Australian Humanist Convention 2016, Brisbane 27–29 May

21 Jul 2016

News – 21 July 2016 

Australian Humanist Convention 2016, Brisbane 27–29 May

HSV delegates Kevin Bain, Rosslyn Ives and Stephen Stuart attended the 51st CAHS Annual General Meeting and Convention, held in Brisbane 27–29 May. It was a most successful gathering, hosted by the Humanist Society of Queensland.

Those who attended came from across Australia and tallied around 80 people for the different events under the theme of ‘Secularism and Human Rights in the 21st Century’.  It was held in Rydges hotel on Southbank.

Friday 27 May

The Convention began on Friday afternoon with the CAHS AGM. Reports from the CAHS and from each of the state affiliated societies were presented. The five motions submitted by HSV were discussed, two were amended and then all were agreed to by the majority of the delegates as the following resolutions.

  1. That CAHS promote general religious education including Humanism in schools throughout Australia, on the Victorian model.
  2. That CAHS coordinate the production of material about Humanism for Australian schools.
  3. That CAHS comprehensively inform IHEU’s annual Freedom of Thought Report with particular attention to the effect of religious privilege and appeal to canon law in covering up child abuse in Australia.
  4. That CAHS urge all States and Territories to legislate for physician-assisted dying.
  5. That CAHS protest against the inhumane detention of asylum seekers.

John Bell AO OBE was affirmed as Australian Humanist of the Year for 2016.  The newly created awarded of Young Australian Humanist of the Year 2016 was awarded to HSV member Jason Ball, for his past activism in atheist, freethought student groups and more recent activism in tackling homophobia in sport. The Outstanding Humanist Achiever award went to Mary Bergin for her four decades of active involvement in the Australian Humanist movement. Mary was CAHS Secretary for ten years and has been an active HSV committee member and for years its secretary.

The AGM was followed by a discussion on the future of Humanism is Australia. Though this discussion was wide ranging no firm decisions were made about changing the way Humanist groups are organised.

In the evening delegates and some of the HSQ members enjoyed a relaxing meal at The Ship Inn.

Saturday 28 May

Meg Wallace spoke on ‘Freedom from Religion’ drawing on her recent book Freedom From Religion: Rethinking Article 18.

Lyndon Storey explored ‘Humanism as a philosophy for life’, recapping his recent article in AH No. 122 on ‘The Four Pillars of Humanism’.

Amanda Bradley from Children by Choice gave an impassioned plea for the decriminalisation of abortion.

Maria Delaney, a researcher at Griffith University, gave a most interesting talk on current programs allowed into schools, e.g. Shine, Strength and Bella Girl, which serve to maintain questionable gender stereotypes.

Fiona Patten, Victorian MP entertained us with successful actions on separation of church and state.

Alison Courtice, an activist and parent, advocated for replacing religious instruction with education about different beliefs.

Dave Copeman, the community activist, spoke on ‘Effectively lobbying politicians’.

Bonney Corbin talked about the ‘Safe Schools Coalition: Where it came from and where it is going’.

Ron Williams, HSQ president and AHoY 2012, briefly discussed ‘High Court Challenges: Where to from here?’ This was followed by a Q and A session which included the above speakers.

Saturday evening gala dinner was MCed by CAHS President Scott Sharrad, with brief addresses from Jason Ball, Julian Burnside AHoY 2009. Unfortunately, John Bell was unable to attend.

Sunday 29 May

Jason Ball: ‘The Pride Cup: the case for tackling homophobia in sport’. Jason also shared his own story of coming out gay.

Matilda Alexander human rights lawyer on ‘Discrimination on the basis of no religion: how to make a complaint.’

Michael Cope, president of Queensland Council for Civil Liberties, on ‘Human Rights and civil liberties’.

Julian Burnside AO QC on ‘Refugees and other thoughts’.

Huifen Zheng, vice-president and treasurer of the Humanist Society of Singapore, on ‘Secularism and Humanism: Singapore’s “pragmatic Approach”’.

Max Wallace, author of The Purple Economy (2007), on ‘Separation of church and state’.

John Bell, AHoY 2016 (by audio-hook-up from Sydney), was eloquent on Shakespeare as a humanist.

Report by Rosslyn Ives