to know what we know, and why that is important to the way that we live our lives – or better put, how we ought to live our lives as responsible citizens of what is clearly emerging to be an all-too-vulnerable planet.


Five Women and a Podcast

In this episode, the general manager of CIDSEL and special guest for Richard Bawden, Tami Harriott, facilitates a conversation with four highly successful women from South Asia.


Where are our Elders?

An elder in Aboriginal civilisation has been defined as someone who has gained recognition as a custodian of knowledge and lore – the customs, legends and myths that have been held for millennia. Whilst there are differences within different communities, one common trait among indigenous elders is a deep spirituality – a commitment to a worldview that, at base, means that there is more to life, and indeed to the entire universe, than ‘meets the eye’, so to speak. Some meaningful connection between oneself and something much greater, that calls for a deep appreciation of oneness or wholeness and which demands the fusion or synthesis of the self with the other, of parts with wholes, of the material with the spiritual, of facts with values, of knowledge with wisdom, of actions with ethics. Do we, non-Aboriginal Australians have, within our industrial society, any equivalent role models with similar intellectual, moral and spiritual competencies? In this episode, our host Richard Bawden talks with someone who has many of the very characteristics of the sort of contemporary eldership that we should perhaps be seeking to seriously explore. David Chittelborough is a professor of pedology and biogeochemistry at the University of the Sunshine Coast and an adjunct Professor of the University of Adelaide. He is also a Baha’i, a congregant of a religion founded in the 19th century that teaches the essential worth of all religions and the unity of all people and where the essential quest is to find a unifying vision of the future of society and of nature, and the purpose of life.


Storytelling as a Way of Knowing

In a recent solo episode in this mini-series, our host, Richard Bawden, talked of the significance of three different ways of knowing and their associated bodies of knowledge that he believes are foundational to addressing the pressing issues of this modern industrial era - ecological, economic, and ethical. These, he submitted, are critical foundations for responsible judgements in the face of current and potential challenges to our current ways of behaving in the world about us. Ecology reveals the nature and significance of inter-relationships within nature and between living systems and their dynamic environments. Economics helps us understand costs and benefits, optimal resource uses, and consumer choices, while ethics allows us to adjudge our actions from the perspective of moral concerns for the good, the just, the fair, the equitable, and the responsible. What does all of this mean in practice? Can we provide examples of where these three ways of knowing help us to at least clarify the issues, that we need to address? In this episode, Richard explores some of these matters with his guest, Dr Jane Palmer who has a very special interest in storytelling as a research methodology – an approach which revealed some profoundly disturbing issues from people living in traumatic circumstances, when she adopted it as a research methodology in Aceh in Indonesia following a catastrophic tsunami. Jane is an Adjunct Fellow at the University of Technology Sydney. Her research interests include the use of storytelling methods in post-conflict or marginalized communities to explore the processes of trauma, grief, resilience and adaptation. She has undertaken fieldwork in Indonesia and in regional and remote Australia, and has published in the areas of ethics, fieldwork methodologies, Indigenous studies and futures studies.


International Women’s Day

On March 8th we celebrate the International Woman’s Day [IWD] in Australia - although it would be more accurate to state that this celebration is somewhat conditional, for there remain issues that we need to still address in this country with respect to reaching gender parity. Furthermore, as Australians, with respect to our global responsibilities as citizens of the world, we also need to contribute to the acceleration of the quest for women’s equality across the entire world. There are still far too many situations which are not cause for celebration in this regard: far too many circumstances where women are far from equal in the scheme of things. And this is although International Women’s Day is marked worldwide on March 8th, every year, as it has been since it started as a global event way back in the early 1900s. At CIDSEL this global responsibility is taken very seriously particularly given that the central focus of the Centre is international development – the perpetual quest for inclusive betterment within a global context. There is an explicit commitment to Embrace Equity which happens to be the specific theme for the IWD for 2023. Conceptual frameworks and specific activities for addressing what are referred to as GEDSI matters – Gender Equity, Disability, and Social Inclusion – are incorporated in every development project or program and accepted as moral duties. Richard’s guest in this episode, Tami Harriott, assumes special responsibilities for GEDSI issues and has a deep commitment to GEDSI principles and practices within CIDSEL. The fact that she also the General Manager of this Centre, with profound commitments to gender issues consolidated through extensive international experience, further emphasises the importance of these dimensions to the Centre’s initiatives - which of course include this podcast miniseries.


Making Sense of the World About Us

In essence, what we each ‘do’ in, and to the world about us, is overwhelmingly influenced by how we each ‘see’ that world: how each of us attempts to make sense of what is happening about us as a prelude for doing something in response. We refer to our ‘way of seeing’ in this context, as our worldviews. These reflect complex sets of beliefs and value assumptions that we hold (but which mostly remain in our sub-consciousness). In the process of growing up, and without appreciating the details, we each discover that not everybody has same view of the world as we do. Indeed, we find out, pretty early in life as it happens, that profound differences in worldviews between us often leads to disagreements about events and ideas and opinions: just think politics and polarisation. The nature and significance of these worldviews are the topics of the conversation in this episode between our host Richard Bawden and Melanie Williams who has conducted significant research into these matters. Melanie is an Associate Professor at the William Angliss Institute in Melbourne where she is the Associate Dean with special responsibilities for Scholarship. Her primary role is to support vocational education teachers as they seek to improve their teaching and learning practice: Getting to Better Together in action!


