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Big Ideas

ABC (Australia)

Big Ideas brings you the best of talks, forums, debates, and festivals held in Australia and around the world, casting light on the major social, cultural, scientific and political issues

Big Ideas brings you the best of talks, forums, debates, and festivals held in Australia and around the world, casting light on the major social, cultural, scientific and political issues


Melbourne, VIC


Big Ideas brings you the best of talks, forums, debates, and festivals held in Australia and around the world, casting light on the major social, cultural, scientific and political issues






Big Ideas ABC Radio National GPO Box 9994 Sydney 2001 (02) 8333 5143


How a dispute over land clearing turned deadly

What does a brutal murder tell us about our attitudes to land ownership, farming, and the natural environment? There are laws in Australian limiting the clearing of native vegetation. These laws have long been controversial, and many farmers fiercely oppose them. But none have ever gone as far as farmer Ian Turnbull, who shot and killed environmental compliance officer, Glen Turner. Paul Barclay speaks with Kate Holden, who tells the story in her book, The Winter Road


Health conditions neglected by pandemic focus

Eighteen months of Covid restrictions have bent daily life and the health system out of shape. The pandemic has put other health conditions to one side. Cancer screening, mental health, elective surgery and dental check-ups are delayed or rescheduled. How can we make sure they're not forgotten?


Statistics and COVID-19

Sifting truth from statistical chaff is more important than ever in these times of misinformation and information overload. From numbers on COVID cases and vaccination to numbers on elections and unemployment, the correct interpretation of statistics is crucial to help you understand the world around you. The secret is being open-minded without being gullible, maintaining a healthy scepticism without lapsing into cynicism. Above all, being curious.


Deaths in custody and songlines

Over 470 indigenous Australians have died since the royal commission thirty years ago. Indigenous people over-represented in our criminal justice system. They’re more likely to find themselves in police lock-ups and prisons. And more at risk of dying in custody. Indigenous law professor Larissa Behrendt looks at what’s behind those terrible statistics.


Improving psychiatry and the treatment of mental illness

Australia's mental health system is broken and needs to change. On this, psychiatrists, as well as those with a mental illness, agree. But what needs to be done? Are we pathologizing normal human distress, and prescribing too much medication? Could psychedelic drugs, and therapy, be part of the solution?


Environment as financial investment

The finance industry is turning away from investing in fossil fuels, consumers are forcing businesses to create more sustainable supply chains and preserving nature is being rewarded with cash incentives. Big Ideas explores how the nature of financial investment is changing to better reflect the ecosystem of the planet we live on, and how investing in nature can underpin sustainable and inclusive economic growth.


Learning Asian languages and Mandarin in China

We've been encouraged for decades to learn an Asian language but many of us don't see the need to be bilingual. If we want deep engagement with our Asian neighbours then language learning should be a priority. In China, the government is pushing for the use of the national language Mandarin. While the benefits of a common language are understood minorities fear the loss of local languages and cultural identity.


100 years of the Chinese communist party

The Chinese Communist Party celebrated its centenary recently. In 1921 China was a poor country dominated by foreign powers. One hundred years later it’s an emerging superpower with the party and its leader Xi Jinping tightly in control. So how does President Xi see China’s future?


What makes great teaching and great schools?

Inspired teaching can change lives. What are the ingredients of great teaching, and great schools?


Improving the way we make decisions

If you’re trying to make a decision you collect all the data, weigh up the alternatives and come to a logical conclusion. That’s how it’s supposed to happen. But in real life decisions are made on the run, you follow your intuition or fall back on what you did last time. Psychologist Daniel Kahneman has made a career of understanding how we make decisions and judgements. And how we can be better at it.


Jess Hill-urgent action needed to tackle domestic abuse

The statistics are overwhelming. One woman in four has experienced violence from an intimate partner according to national surveys. And there’s a campaign to introduce laws which deal with the insidious nature of coercive control. Journalist Jess Hill has spent many years investigating domestic violence. She speaks to Kerry O'Brien about our failure to adequately deal with the causes or the crime.


Reasonable robot and AI hype

Artificial intelligence is being applied to almost every activity and profession. So will humans continue to set the standard in skills like surgery or driving cars or will robots be the benchmark? We look at how laws might have to change to judge fault in accidents or in deciding intellectual property rights. And how AI is revolutionizing drug development and diagnostics.


Hugh MacKay on the "kindness revolution"

Can covid help to create a kinder, better, Australia? Adversity, it has been said, can make us stronger, and pull us together more tightly, as a community. Social psychologist, Hugh MacKay, told Paul Barclay he noticed last year, after the pandemic arrived, that Australians started to become kinder to one another. Hugh is hoping the lessons from the pandemic can trigger a “kindness revolution”.


Death penalty - and Captain Moonlite

Whether you are for or against the death penalty, you would at least expect that that decision is based on a sound legal process. But death penalty law expert Marc Bookman reveals the foibles of the system in practice. And - the true and epic story of Captain Moonlite. He was one of Australia’s most notorious bushrangers and in all probability the first openly gay one.


How history may yet be the death of us

There’s a famous quote about learning the lessons of history: Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it. But perhaps the reverse is also true. Too much memory, too much focus on injustice and grievances, can make us captives of the past . Stan Grant looks at the uses and abuses of history either as a foundation for justice or as a way to promote an endless cycle of revenge and retribution..


The rise of e-commerce and conscious consumerism

The pandemic has ruined many businesses. But it has also accelerated the digital transformation of the economy. Despite lockdowns, and covid restrictions, consumers have continued to spend and shop. And online traders have been the beneficiary. However, this has also led to more parcels, more packaging and more waste. What are e-commerce businesses doing to address this?


Uluru, frontier violence, and the Statement from the Heart

Uluru is a spiritual place for indigenous people and it looms large in the national imagination. Historian Mark McKenna uncovered a hidden truth about an infamous frontier killing at Uluru in the 1930’s. Indigenous campaigner, Thomas Mayor, believes the “Statement from the Heart” could only have come from Uluru. Paul Barclay speaks to Mark and Thomas about Uluru, history, truth telling, and the importance of the Uluru statement.


Cities 2060

A sea-change or tree change has its appeal but you’re running against a global trend. Over half of the world’s population now live in towns and cities and there’s no sign of it slowing down. It’s a headache for city planners who are trying to keep up with demand. The World Science Festival asked urban planners to imagine the future of Australian cities in 2060.


How to become a good listener – and why that’s important

Are you a good listener? Unfortunately, not many of us can answer that with a convinced ‘yes’. And that’s even though listening is at the core of every relationship. Losing the ability to listen has profound social, psychological, and neuroscientific impacts. But the good news is: You can learn how to do it – quite easily in fact.


Green electricity

Coal, oil and gas currently drive most of our electricity generation, manufacturing and transport systems. If we’re to achieve zero emissions then green alternatives are vital. And we need green energy at scale. Solar panels on your roof will only go part of the way to producing enough electricity . This discussion, from the World Science Festival, tackles the challenge of making the transition to green energy.