Are there two more qualified people on Earth to talk about the importance of freedom than Chelsea Manning and Peter Greste? Both Manning and Greste are eminent casualties of international unrest and widespread government furtiveness; and both have rightly recurred as thought leaders on issues of free speech and government transparency. This weekend, both grace the Concert Hall stage for one of the closing discussions of Antidote, our weekend of action, ideas and change.
Former soldier Chelsea Manning is an American whistleblower, politician and transgender activist who survived seven years of prison and solitary confinement after being charged with violating the Espionage Act and stealing property of the US government. The material contained in Manning’s 2010 military leaks was explosive and remains contentious, no doubt feeding her political drive and crusades for change to this day. While contemporaries Edward Snowden and Julian Assange remain by right of asylum in Russia and England respectively, Manning ran for the United States Democratic Senate nomination in the state of Maryland in June this year.
Now having taken a step back from campaigning, Manning is focusing on activism in the many spheres her experiences and interests take her — contesting issues around police violence, authoritarianism, prison reform, detention, immigration, mental health and LGBTQI rights. Manning has just celebrated five years since publicly coming out as transgender— “As I transition into this next phase of my life, I want everyone to know the real me […] I am Chelsea Manning. I am a female”—one of presumably many women that Trump has labelled a “traitor” on Twitter.