At the beginning of this month, Junkee held its inaugural Junket: an annual gathering of 200 smart, opinionated and diverse young Australians, who gathered for an unstructured conference (read: no slides; no speeches; no audience; no set program) to discuss the issues and try and solve the problems that are most important to the country’s future.
A key part of our delegate selection came from members of the public, who pitched us an idea, activity or an offering they wanted to bring to Canberra. Anne Moffat, one of Junkee’s 2014 Storytellers, pitched us a photo essay; a visual diary of what Junket looked and felt like for the attendees. So here it is.
The first person I met at the Junket unconference was Tony Abbott, who asked me if I wanted to take a selfie with him before pushing his pitch: to be PM again.
But he wasn’t the only one there with an agenda.
When Jess Scully, Junket curator extraordinaire, called for volunteers to pitch an idea for a session, there were more people queued to make a pitch than remaining audience members.
Indicative of the inspiration and drive in the room, it was our first taste of what was to come.
Pitchers were up against a one-minute timer, and took a deep breath before exhaling on an incredibly diverse range of topics including missing persons, preserving indigenous culture in the digital era, fair internships, reframing disability, climate change, 3D printing, the Australian cultural identity — I can’t even begin to cover half.
Drisana Levitzke-Gray, our 2015 Young Australian of the Year and an inspiring advocate for accessibility in the deaf community, raced against the clock to urge us to make Auslan a national language of Australia, and a more visibly celebrated part of the wider community.
We were entranced by an amazing spoken-word performance by Junket delegate and rapper slash poet slash author Omar Musa. ‘The Ranthem’ was ten minutes of mind-bending rhymes and Omar’s humour-filled take on a whole scope of issues, which seemed to touch on all the right points from the pitch session earlier.
Lee Crockford, our MC for the night, opened up the Fuck Up Club, and spoke about vulnerability, and how success always comes with a backstory of our most embarrassing failures. We were urged to turn to a new friend and share our biggest mistakes in life; promises of honesty and openness were set in place for the upcoming day of discussion.
And after a brief shuteye, discuss we did.
The Junket team had condensed the over 100 pitches into 55 scheduled sessions across eleven spaces, creating a charged atmosphere that toed the line between “something for everyone” and “too much to take in”.
Session #3 was “Unfuck The Climate And Make Renewables Sexy”, run by Australia Institute researcher Tom Swann; Future Super founder and former National Director of GetUp! Simon Sheikh; and the National Director of the Australian Youth Climate Coalition Kirsty Albion.
Delegates were also invited to take a quick break and jump into an elevator to film their pitch. Again faced with 60 seconds, pitches ranged from encouraging young people to vote, to allowing skateboards in schools, to using virtual reality to show the effects of climate change. You can check them out and choose your favourite here.
The pitch board was naturally the focus point for collaboration and ideas. Cardboard was used to extend it when those ideas could no longer fit.
The Critical Run around Lake Burley Griffin provided a chance for participants to work off morning tea while engaging in stimulating conversation. An art format that has been held in over 20 different countries, the run hopes to bring urgency to debate, and encourage critical thinking.
Led by Nicole Dennis, Design Manager at Clearstate Property, Junket’s critical runners sweated out the topic of ‘Do We Have The Right To Migrate?’
And the sessions continued. Dr Nikki Stamp, a cardiothoriatic surgeon and Laura Stokes, founder of TedxSouthbank, held a well-attended session discussing ‘Pay Gap And Gender Equality’, while Drisana encouraged delegates to consider strategies to ‘Make Auslan A Mainstream Language In Australia’.
55 discussions later, we all gathered for a live panel session presented by Junkee Media’s yet-to-be-announced new title. Panellists included Junket delegates Michelle Law, Andrew Levins, Ollie Henderson and Shane Jenek (Courtney Act), who gave us an insight into their work life balances, and managing their public identity across multiple mediums.
As “slashies”, Michelle, Andrew, Ollie and Shane all take on different roles to fulfil their needs to both be creative and make a living. It was inspiring to hear how they started out and forged paths for themselves.
Although the official sessions were over, the collaborations and conversations were not; some delegates took it upon themselves to hold their own impromptu gatherings in any space they could find — on the stairwells, over beers, out in the carpark, and inside their hotel rooms.
Andrew Levins offered an open door policy to record an episode of his podcast, Hey Fam. Six walk-ins, including Sarah Moran from The Girl Geek Academy and Black Comedy’s Nakkiah Lui, came to hang out and chat about everything from the Kim Kardashian app to Dance Dance Revolution. Stream the podcast here.
Upstairs there was a human library for delegates to “borrow” “books” — where the books are people, and reading is a conversation.
The book pictured here is Endless Wit, Relevance And Vitality by Cara Kirkwood.
Our final night coincided with the first birthday of Junkee’s sister site AWOL.
The most awesome part of the night was the brilliant fusion of Courtney Act and Auslan, together on stage.
As Junkee’s editor Steph Harmon perfectly put it in her closing speech, “a column of strong, powerful, inspiring women rose up from the dancefloor”.
There were 3D headsets to take us on a virtual trip to the Great Barrier Reef – amazing technology paired with strange, voyeuristic holidays of the future.
Meanwhile, the ‘Teach Kids To Code and Move Education Forward’ session — run by Kelly Tagalan (Code Club Australia) and Erica Hediger (The Creative Element) — continued to blink long into the night, with delegates encouraged to throw LED magnets at their favourite solutions.
The best (and most cliché-sounding) part of the whole three days was watching people all of disciplines and backgrounds come together and listen. People who wouldn’t usually get a chance to talk to each other were talking; a platform was built for sharing and collaboration.
Junket started a lot of challenging conversations between the most talented and engaged group of individuals of which I’ve had the privilege to be a part. I can’t wait to see how all the dots connect over the coming months.
Junkee will be continuing the conversations started at Junket, publishing pieces from the delegates over the next few weeks. Watch this space.