Festival of Big Ideas in Traralgon

Panel: Simon Keleher, Ben Gebert, Elena Nauta and Esther Lloyd at the Festival of Big Ideas. Photograph: Katrina Brandon



BATTERIES made of seaweed, seaweed as a future product, keeping a curious mindset and ‘education may not be the most important thing to get you where you need to get to’ – those were some of the thoughts bandied about at the Festival of Big Ideas last month at the Gippsland Performing Arts Centre in Traralgon.

The festival also included a conversation about mine rehabilitation as Victoria decreases its use of coal and moves to rehabilitate the Latrobe Valley’s brown coal mines.

The overall weekend had 12 sessions and a couple of subsections where speakers would come in and talk about their big ideas, what it takes to have one and the products and businesses they have produced through their big ideas.

Day 1 featured mine rehabilitation – the process used to repair the impacts of mining on the environment

and which is carried out both during mining operations and after operations have ended. Mine

operators have regulatory responsibilities around mine rehabilitation.

“It’s a situation of enormous importance with generational implications and tremendous

opportunity, right here on our doorstep,” said Jenny Brereton, chief executive officer of the

Mine Land Rehabilitation Authority, speaking to the festival audience. “And the best part is,

every single person has a role to play in its solution.”

Ms Brereton spoke of a number of megatrends happening in mine rehabilitation including

ecosystem restoration, drone innovation, geospatial mapping and climate change

considerations, and addressed the desire for maintaining progress.

“We want everyone in the community to understand and contribute to the mine rehabilitation process, to be

aware of what’s happening, to understand the decisions being made and why,” she said.

The Mine Land Rehabilitation Authority hosted a live progressive mural at the festival in

which participants could see their views come to life.

Particularly exciting for the public was on the Friday night when Dr Karl Kruszelnicki closed with ‘Which coke or diet coke will get you drunk quicker’ and that ‘Santa is Superman’, with the science and reasoning behind each.

Before Dr Kruszelnicki was Steve Sammaritino, highlighted as ‘one of the world’s most engaging and thought-provoking keynote speakers on the future’, who stole the stage with his comedic delivery and technological expertise. This led him to build a full size Lego car moved by air, and the concept that knowledge about AI and finding a mentor were key factors that may help people.

Scott Douglas, an attendee said, “I’ve had an amazing time networking, planning my future collaborations and listening to some amazing people and feats being achieved across our region”.

Day two transformed from ‘Big Ideas’ to ‘Gipps Talk’ where work was shown; attendees learnt about successful opportunities that people took; little ideas that became big ideas; advertising the want for electric vehicles and how they are going to take over; and lastly ‘how we need to prioritise mental health more’.

Other than speakers, outdoor activities included two men on stilts walking around; a juggling man; kids’ corner; a car show; a sweets, food and arts area with Lego’ and sewing.

Community groups and schools can request a speaker visit from the Mine Land

Rehabilitation Authority by contacting contactus@mineland.vic.gov.au or 1800 571 966.