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Big Ideas

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Feed your mind. Be provoked. One big idea at a time. Your brain will love you for it. Grab your front row seat to the best live forums and festivals with Natasha Mitchell.
633 Episodes
Author, essayist and speechwriter Don Watson says that the price of democracy is energy, imagination, and unstinting hard work. Through the lens of Trump's America, and the malaise of Australian politics, Watson questions whether our modern democracies are up to the job. This event was recorded on Bunurong country at the Sorrento Writers' Festival on April 25 2024.SpeakerDon Watson, Author, essayist and speechwriter
On the doorstep of Gaza comes the remarkable story of the world's first peace treaty — a 3200-year-old text. Egyptologist Dr Camilla Di Biase-Dyson joins Big Ideas host Natasha Mitchell to share a political and personal soap opera that brought an enduring peace to a region now suffering from a bloody war.Speaker:Dr Camilla Di Biase-DysonLinguist and EgyptologistSenior Lecturer, Macquarie University
Disadvantaged and marginalised students often don't get the financial and teaching support that they need. Equity everyone, regardless of their background, is one of the most pressing challenges facing out higher education sector. The government released the Universities Accord Final Report earlier this year – and it recommends sweeping changes.What are the main recommendations? And are they any good?Access, Achievement, Accord 2024 was presented at The Australian Student Equity Symposium, Curtin University.SpeakersDr Kylie AustinPresident for Equity Practitioners in Higher Education AustralasiaProfessor Verity FirthVice President Societal Impact, Equity and Engagement at the University of New South WalesProfessor Barney GloverCommissioner of Jobs and Skills AustraliaProfessor Harlene HayneVice-Chancellor of Curtin UniversityProfessor Mary O'KaneChair of the Universities Accord Review; director and executive chairman of the consultancy O'Kane AssociatesProfessor Shamit Saggar (host)Executive Director Australian Centre for Student Equity and Success, Curtin UniversityFurther informationAustralian Universities Accord Final Report Document
Award winning playwright S. Shakthidharan has described his groundbreaking theatre work Counting and Cracking as "a radical act of belonging". The epic, three-act, three-hour tale captures the Australian migrant experience through the story of one Sri Lankan family across four generations. To celebrate the play's return to the stage, we hear from four Sri Lankan Australians about the role creativity has played in their lives, culture and community.This event was recorded at the University of Melbourne (UMAC) in partnership with Rising Festival and The Wheeler Centre on June 2, 2024.SpeakersS. Shakthidharan Writer, Director, Producer and composer of original musicAuthor, Counting and CrackingCo-Founder and Co-Director, KurinjiMinoli De Silva Owner, Ella by MinoliFinalist, Masterchef AustraliaSuren Jayemanne Comedian, writer, presenterBhakthi Puvanenthiran (host) Entertainment and Features Editor, ABCFurther informationHow writing the epic play Counting and Cracking helped Tamil playwright S. Shakthidharan's mum face her traumaABC Online, May 27, 2024'We are here, we belong' — The unifying impact of Counting and Cracking The Stage Show, ABC RN, June 11, 2024
