Fair Share Festival Opening Night

We had a great opening night of the Fair Share Festival with over 220 people from a wide variety of backgrounds. The first night was the panel on closing the poverty gap with a panel consisting of

  1. Cheryl Kernot (Chair of the Fair Trade Association of Australia and New Zealand, Former Member of Parliament and Director of Social Business at the Centre for Social Impact)
  2. Daniel Ben-Ami (Finance and economic journalist, Author of “Ferraris for All”)
  3. Doris Puiahi (Program Manager, Tugeda Tude fo Tumoro Project, Solomon Islands)
  4. Donnie Maclurcan (Founder and Ideas Guy at Project Australia and Co-founder of the Post Growth Institute)

At times there was fiery debate. I must admit I don’t understand how anybody can suggest there are no limits to growth. I wanted to as if Daniel thought the Earth could support 50 billion people. If not, surely there must be limits to growth? It was still good to have a different view point as it made the evening interesting and got the Festival off to a good start.

Here’s what I said in my welcoming speech.

Festival Welcoming Speech

Welcome everybody to the second Newcastle Fair Share Festival

I’m Graeme Stuart, the Convenor of Transition Newcastle and part of the organising committee for this event.

We live in a society that emphasises consumerism and individualism. In my limited work with Aboriginal communities I am always reminded of the importance of community and relationships. If we are talking about a Fair Share, there is much we can learn from Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities. And so I too would like to pay my respects to the traditional owners of this land. Tomorrow we are delighted that Aunty Sandra Griffen is going to be welcoming us to Country.

The first Fair Share Festival in 2010 was the vision of Tom Toogood, who unfortunately can’t be with us today. According to Tom, its aim

was to explain and promote community and family-friendly alternatives (like co-ops, community barter, micro-business loans, community banks and mutual aid societies) to the current “greed is good” economic skullduggery that produced the global financial crisis.

It was driven by three principles “Care for the Earth, care for people, and share the surplus.”

This year the Festival has been a partnership between Transition Newcastle, Permaculture Hunter, Hamilton Public School, the University of Newcastle’s Family Action Centre and the hosts of tonight’s forum, One Just World. We also gratefully acknowledge the generous support of UnitingCare Ageing in the Hunter, Central Coast and New England, and our sponsors who are on the back page of the program.

Our theme is Transitioning to a connected community, a localised fair economy and a sustainable lifestyle. Clearly we believe these themes are closely related.

In the Post Carbon Reader, Asher Miller writes:

Something remarkable happened a few centuries ago. We discovered that fossil fuels – first coal, then oil, and finally natural gas – could be harnessed as an abundant, easily accessible, and cheap source of energy. This discovery led to previously unimaginable advances in transportation, manufacturing, food production, medicine and health care, urban design, and more. In the blink of a geological eye, we radically transformed the way we lived and the world around us. It’s like we won the lottery, and like a lot of lottery winners – or other species that suddenly discover an abundant resource – we went crazy for a little while.

We’ve awakened to find that the bills for this energy bonanza have come due. With an explosion in human population, consumption, economic activity, and environmental destruction, we’re beginning to learn the true cost of our industrial binge: climate change, water and food scarcity, biodiversity and habitat loss, social and economic injustice, increasing conflicts over diminishing resources, and an utter dependence on economic growth, which simply cannot be sustained….

The future is uncertain, but it’s clear that profound changes are already under way.

The Fair Share Festival is based on a belief that there are many positive responses to today’s challenges. We hope that over the weekend you will be informed, inspired and motivated. We don’t want to focus on doom and gloom and what is wrong with society. We want to celebrate the many positive initiatives that surround us and to create a climate of hope and potential.

Richard Heinberg suggests that the Transition Town movement is “more like a party than a protest march” and so we hope this festival will be a celebration

Thank you everybody for coming and we hope that you will join us on other days of the weekend.  You have a program and hopefully you will find other sessions that will interest you. I should mention that while tonight is free, on Saturday and Sunday we ask that you pay what you can afford (with a suggested minimum of $5 for adults per day and $2 for 16s year olds and under).

This evening’s forum on closing the poverty gap is an appropriate way to commence a Fair Share Festival. It is important to be reminded of the poverty that can be invisible to many in the West. We were delighted when One Just World rang us to see about holding one of their forums as part of the Festival. Tonight’s panel shows that we were wise in accepting their offer. I am looking forward to being challenged by our guests this evening and so without further ado I would like to welcome tonight’s moderator,  a person who needs little introduction to a Newcastle Audience  – the Chancellor of the University, Professor Trevor Waring.


About Graeme Stuart

Lecturer (Family Action Centre, Newcastle Uni), blogger (Sustaining Community), Alternatives to Violence Project facilitator, environmentalist, father. Passionate about families, community development, peace, sustainability.
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