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Free Talks & Ideas event examining the bushfire catastrophe: what now?

Event Details

What: The Bushfire Catastrophe: What Now?
When: 1.30pm and 3.45pm Sunday 16 February 2020
Where: Drama Theatre
Tickets: FREE. Registration essential.
Donation buckets at the door on the day, with all money raised donated to bushfire relief

Sydney – Friday 24 January, 2020. The Sydney Opera House today announced a free Talks & Ideas event in the Drama Theatre on Sunday 16 February to spearhead urgent discussion and examine practical and policy-led responses to Australia’s unprecedented ongoing bushfire season and its devastating impact on communities, land and wildlife.

Sydney Opera House Head of Talks & Ideas Dr Edwina Throsby, says: “When we consider the scale and devastation of the bushfire crisis, it’s easy to fall into despair. But, the response of ordinary Australians has been phenomenal, and a sense of community has never been more important. This event will provide a public space to come together and talk with community members and experts about what we need to do now; and how, together, we can build resilience and ensure that tragedy on this scale never happens again.”

Two 90 minute sessions of panel discussions will explore immediate community action and relief efforts, and long-term solutions to mitigate catastrophic events of this scale in the future. The line-up brings together combinations of community leaders, academics, policy experts, and mental health advocates, and includes:

Session one:

  • Lorena AllamThe Guardian's Indigenous affairs editor and a descendent of the Gamilaraay and Yawalaraay nations of north west NSW, conveying the particular climate grief of affected First Nations communities, and traditional cultural land care knowledge;
  • Christine Morgan, CEO of the National Mental Health Commission and national suicide prevention adviser to Prime Minister Scott Morrison, examining the mental health impacts of natural disaster trauma beyond the immediate term of emergencies;
  • Dr Larry Vogelnest, senior veterinarian at Taronga Zoo, discussing wildlife rescue and recovery programs, and how animals and their habitats can be better protected in future;
  • Elizabeth Mossop, dean of design, architecture and building at the University of Technology Sydney, talking about what needs to be considered when rebuilding resilient buildings and communities and sharing her personal experience of disaster recovery, having lived in New Orleans when Hurricane Katrina hit; 
  • Erin Riley, founder of, helping Australians find safe places to stay, recharge, and get information during the bushfires; and
  • Nick Bitar, co-founder of Milkwood permaculture, sharing his experience of being evacuated from the beach at Mallacoota in Victoria, and knowledge of sustainable homes and communities.

Session two (moderated by Lenore Taylor, editor of The Guardian Australia)

  • Oliver Costello, CEO and co-founder of Firesticks, an Indigenous-led network re-invigorating the use of cultural burning and land management practices, and a Bundjalung man from northern NSW;
  • John Connor, CEO of the Carbon Market Institute and former CEO of the Australian Climate Institute, whose work interrogates the viability of a future economy that incorporates climate realities; 
  • David Bowman, professor of pyrogeography and fire science at the University of Tasmania, a new transdisciplinary field that unites the human, physical and biological dimensions of fire; and
  • Danielle Celermajer, professor of sociology and social policy at the University of Sydney, who was  personally impacted by the fires, and whose writing about her thoughts and experiences of them for the ABC has been read across the world.

Earlier this month the Sydney Opera House sails were illuminated to show support for the communities affected by the ongoing bushfires and to acknowledge the bravery of the men and women fighting the fires across Australia.

For media information, please contact:

Georgia McKay
Senior Communications Manager
02 9250 7825 / 0466 223 293