Brisbane, 27–29 May 2016

And what an interesting time it was in Brisbane. Friday afternoon was the AGM of CAHS, being about 14 people from the state societies sitting around a table for a few hours. A good range of age and experience was in the room, from our own Ros and Stephen to the veteran Dierk von Behrens (joined 1962) and relatively recent members from SA, WA and also me. I’ll let Stephen report on the decisions but I noted the meeting as professional and collegiate. Saturday and Sunday saw an impressive array of speakers for the Convention, useful for me as a newbie.

Queensland speakers Alison Courtice (Queensland Parents for Secular State Schools), Bonney Corbin (Safe Schools Coalition), and Maria Delaney (Social Change Agency) had much to say about the local ways that religious and traditional values were promoted in schools and to young people, and Ron Williams recounted his High Court challenges to the way religious education was taught. Activist Dave Copeman of the Queensland Community Alliance (unions, community organisations and churches) challenged the group to understand why humanism was not taking hold as it should: “is it just freedom from something?” Religion has millennia of organisational experience, so he promotes building relationships, having conversations, identifying people’s self-interest: “is it important enough for me to campaign on?” Thinkers Meg Wallace, Max Wallace and Lynden Storey spoke eloquently on humanist history and theory. John Bell and Julian Burnside added their intellectual heft to show that we have the credibility to attract a wider audience to humanism. Huifen Zeng of the Singapore Humanist Society told us of their work to achieve influence in a more disciplined society.

The bar has been set high for next year (in Melbourne) and I highly recommend attendance, where we will also aim for wide-ranging subject matter and stimulating discussion.

Kevin Bain, HSV delegate

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