Sydney Opera House
21 May 2015
80 Days to Go
2014 Speakers & Performers
From using maths to find your perfect sex partner to making failure your best friend, 16 Australians will share their remarkable ideas and stories at the Sydney Opera House for TEDxSydney on 26 April 2014.


The Story of Compassion

‘Compassion’ is a 45 minute song cycle for solo voice and symphony orchestra, a collaborative project between Nigel Westlake and Lior. Nigel Westlake left school early to pursue a performance career in music, touring Australia and the world with ballet companies, a circus troupe, chamber music ensembles, fusion bands and orchestras. As a composer for the screen, his credits include the feature films Miss Potter, Babe, Children of the Revolution, and the Imax films Antarctica, Imagine, and Solarmax. His tribute in music to his son, ‘Missa Solis – Requiem for Eli’ won the Limelight Award for Best New Composition 2011, and was the catalyst for Nigel meeting Lior, his collaborative partner in ‘Compassion’. Lior burst on to the Australian music scene in 2005 with his stunning debut album - Autumn Flow. The album became one of the most successful independent debuts in Australian history. A swag of accolades followed, among them three ARIA nominations including Best Male Artist.

Photographer & Hazara Refugee

Barat Ali Batoor is a photographer, born into a family driven out of Afghanistan during civil war when most of his relatives were massacred. He returned to his ancestral country for the first time after September 11, 2001, when the Taliban regime was still in Kandahar despite the U.S. campaign to oust them. After visiting the devastation and destruction of 23 years of war, he decided to work for his country and draw the world’s attention to the plight of the Afghan people, choosing photography as his medium of expression. Batoor began taking photos in 2002 and launched his first solo exhibition in 2007. His photographs have been exhibited in Denmark, Dubai, Australia, Pakistan, Italy, Japan and Afghanistan. His work has been published in The Washington Post, Newsweek, Wall Street Journal, Stern, India Today, Outlook Afghanistan, Afghanistan Times, among others. He received a photography grant from New York’s Open Society Institute for his project ‘Child Trafficking in Afghanistan/The Dancing Boys of Afghanistan”. He also won the Nikon-Walkley photo of the year in 2013.

Author & Academic

Adam Alter is the author of the New York Times bestseller, Drunk Tank Pink: And Other Unexpected Forces That Shape How We Think, Feel, and Behave. The book examines how features of the world shape our thoughts and feelings beyond our control. He has also written for the New York Times, The New Yorker, Atlantic, WIRED, Slate, Huffington Post, and Popular Science, among other publications. Alter is an assistant professor of marketing and psychology at NYU’s Stern School of Business. His research focuses on the intersection of behavioural economics, marketing, and the psychology of judgment and decision-making. His work has been published widely in academia, and he has appeared on television for NBC, CBS, and PBS. Alter received his Bachelor of Science in Psychology from the University of New South Wales, where he won the University Medal in psychology, and his M.A. and Ph.D. in psychology from Princeton University, where he held a fellowship in the Woodrow Wilson Society of Scholars.

New Indigenous Sounds

When a group of musical conservationists join forces with the passion to hold onto their ancient musical cultures and fuse it together with 21st century technology, a new band is born - Tjupurru and the Bulldawadda (Bushfire). Featuring the talents of Tjupurru on Didjeribone, FaceBass & Electronics, Fred Leone Vocals, Efiq Zulfiqar on Su ling, flute & jaw harp, and Luke Fabila with Electric Percussion, this freshly formed Indigenous super group presents a cutting edge contemporary sound born from ancient cultures and language. Created from friendship and a shared mission of cultural preservation, Tjupurru and the Bulldawadda’s message is as strong and vital as their sound.

Biomedical Scientist

Richard Banati is an internationally-recognised scientist with interdisciplinary research interests in the brain’s innate immune system and the development of advanced medical imaging for the detection of subtle of non-obvious brain pathology. The tracer principle, on which this medical research is based, has applications far beyond neuroscience. The research of Professor Banati and his colleagues has received recognition through the bi-annual Award of the German League for Research into Alzheimer's Disease, in addition to many more international accolades. Richard is Professor and Foundation Chair of Medical Radiation Sciences at the University of Sydney, Director of the Ramaciotti Centre for Brain Imaging at the Brain & Mind Research Institute (BMRI) and Director, University of Sydney node of the National Imaging Facility. He is now a member of the ANSTO Executive Team and supports the CEO in the focus areas of strategic research and national and international collaborations and partnerships.

