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Intelligence Squared Debates

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at Melbourne Town Hall

True Reconciliation Requires a Treaty

Terra nullius was long ago exposed as a myth – and this was enshrined in law with the Mabo case in 1992.

If we acknowledge that Australia was colonised on a lie, then what should we do about it? How do we compensate for that centuries-old theft? It’s too late to reverse, but official recognition of the sovereign rights of Indigenous Australians is well overdue. True reconciliation between Indigenous and immigrant Australians is impossible without addressing past wrongs – you can’t heal a wound without treating it. But how do we do that? Many believe that a treaty is essential – our neighbour New Zealand and contemporary Canada have established treaties, recognised by the UN. Others think it’s enough to implement constitutional change that recognises indigenous cultures, languages and peoples.

We’ll debate the need for a treaty – and the way to achieve true reconciliation – with a passionate panel of experts.

Chaired by Wheeler Centre director Michael Williams.

Speaking for the proposition:

  • Professor George Williams AO: leading constitutional lawyer and public commentator, professor of law at the University of New South Wales, former High Court barrister, columnist for the Sydney Morning Herald.
  • Mark Yettica-Paulson: leadership facilitator specialising in engagement and partnership with Indigenous Australia.
  • Professor Mick Dodson AM: director of the National Centre for Indigenous Studies at the Australian National University, Professor of law at the ANU College of Law, and 2009 Australian of the Year.

Speaking against the proposition:

  • Professor Peter Sutton: author, anthropologist and linguist, affiliate professor in the School of Earth and Environmental Sciences at the University of Adelaide and the Division of Anthropology at the South Australian Museum.
  • Tony Birch: author of the Miles Franklin-shortlisted novel Blood and other books; writing teacher with an interest in community outreach.
  • Gregory Phillips: medical anthropologist, executive director ABSTARR Consulting, adjunct senior lecturer in Aboriginal Health at Monash University and co-founder of the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Healing Foundation.

Tweet at this event: #iq2oz

Intelligence Squared Debates

The Wheeler Centre and St James Ethics Centre combine again in 2013 to bring you a brand new series of Intelligence Squared debates.

Established in 2002, IQ2 has spread across the globe, bringing the traditional form of Cambridge and Oxford Unions-style debating – with two sides proposing and opposing a sharply formed motion – to Melbourne Town Hall.


Portrait of Peter Sutton

Peter Sutton

Peter Sutton is an author, anthropologist and linguist, and an Affiliate Professor in the School of Earth and Environmental Sciences at the University of Adelaide, and the Division of Anthropology at the South Australian Museum.

Portrait of George Williams

George Williams

George Williams AO is one of Australia’s leading constitutional lawyers and public commentators. He is a professor of law at the University of New South Wales and has written and edited 34 books on Australian government and the Constitution, including Everything You Need to Know about the Referendum to Recognise Indigenous Australians.

Portrait of Mick Dodson

Mick Dodson

Professor Mick Dodson is a member of the Yawuru peoples – the traditional owners of land and waters in the Broome area of the southern Kimberley region of Western Australia. He is director of the National Centre for Indigenous Studies at the Australian National University and professor of law at the ANU College of Law.

Portrait of Mark Yettica-Paulson

Mark Yettica-Paulson

Mark Yettica-Paulson is an Australian Indigenous man from southeast Queensland and northeast New South Wales. Mark is the founder and director of The Yettica Group, specialising in Indigenous leadership and intercultural facilitation.

Portrait of Michael Williams

Michael Williams

Michael Williams is the Director of the Wheeler Centre for Books, Writing and Ideas in Melbourne. He has worked at the Wheeler Centre since inception in 2009, when he was hired as the Head of Programming before being appointed as Director in September 2011.

He has hosted Blueprint for Living (2015–2016), then Talkfest (2017–2019), on ABC RN. He remains a regular guest on ABC Radio and TV. Michael has also worked as a Breakfast presenter for Melbourne’s 3RRR, as a member of the Australia Council’s Literature Board, in publishing and has written extensively for the Guardian, the AgeSydney Morning HeraldAustralian and elsewhere.

Portrait of Gregory Phillips

Gregory Phillips

Gregory Phillips is from the Waanyi and Jaru peoples, and comes from Cloncurry and Mount Isa. He is a medical anthropologist, with thirty years’ experience in leading change in cultural safety, healing and decolonisation.
Gregory is Chief Executive Officer of ABSTARR Consulting, is a Professor of First People’s Health, and serves on several boards and committees, including chairing the Ebony Institute, the Cathy Freeman Foundation and AHPRA’s Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health strategy group.

Portrait of Tony Birch

Tony Birch

Tony Birch is a founding member of the Melbourne School of Discontent. He has published three novels; The White GirlGhost River and Blood. He is also the author of Shadowboxing and three short story collections, Father’s DayThe Promise and Common People. In 2017 he was awarded the Patrick White Literary Award for his contribution to Australian literature. In 2021 he released two new books, a poetry book, Whisper Songs and a new short story collection, Dark As Last Night.

Intelligence Squared Debates

The Intelligence Squared debates rage on in 2014 with a whole new range of topics as compelling as they are polarising. In these highly participatory debates, once both sides have had their say, the decision as to who emerges victor lies entirely in your hands.


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