Written by Anne Stephens, James Cook University:
Gosh, I’m so darn relieved it went well!
TASA2015 will stand out in my mind as one of the most fulfilling professional endeavours I have ever undertaken. As co-convener with Theresa Petray, we were backed up by an incredible team of TASA Executive Committee members, our JCU Local Area Committee, Conference Solutions and a wonderful team of volunteers.
Yes, there were a thousand and one emails, the odd problem that we couldn’t resolve to everybody’s satisfaction, and fear of the budget running into the red.
But from the moment the event opened with Gimuy Yidinji Tribal Elder Gudju Gudju’s honest and warm Welcome to Country, a challenging speech by Prof. Eva Cox and friendly drinks overlooking the beautiful Cairns marina, I knew that people were, for the most part, happy they’d made the effort to come to Cairns.
The highlight of the conference for me was… well… that moment when you hear a speaker who is, you feel, talking directly to you. Their work, their methodology, their findings are so profound that you must talk to them, read what they have published, and hope that they will want to reciprocate with the promise of future collaboration. I had at least one of these moments, triggering excitement and renewed energy for a project I had thought I might not have any hope of ever getting off the ground.
Another highlight was hearing Ms Rachel Ham’s presentation at the Women’s Breakfast. Despite her nervousness, a very large crowd and a noisy venue, she spoke her strong story as an advocate and leader for Indigenous women in the region. Many of us, myself included, learned so much that morning.
I’d also like to mention the success of the post-conference tours. I understand that these are not common to TASA conferences. But the advantage of being in the far north, our very rich sociological palette that we are lucky enough to call home, was too great a temptation not to put a couple of interesting excursions out for intrepid conference goers. Theresa and her group had a great day on the Reef. I took a group to Yarrabah, sadly on a day clouded by Sorry Business that involved most of the town. In fact, we even lost our tour guide. But the community generously allowed our tour to continue and we were accompanied by health worker, Mary Kyle, to visit the secondary school, arts precinct, rehabilitation centre and the Gurriny Yealamucka Health Service. Several participants have stayed in touch with community people they met that day and I hope that, judging from how well both tours were received, future TASA Conference organisers will consider what’s possible in their locations.
In all, minor hiccups such as too few printed programmes, and a rabbit warren venue (sorry – beyond our control) didn’t impede the great sense of personal satisfaction derived by the end of the week.
It was one of those events that I felt we had made our cake and indulged in it too.