Music of the Australian Aboriginal Experience

Black Arm Band is a flexible musical theatre ensemble that performs on stages and in community contexts across the globe, as well as extensively across metropolitan, regional and remote Australia. In an international context, the group interrogates and promotes contemporary Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander culture through the creation of large-scale music theatre productions, music, installations and multimedia projects. In seven years, the company has provided professional pathways and opportunities for many artists and performed to over one million people. Black Arm Band’s current performance, titled dirtsong, inspired by the words of award-winning author Alexis Wright, mixes traditional approaches and contemporary songs, existing repertoire and newly commissioned music to conjure a sense of 'country' as not only a geographical place, but as encounters, memories, obligations and nature.

Young Inventor/High School Student

Jake Coppinger is a Canberra-based year 11 student with a passion for creating new technologies. Recently, Jake was awarded third place at the national BHP Billiton Science and Engineering Awards for developing ‘Swirlesque’, a new way of interacting with computers. From this competition he’s been chosen as one of four Australian students to compete at the Intel International Science and Engineering Fair in California this May, the largest international pre-university science competition. He attended a Steiner school until year 10, then attended a specialised school program for science, mathematics and related technologies. Jake believes that there are amazing opportunities for young people to pursue their own learning of engineering and computers through hobbyist electronics that are taking the world by storm. Whilst he is looking to pursue a career between the fields of engineering and science, Jake also enjoys practicing the violin and producing short films.


Dr Clio Cresswell is a Senior Lecturer in Mathematics at The University of Sydney, researching the evolution of mathematical thought and the role of mathematics in society. Born in England, she spent part of her childhood on a Greek island, and was then schooled in the south of France where she studied Visual Art. At 18 she simultaneously discovered the joys of Australia and mathematics, going on to win the University Medal and complete a PhD in mathematics at The University of New South Wales. Communicating mathematics is her field and passion – Clio has appeared on panel shows commenting, debating and interviewing; authored book reviews and opinion pieces; joined breakfast radio teams and current affair programs; always highlighting the mathematical element to our lives. She is the author of ‘Mathematics and Sex’.

School Principal

Jihad Dib is the Principal of Punchbowl Boys’ High School in Sydney’s South West. Appointed to the role of Principal at 33, Jihad was one of the youngest principals in NSW when he took over and his modern approach revolutionised the school. Jihad’s leadership has led to a significant reduction in absenteeism, increased morale, surging enrolments and much-improved academic results at the school in the seven years he has been Principal. In addition to outstanding outcomes within the school, Jihad’s philosophy of having his students actively engage with the wider community has established a wonderful sense of pride in the school among the Punchbowl community. The school was awarded a National Literacy and Numeracy Award and Director General’s Award, with Jihad himself winning the Inspiration category for NSW at the 2013 Pride of Australia Awards. Jihad’s work at Punchbowl Boys’ High School has been supported and recognised by many high-profile people, including 2013 Australian of the Year Ita Buttrose.

Collaborative Performance Ensemble

post are a collaborative performance ensemble based in Sydney. Comprising Zoë Coombs Marr, Mish Grigor and Natalie Rose, post’s work is a unique combination of political sensibility and high-camp kitsch aesthetic. Straddling live art, theatre and contemporary performance, they could be described as ‘hybrid’, but prefer ‘genre-queer’. post carry a deep irreverence for the institution of theatre and a deep reverence for the moment of live performance it houses. This has amused, bemused and probably annoyed audiences around the country for the last decade. post are concerned with the truly absurd, drag, imposters, impressions, bad acting, boy genii, The Biggest Loser, birth, death, auditions, shamans, epitaphs, avatars, and those nightmares where you have to give a speech, but haven't got any pants on. Their latest work Oedipus Schmoedipus ran at Belvoir Theatre as part of the 2014 Sydney Festival.

Flamenco & Dance

Bandaluzia is a Sydney-based Flamenco ensemble led by ARI-nominated guitarist Damian Wright, consisting of a group of acclaimed musicians and dancers at the forefront of Flamenco, Jazz & world music in Australia. Recently awarded Sydney Fringe festival's 2013 "Pick of the Festival", Bandaluzia are known for their sell-out performances in theatres across Australia. Since 2011 the ensemble has also been chosen for Musica Vivas’s Countrywide Touring program. Bandaluzia are revered for their ability to mix elements of other genres into their performances, from the rich harmonies of Jazz to the exotic melodies of the Orient, and for inviting renowned artists to the stage as guests in their performances. Joining Bandaluzia is Johnny Tedesco, principal dancer and choreographer from flamenco troupe Arte Kanela. Bandaluzia feat. Johnny Tedesco is an experience that evokes the senses with the grace of Flamenco.