Drawing on his experiences working across continents in the "shatter zones" of society — jails, war zones, refugee shelters – Andre de Quadros explains how music and creativity can be used to build peace, reconciliation and empowerment in a troubled world. Later, Anne-Marie Forbes explains how music improves mental, physical and community well-being.These events were recorded at the 2024 Miegunyah Lecture at the University of Melbourne on April 11, 2024, and Melodies as Medicine at the University of Tasmania on April 10, 2024.SpeakersAndre de Quadros Professor of Music, Boston University2024 Miegunyah Visiting Fellow, University of MelbourneAnne-Marie Forbes Associate Professor Musicology, University of TasmaniaFellow of the Royal Society of Public Health.Nourish Women's Choir
Join Natasha Mitchell and guests at the 2024 Ocean Lovers Festival in Bondi. From deep sea mining to illegal fishing on the high seas, who is the boss of the ocean? And why are scientists-turned-entrepreneurs singing the praises of seaweed?  Two panels of big thinkers exploring new frontiers for ocean exploitation — and inspiration — the risks, the rewards, and the regulation of this vast wilderness which covers 70% of the planet's surfacePanel 1 - Who owns the high seas and deep seas? Deep sea mining and illegal fishing Associate Professor Aline JaeckelAustralian National Centre for Ocean Resources and Security (ANCORS)University of WollongongCaptain Peter HammarstedtDirector of Campaigns and Chairman of Sea Shepherd AustraliaMattheiu RytzDirector of the film Deep RisingPanel 2 - Is algae the new gold?Dr Michael AskewExecutive Director and co-founderAlgae CoDr Pia WinbergFounder and chief scientistVenus Shell SystemsDr Alexandra Thomson,Industry Engagement ManagerClimate Change Cluster (C3) Research InstituteUniversity of Technology Sydney
It took until the late 1990s for Australia to decriminalise homosexuality. Since then, the law has changed and evolved in a multitude of ways for LGBTQIA+ people, but not without a fight virtually every step of the way. This event was recorded as part of Victorian Law Week on May 22, 2024.SpeakersElizabeth Bennett SC, BarristerVice President, Victorian Barristers NetworkSam Elkin Author, Detachable Penis: A queer legal saga (Upswell publishing)Legal aid lawyer (inaugural lawyer for Victoria's first Queer legal service)Host, Queer View Mirror, Triple RYves Rees (host) Senior Lecturer in History, La Trobe University
Firstly, make sure you become a grandparent. It apparently adds five years to your life. And it can make you very happy - if you do grandparenting right! Hear about the does and don'ts in this discussion about how to age well. Then add a good diet. With the six secret ingredients provided by one of Australia's most recognised leaders in the fields of sports nutrition and dietetics. And lastly, ignore social attitudes and images, that tell you how old you should feel.'How To Grow Old. It ain't for the faint-hearted' was presented by the Sorrento Writers Festival.SpeakersMichael Carr-GreggAdolescent psychologist, and one of Australia's leading authorities on teenage behaviourAuthor of Grandparents: A practical guide to navigating grandparenting today Allen & Unwin, 2023Karen IngeOne of Australia's most recognised leaders in the fields of sports nutrition and dieteticsAuthor of 'Let's Eat Right! for Families', 'Food, Fitness and Feeling Good', Co-author of the award winning book 'Food for Sport' and 'Food for Sport Cookbook'Bernard SaltAuthor, demographer, social commentator and regular columnist with The AustralianHannie Rayson (host)Australian playwright and newspaper columnistListen to Big Ideas – The ingredients to ageing well
The Art of Opposition

