ACU Brisbane panel poses critical questions, tough truths

A message from the Associate Vice-Chancellor (Queensland), Professor Jim Nyland.

ACU Brisbane hosted a lively debate in the city’s CBD on 24 May at the sixth annual panel discussion and formal dinner event, raising ‘critical questions’ and ‘tough truths’ around Social Cohesion or Social Division: where next in Australia's Brave New World?

The event was a resounding success for the University generating $20k in scholarships and featuring the Most Reverend Mark Coleridge, Archbishop of Brisbane, Professor Greg Craven AO, GCSG, Vice-Chancellor & President, Father Frank Brennan SJ AO, Chief Executive Officer Catholic Social Services Australia, Dr Lee-Anne Perry AM, Executive Director Qld Catholic Education Commission and Ms Peta Credlin, strategist and policy professional, columnist and SKY News anchor.

Amongst the 300 participants in attendance were a table of journalists from The Catholic Leader who kindly penned their perspective on this year’s annual panel discussion event (reproduced below).  My thanks to all staff involved.

Photo of panelists at the sixth annual panel discussion event in Brisbane.
Big ideas: Professor Hayden Ramsay, Archbishop Mark Coleridge, Peta Credlin, Professor Greg Craven, Dr Lee-Anne Perry and Fr Frank Brennan discuss social cohesion and social division at the annual ACU panel and dinner.

Reproduced from The Catholic Leader, 3 June 2018.

ACU panel poses critical questions, tough truths

Panel moderator Professor Hayden Ramsay at Australian Catholic University’s annual panel and dinner on social cohesion or social division kicked off the night by asking about the cause of fault lines showing up in social groups across the West.

Vice-Chancellor and President of ACU Professor Greg Craven answered, “The world has ever been thus.” Professor Craven said the true pressing fear across society was that for the first time younger generations might be facing worse prospects than their parents.

Brisbane Archbishop Mark Coleridge said the West’s social cohesion was brief historically speaking, and beyond the West it was difficult to speak of.

“Nostalgia doesn’t serve us well in a time like this,” Archbishop Coleridge said, and he affirmed that the old ways were not working.

Sky News political commentator Peta Credlin was quicker to the draw saying Western civilization was worth defending. She was skeptical about any other country or society that was more deserving of defense. She said that the West had lost its way, especially with the treatment and discussion of the nuclear family.

Queensland Catholic Education Commission Executive Director Dr Lee-Anne Perry said: “We shape the narrative if we take ownership of it”.

Her stance highlighted the importance of individualism and the importance of drawing the best from wherever the best came from.

Professor Ramsay moved the topic of discussion to immigration.

Archbishop Coleridge said people should not dismiss others as an adjective. He said it was important to see others as human beings with a face and a name – and not statistics read off a sheet.

Catholic Social Services Australia chief Executive Officer, Jesuit Father Frank Brennan said part of the DNA of an island nation was a fear of boats but that fear should not rule policy. He said respectful dialogue was required, and reaffirmed his stance against inhumane treatment of refugees. Politics was another topic of debate.

Archbishop Coleridge said the Church had a unique ability to cut across traditional lines. He said despite the state of the Church’s brand in popular culture, faith was a uniting factor across all sorts of boundaries and that it was crucial to recognise all the things people had in common.

“Speaking the truth is absolutely vital,” he said. “Beware a mentality of all or nothing, because you’ll end up with nothing.”

The night posed a number of challenging questions and offered tough truths.

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