Retired State Coroner of NSW

Born in New Zealand, Mary began her working life as a high school English teacher before moving to Australia to study law. Her career subsequently included stints as a legal officer at the Independent Teachers’ Union and as a senior advocate at the Legal Aid Commission, rising to become Deputy Chief Magistrate of the Local Court of New South Wales in 2000. At the end of 2001 Mary entered a period of semi-retirement, returning to live on a farm in New Zealand and commuting back to Sydney for brief periods of work. In October 2006 she returned to Australia as a full-time magistrate, and in May 2007 became the first female State Coroner of NSW. After six and a half years in this demanding role and more than 250 inquests, Mary retired in October 2013.

Author and Strategic Design Firm CEO

Dave Kilcullen is a bestselling author and scholar, and former professional soldier and diplomat. He is Chairman of Caerus Global Solutions, a strategic research and design consultancy based in Washington DC and of First Mile GEO, a geospatial analysis start-up that works with communities in disaster and conflict-affected areas to create participative maps that guide humanitarian assistance. Before founding Caerus, Dave served for 25 years as an infantry officer in the Australian Army. He then went on to work with the U.S. State Department, where he was chief strategist in the Counterterrorism Bureau, Senior Counterinsurgency Advisor to General David Petraeus in Iraq, and then Senior Advisor for Counterinsurgency to US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice. Dave advises world institutions, governments, businesses, NGOs and local communities across the globe, while working on complex humanitarian and security challenges in Iraq, Afghanistan, Somalia, Libya, Sri Lanka, Colombia and elsewhere. Dave, who grew up in Sydney, is the author of the Washington Post bestseller The Accidental Guerrilla (2009), Counterinsurgency (2010), and Out of the Mountains: The Coming Age of the Urban Guerrilla, which won the 2013 PROSE award for Professional and Scholarly Excellence in Government and Politics.

Lighting Architect

Mark Major trained and practised as an architect prior to focusing on the unique relationship between light and architecture. He has worked on a wide range of award-winning international lighting projects including the Millennium Dome, Zollverein Kokerei, Beijing International Airport, and the re-lighting of the interior of St. Paul’s Cathedral. He is currently the lighting master planner for the Barangaroo development in Sydney. Mark is a specialist in the field of urban lighting and was named as part of Monocle’s urban ‘Dream Team’ in July 2013. He also acted as the Lighting Design Advisor to the Olympic Delivery Authority for London 2012 and was appointed to the Mayor of London’s Special Assistance team for the Outer London Fund in the same year. With an active interest in architectural and lighting education Mark has lectured extensively in the UK, Europe, Scandinavia, US and Australia. He was the co-creator of an educational project ‘Made of Light – the Art of Light and Architecture’. Mark is a corporate member of the Royal Institute of British Architects and the International Association of Lighting Designers and a Fellow of the Royal Incorporation of Architects in Scotland. He was created a Royal Designer for Industry in 2012.

Entrepreneur & Founder of Skateistan

Oliver Percovich first skated in an empty pool at the age of six, while growing up in Papua New Guinea. In 1995 he competed in the Mystic Cup, an international skateboarding contest in Prague. Prior to a life-changing move to Kabul, Oliver worked at the Centre for Risk and Community Safety on emergency management projects for various Australian government departments. In 2007 Oliver moved to Afghanistan from Australia when his girlfriend took a job in Kabul. Bored, he would skate the beleaguered city, and became a sort of pied half-piper, attracting street kids who would follow him around and ask for rides. Shortly after, Oliver founded Skateistan, a grassroots 'Sport for Development' project on the streets of Kabul. Today, Skateistan has more than 50 employees worldwide and is an award-winning international organisation with projects in Afghanistan, Cambodia and South Africa. The organisation is the first international development initiative to combine skateboarding with educational outcomes. Skateistan is non-political, independent, and inclusive of all ethnicities, religions and social backgrounds, offering both skating and general education classes for over 1000 boys and girls each week.