The Art of Opposition


It's often said that democracies can't function well without a strong opposition to hold the government of the day to account. But what does it take to be an effective opposition? This event was recorded at the Centre for Independent Studies on Thursday 16 May 2024.SpeakersScott Prasser Co-author with David Clune, The Art of Opposition (Connor Court publishing)Senior Fellow, Centre for Independent StudiesJohn HowardFormer Prime Minister 1996 – 2007Tom Switzer Director, Centre for Independent StudiesAndrew Blythe (host)Fellow, Centre for Independent Studies
From stopping the boats to building a wall, countries have gone to great lengths to stop the flow of people migrating across borders in search of a better life. But are these efforts realistic – let alone humane — when there are an estimated 110 million people forcibly displaced by war, persecution, hunger and climate change worldwide?This event was recorded at the University of Tasmania on May 8, 2024.SpeakersDr Tamara Wood Senior Lecturer in Law, University of TasmaniaSanushka Mudaliar Director, Global Migration Lab, Red Cross and Red CrescentArad Nik Iranian refugee, human rights activist and business owner
Humanity faces two existential threats: catastrophic climate change and nuclear annihilation, according to former US Deputy Secretary of Energy turned nuclear industry player Daniel Poneman.Yet, he argues nuclear energy is an essential part of the mix of carbon zero power sources as we transition away from coal. He discusses global developments in nuclear power generation, including new generations of reactor design, and critical issues like cost, safety, and proliferation risks.Presented at the American Academy in Berlin.SpeakersDaniel PonemanFormer US Deputy Secretary of Energy; distinguished fellow Atlantic Council's Global Energy CentreFormer President and Chief Executive Officer of Centrus Energy Corp (a nuclear fuel company), 2015-2023Daniel Benjamin (host)President of the American Academy in Berlin
Laura Tingle delivers the 2024 John Button Oration at the Melbourne Writers Festival, looking at how our public discourse has changed over her 40-year career – and throughout history. She explores what is to blame for the demise in civility in our public debate, and the seeming inability of our media and the political class to solve the intractable problems we face. This event was recorded on Saturday 11 May 2024, at the Melbourne Writers Festival, in partnership with University of Melbourne School of Government and the Faculty of Arts, and the Button family.SpeakersLaura TingleChief Political Correspondent, 730 (ABC)President, National Press ClubStaff-elected director, ABC board
Australians love a drink, or at least, that's a perception that's deeply ingrained in our national identity... but how true is it, these days? This Big Ideas explores the politics, problems, and pleasures of Australia's long and chequered relationship with alcohol.This event was recorded at Clunes Booktown Festival on Saturday March 23 2024.SpeakersAlex Ettling Author, Knocking the Top off: A People's History of Alcohol in AustraliaSarah MacLean Professor of Social Work and Social Policy at La Trobe UniversityRichard Gilbert Author, Thirst for GoldBill Garner (host) Writer, actor, academic, author Born in a Tent
Join Natasha Mitchell and guests to grapple with some gritty paradoxes about science and religion. In this era of misinformation, conspiracy theories, and existential angst — are they serving the needs they used to?
When you're faced with the reality that your home, livelihoods and culture will be swallowed up by the rising seas of a warming climate, how do you respond?
You might think humans have escaped biology and evolution altogether with our strange and different ways: Women live well past their reproductive years, and we have baffling long childhoods as a species. We display a dazzling mix of selfishness and altruism, and gossiping can in fact be a strategy for survival.
As violence continues in Europe and the Middle East and as positive collective action on urgent global-scale issues seems out of reach, do we need new forms of international cooperation? How can Global South and Global North nations work together more effectively? What roadblocks hinder joint action on crucial issues such as security, development, climate, and AI? How can ethical reflection and engagement pave the way for a more inclusive and equitable multilateralism? A panel of international policy experts believes it's possible: There are shared values and shared interests that can serve as the basis for effective and inclusive forms of cooperation; we merely need to activate them.
Join Natasha Mitchell as she speaks to Tibetan master Venerable Yongey Mingyur Rinpoche, along with an Indian philosopher of mind and a Sufi scholar, to wrestle with the self and its dissolution.
You would think that times of intense progress and technological innovation are good for societies, but history shows that's when revolutions happen. Author and prominent CNN TV host Fareed Zakaria explains how rapid transformation of economy through technology often leads to an identity crisis and upheaval against the establishment. It's just too much too quickly. Sounds familiar? Yes – we in the middle of one. But Fareed Zakaria is optimistic it will all end well.
Since the announcement of the AUKUS plan for nuclear submarines, we’ve been hearing a lot about Australia’s maritime security. But as an island “girt by sea”, that security depends on much more than our military capability.
Comments (18)

Megan Prowse

I am desperately interested in your message, however you speak too fast for me and, your message is lost. It is like a machine gun. Communication is the message received.

Apr 14th
Reply (1)

J Coker

No mention of Reagan's increase in military spending which broke the finances of the Soviets. Or to be fair the voodoo economics which pushed Americans into borrowing, increased their consumption at the expense of their future

May 26th

J Coker

Steven Koonin. unsettled what climate science tells us, what it doesn't and why it matters

May 21st

Shannon Smulian

I did not feel this topic was covered fully. I felt it was very one sided, and that some of the examples and conclusions offered were not explored fairly

Nov 2nd


Love this Ep ❤ thank you !

Apr 10th

Kamran Mosleh

I enjoyed the scientific approach and unbiased vewpoints as well the valuable information! thanks

Mar 12th

Kendra M

Hugh @ 7'40": not "our Indigenous people"

Jan 8th

Petr Pavlík

The episode resonated with me. It touches the issues I see as a parent.

Oct 1st

Rebecca Mullins

As an American citizen, I would say the U.S. government most certainly does glorify war.

Aug 14th
Reply (1)

Michael Koch

Disappointing right from the inset.

Aug 6th


Omg! SUCH a brilliant episode !

Aug 4th


Brilliant discussion. Loved it !

Jun 13th


The first letter of the title of many episodes is cut off.

Dec 28th

Mark Pearson

Always on my playlist. Big ideas, new thinking and great solid conversations.

Nov 9th

Prayas Ojha

Very interesting arguments.... Great job

Apr 17th


Paul Robeson podcast

Dec 29th