Social Entrepreneurship in Action

When we hear the word ‘entrepreneurship’, the image that all too often springs to mind is less than flattering, to say the least. “The Wolves of Wall Street at work using someone else’s money to make money for themselves”. “Private gain is the go and Greed is Good”. In reality of course, an entrepreneur is anyone who sets up a business - typically, an innovator and risk taker who is essentially seeking to make honest money through private, personal enterprise. There is, however, a special brand of entrepreneurship for which the objective is not private gain but public good. Social entrepreneurs seek to serve communities which are characteristically un- or underserved. The focus is on those who are typically excluded in society, the disadvantaged, the invisibles, the strugglers and so on who could, given the opportunity, be more commercially successful. Richard’s guest in this episode, Martha Joylyne Raka, is an inspirational living example of one such community-oriented social entrepreneur. Martha is from Papua New Guinea where she works with groups of small farmers establishing collaborative partnerships and co-operatives that have the function of helping all involved to Get to Better through working Together.


What’s in a Word?

Effective communication is an essential aspect of Getting to Better Together. How could we ever achieve anything if we were unable to understand each other: if we fail to agree about the meaning of anything? Yet, at the same time, communication would be virtually impossible if we paused to reflect on matters of meaning and language and understanding every time we said something to someone else. Somehow or another, we seem to muddle through conversations with relative ease once we have reached a certain level of language proficiency. To reflect on these matters might seem to be all too academic to have any consequence in our everyday worlds: yet, it is anything but, as anyone who has tried to learn a second language will most certainly have discovered. Dr Levi Durbridge, Richard’s guest in this episode, has given these matters very serious consideration. Levi, who is fluent in Japanese as a second language, is Lecturer in World Languages at the University of the Sunshine Coast. He has been involved in language education across the secondary and tertiary sectors for more than 18 years in both Australia and Japan. His research explores how international mobility, language contact and technology use, all intersect with each other.


The Magic of Group Consciousness

What’s significant about togetherness in the pursuit of Getting to Better? Well it would seem that when we really work closely together in some form of collective or other, that we can achieve a state of group consciousness where we feel so immersed in the culture of the group – be it a commercial business, a voluntary organisation, an educational institution, a sporting team, or whatever - that we feel that we are being embraced by a sense of a collective spirit. It’s not just that we are working together but that we are somehow as one, in some manner or another, that brings a special feeling to togetherness that allows us to flourish in our collective endeavours. A sense of we are assumes an importance beyond the all too frequent, I am as a dominant feature of our culture. These fascinating matters are the subject of the conversation in this episode between our host Richard Bawden and his guest, Dr Helen Russ who has been researching into these matters and consulting with organisations from a unique We Are perspective, for a considerable length of time. Helen’s investigations have included working with organisations overseas, especially Ireland and the USA as well as within Australia.


Going Glocal

The central theme of our podcast mini-series of Getting to Better Together, is that it is only through collaboration that we will be able to deal successfully with the really pressing issues of the day. How can we trigger local community responses to matters, like climate change, that have global dimensions with local impacts? This represents a particular challenge to local governments. How are Shire Councils currently managing the necessary balance between the traditional local preoccupations (the infamous 4Rs - roads, rubbish, rats and rates) and the seemingly ever-emerging global challenges that pose real threats to local communities, like raging bushfires, floods, extreme weather events, and coastal erosions? In today’s episode, our host Richard Bawden discusses how the local Noosa Council is dealing with these global/local or ‘glocal’ challenges with the Mayor, Clare Stewart. Clare holds degrees in business as well as in law, including a Master of Laws and was a barrister before her marriage. She is a public speaker, a former nationally accredited mediator, and the author of an extraordinarily poignant autobiography, Standing on my Own Two Feet.


What’s STEM and why is it important?

In Australia, the service industries now provide virtually four jobs out of five while our exports are dominated by primary resources from mining and agriculture. Whatever happened to our manufacturing industries? When we compare ourselves to other developed economies it would seem that we lag significantly behind them as an industrialised nation and this is in spite of many emerging opportunities. Are we too complacent to care, happy just to rely on what we have been doing successfully for the past couple of centuries or so? Do we not value innovation and entrepreneurship sufficiently to make the effort to respond to emerging industrial opportunities? Most importantly, are our educational institutions, at all levels, failing to focus sufficiently on science and technology and on engineering and mathematics – the so-called STEM subjects - to encourage our young people to seek opportunities in secondary industries? In this episode of our podcast mini-series, our host Richard Bawden welcomes back the experienced educator Tony Richardson to discuss the nature and significance of STEM subjects, particularly in secondary education. Given the potential for the development of new technologies for renewable energies alone, Australia has abundant opportunities for coming generations of scientists, technologists, engineers and mathematicians. STEM certainly demands our urgent attention.


Light from within the Gloom

Over past episodes in this podcast mini-series, we have explored many of the pressing challenges of the day: Most especially the changing climate of the planet and the related global warming have focused our attention. We have talked about the key features and about the appeals by the IPCC and other international and national bodies for policies, strategies and behaviours to change our reliance on fossil fuel. Energy and transport are two particular areas where very significant changes are possible especially through technological innovations. Richard’s guest in this episode is at the heart of a good news story in Australia that is rising to precisely this challenge. Greg McGarvie, who is the managing director of the Australian Clean Energy Electric Vehicle Group (ACE EV) discusses their innovations which are providing what he refers to as a ‘door opener’ for energy and transport.