Musician & Instrument Maker

Linsey Pollak is an Australian musician, instrument maker, composer, musical director and community music facilitator. He has recorded 31 albums, toured his solo shows extensively in Europe, Nth America and Asia as well as performing at most major festivals around Australia. Linsey has devised many large Festival pieces such as “BimBamBoo” and “Sound Forest”, as well as collaborating on many music and theatre projects around Australia. He established The Multicultural Arts Centre of WA, and has co-ordinated five Cross-cultural Music Ensembles in three different States. Linsey has also worked as a musical instrument maker for 40 years and has designed a number of new wind instruments as well as specialising in woodwind instruments from Eastern Europe.


Prof Cyndi Shannon Weickert is dedicated to helping those suffering from schizophrenia. Prof Shannon Weickert obtained a BA in Biology and Psychology from Keuka College in upstate New York, and earned a PhD in Biomedical Science from Mount Sinai Medical School in New York City. Currently, Prof Shannon Weickert leads a translational research program at Neuroscience Research Australia (NeuRA) that uses insights from the molecular and cellular neurodevelopment of schizophrenia to design and test novel treatments for people with the condition. Her work has broad impact beyond psychiatry including examining molecular mechanisms by which hormones and growth factors cooperate to control gene expression and experimental examination of how sex hormones impact social development in adolescence. She has made pivotal contributions to the conceptualization of schizophrenia as a neurodevelopmental disorder and is best known for her pioneering work on brain-derived neurotropic factor (BDNF) and oestrogen receptor. Prof Shannon Weickert has delivered 132 papers and lectures worldwide. She is Macquarie Group Foundation Chair of Schizophrenia Research, a joint position between NeuRA, UNSW and Schizophrenia Research Institute.

Artist & His Mother

Tim Sharp is an internationally acclaimed 25 year-old artist from Brisbane. Diagnosed with Autism at age three, his mother was told that she should “put him away and forget about him”. Ignoring this advice, Judy Sharp, a single mother of two young sons, instead tried everything she could think of to communicate with Tim, including drawing. At age 11, Tim's artistic talent developed to the point where he created his own super hero, Laser Beak Man. Tim’s creativity has seen him become the first person in the world with Autism to have his art turned into an animated television series screening on the ABC and internationally. In 2012, a film about Tim was shown in the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City. His art is sold to collectors from around the world and in 2012, Tim's collaboration with a young rock band from Nashville Tennessee inspired a music festival raising awareness of Autism. Tim and Judy's story is one of great love and inspiration.

Zoologist & Conservation Advocate

Dr Barry Traill is one of Australia’s leading environmental campaigners. Driven by a lifelong love of Australia’s bush and unique wildlife, Barry has successfully combined his expertise in zoology, skills in advocacy, and his ability to motivate and collaborate, to secure large areas of Australia’s land and sea from destructive threats. Barry’s work over three decades has been the catalyst for the protection of the highly biologically-diverse Box- Ironbark woodlands of Victoria, the cessation of the broadscale clearing of the Queensland bush, and the creation of the world’s largest network of marine parks. In 2007 Barry became the Australian Director of the global NGO the Pew Charitable Trusts and leads their work in protecting one of the world’s great remaining natural places – the Australian Outback.


Nicole Vincent is an Australian philosopher based in Atlanta, Georgia, USA and Delft, The Netherlands. In mid-2007 Nicole obtained a PhD in philosophy of tort law from the University of Adelaide, with a dissertation entitled 'Responsibility, Compensation and Accident Law Reform'. Later that year she became affiliated with the Philosophy Section at Technische Universiteit Delft in The Netherlands, initially working on Dr Gert-Jan Lokhorst’s neurolaw research project entitled 'The Brain and The Law'; and then as chief investigator of the international research project 'Enhancing Responsibility: the effects of cognitive enhancement on moral and legal responsibility'. From 2011 until 2013 Nicole was a research fellow in the Department of Philosophy at Macquarie University in Sydney, working on a project entitled 'Reappraising the Capacitarian Foundation of Neurolaw'. In August 2013 she joined the Department of Philosophy at Georgia State University in Atlanta as Associate Professor of Philosophy, Law and Neuroscience, and she remains affiliated with the Philosophy Section at Technische Universiteit Delft in The Netherlands, leading the 'Enhancing Responsibility' research project, funded by the Responsible Innovation Programme of the Netherlands Organisation for Scientific Research.

