Community conference a matter of life and death

MEDIA maverick turned euthanasia campaigner Andrew Denton (pictured) will deliver the keynote in a highly personal address about assisted dying at this year's Communities in Control conference, which runs from 29-30 May in Melbourne.

His father Kit's painful and protracted death in hospital has driven Denton to tackle one of the most important and divisive issues facing the community.

Conference organiser Our Community has  invited every MP in Victoria to witness the Joan Kirner Oration, ahead of looming debates about assisted dying laws in three states.

Several MPs of all persuasions have accepted the invitation to witness Denton face difficult questions from ABC TV host Virginia Trioli, as have hundreds of community leaders from across the country.

This year's event - from Monday, May 29 to Tuesday, May 30, at the Moonee Valley Racecourse - asks: "What makes healthy communities?"

Leading social and health researchers, campaigners, chief executives, community advocates, economists, Aboriginal elders and academics stand ready to provide some answers.

Our Community group managing director Denis Moriarty says Denton's talk is "exactly the kind of spearpoint discourse that the conference is about", with the debate feeding directly into the Victorian, NSW and Tasmanian parliaments, all in the midst of wrangling with assisted dying bills.

He says the conference is motivated by wanting to be "at the forefront of a progressive society - one with communities in control".

"Every year since we started the Communities in Control conference back in 2003, we've pushed the boundaries of civil sector discourse and given a hearing to alternative views, trying to reflect contemporary society in all its colour and diversity."

Andrew Denton

Among highlights include:

  • Amanda Sinclair, speaking about meditation, mindfulness and leadership
  • Rebecca Huntley on why we should be optimistic about Australia despite our struggles with asylum seekers, underpaid/overworked women and high levels of anxiety
  • Chris Sarra, just appointed to the Federal Indigenous Advisory Council and who'll be speaking on how high expectations create healthier communities
  • Ben Pettingill, a blind waterskier, basketball coach, driver, and Spartan, who will speak about opportunity in the face of adversity
  • Cordelia Fine, skewering the "boys will be boys" myth
  • Martin Krygier,  law professor behind the 1997 Boyer lecture series calling for a new tolerance and what's happened in Australia in the 20 yrs since (and why)
  • Sandhya Ramrakha,  on lessons for early childhood from the ground-breaking Dunedin study tracking the health of 1000 New Zealanders from 1972

Info for editors and producers: Photographs, video and audio of the event will be made available. Click here for details.

Conference details:

Our Community contacts:  Executive Director Kathy Richardson P: (03) 9320 6815 M: 0439 397 781 E:

Journalist and editor Matthew Schulz P: (03) 9320 6828 M: 0409 626 619 E:

P.S. Not sure what Our Community is and does?

This could explain it:

Get the Communities in Control podcast

Get the Communities in Control event app