Singer Songwriter

Megan Washington is a two-time ARIA Award winner and multi-platinum album seller. The full depth and breadth of Washington’s talent was best signified in the release of the critically acclaimed ‘Insomnia’ EP in early 2012. Where most artists would have pursued obvious commercial routes, ‘Insomnia’ presented a darker, more intimate side to Megan’s writing. Megan headlined the Sydney Festival and sold out the Sydney Opera House Main Concert Hall with the ACO before relocating to London to commence work on her upcoming album with Sam Dixon (Sia, Adele). In the interim, Megan Washington served as a mentor alongside Keith Urban on the inaugural series of The Voice, while her stunning voice has been heard around the world on various television and film productions from 'Girls' to 'Boardwalk Empire'. Megan Washington's first new studio recording in more than two years, 'Who Are You', has just been released in Australia, marking the start of another amazing chapter in Megan's career.

Metropolitan Local Aboriginal Land Council

Michael West is a member and Cultural Representative of the Metropolitan Local Aboriginal Land Council (MLALC) who are the traditional custodians of the Land, Air, Water and Culture within their boundaries. He is a member of the Stolen Generations and is an Aboriginal man of the Gamilaroi Nation. Michael is on the Board of NSW Indigenous Chamber of Commerce, a National Executive member of the National Sorry Day Committee and is a Delegate of National Congress of Australia’s First Peoples. He also founded a reconciliation consultancy called "Guwaali" meaning to talk, speak and converse in his mother’s Gamilaroi language. Michael strongly supports diversity and believes the understanding and appreciation of diversity brings greater understanding of oneself, increasing the opportunities in Australia and throughout the world through respectful engagement. Michael believes everyone has value and it’s upon us, communities and society to have the capability to enable communities and individuals to achieve their dreams and aspirations.

Folk Troubadour

Described as "the impossible love child of Elvis Presley, Roy Orbison and Townes Van Zandt", Marlon Williams is a two-time New Zealand Music Award-winning singer songwriter who Rhythms Magazine has called the Artist To Watch in Australia for 2014. At just 23, Williams has already built a successful career in New Zealand fronting alt-country legends The Unfaithful Ways, supporting Justin Townes Earle and Band Of Horses, and performing as one half of acclaimed duo Delaney Davidson & Marlon Williams. He has been nominated for three APRA Awards and two New Zealand Music Awards, winning Best Country Song and Best Country Album in 2013 for his collaboration with Davidson. Williams relocated to Melbourne in July 2013, and in six months played over 65 shows around the country. His rapid rise culminated in packing out his first Australian ticketed show in January, where he launched "Live At La Niche", a live album recorded in Fitzroy that has been released in physical form only.

Comedian/Disability Advocate

Stella Young is a comedian, disability advocate and Editor of ABC’s Ramp Up website, the online space for news, discussion and opinion about disability in Australia. Born in Stawell in Western Victoria, Stella cut her activist teeth at the age of 14 by conducting an access audit of shops on the local main street. It didn’t take long – it was a pretty short street. Since then she has been active in the disability community in a variety of roles, including membership of the Victorian Disability Advisory Council, Ministerial Advisory Council for the Department of Victorian Communities and Women With Disabilities Victoria. Stella was a two-time state finalist in the Melbourne International Comedy Festival’s Raw Comedy competition; and has hosted eight seasons of Australia’s first disability culture program No Limits. With a strong interest in issues facing women and young people with disabilities, Stella has worked with the Youth Disability Advocacy Service to establish the LiveAccess project, advocating for better access to live music venues. She holds a degree in Journalism from Deakin University and a Diploma of Secondary Education from the University of Melbourne.


Markus Zusak was born in Sydney and is the author of five books, including the international bestseller, The Book Thief, which has been translated into more than 40 languages. First released in 2005, The Book Thief has spent a total of 375 weeks on the New York Times bestseller list, and remains there eight years. His first three books, The Underdog, Fighting Ruben Wolfe and When Dogs Cry, were all published internationally and garnered a number of awards. It is The Book Thief, however, that has established Markus Zusak as one of the most successful authors to come out of Australia. To date, The Book Thief has held the number one position at,, the New York Times bestseller list, as well as in countries across South America, Europe and Asia. It has now been adapted into a major motion picture. The Book Thief (the film adaptation) is directed by Emmy Award-winning Brian Percival (Downton Abbey) and was shot in Berlin by Twentieth Century Fox. The cast is headlined by Academy Award winner Geoffrey Rush (Shine, The King’s Speech).