Humanities 21’s events are an important part of its advocacy and fundraising. See below for summaries and photos of some of our most successful recent events.

2017 Christmas Cocktail Party

On Tuesday 5 December 2017, Humanities 21 Members and guests gathered in the home of Humanities 21 committee member Peter McLennan, and enjoyed the hospitality of he and his lovely wife, Mary Ruth. The bubbles were flowing and nibbles were abundant as Humanities 21 members and guests mingled in the McLennan’s beautiful home. Barry Jones kicked off the evening’s entertainment with his reading of two Australian poems by much-loved poet, the late John Clarke. ‘A Child’s Christmas in Warrnambool’ and ‘To a Howard’ made us laugh, particularly since Barry attempted a thick Scottish accent to read the latter. He reminded us however that parody carries a sting in the tail, and left us with food for thought.

John Clarke’s poetry was followed by Jasmine Shaw’s performance of her original Homeric poem, based on her studies of the Odyssey. This talented year 8 student was the winner of the Humanities 21 Homer Competition: poetry division, and she certainly wowed our audience with her creativity and confidence – not to mention her vocabulary! Jasmine’s performance was followed by that of the winner of the Humanities 21 Homer Competition: matchbox division. Another brilliant year 8 student, Gila Bloch created a colourful and detailed matchbox based on her own original Homeric poem. It contained grains of sand and an origami lotus flower – we collectively envied her dexterity! Click here to view Gila’s matchbox, read Jasmine’s poem, and view other entries from the Humanities 21 Homer Competition.

One of our most in-demand speakers from the Humanities 21 corporate lecture series, Dr Matthew Laing, left a lasting impression on us all in his presentation ‘Martin Luther, Modernity, and the True Meaning of Christmas.’ 500 Christmases ago, Luther pinned his 95 Theses to a Church door (or so the story goes) and set in motion a religious revolution that would forever change world history. Luther’s discomfort with religious practices in the Roman Catholic Church was rooted in his dislike of ostentation. His mission was to marry religious practices with sincere faith, and Matt’s presentation reminded us all how we can bear this in mind at Christmastime. Thank you Matt for reminding us that kindness, love, and generosity of spirit are more valuable than anything we’ll find under the Christmas tree.


Is Empathy an Impediment to Success?

On 23 November 2017, we held an Oxford-style debate in collaboration with the Melbourne Museum and the Disruptive Business Network on the topic ’empathy is an impediment to success.’

On the affirmative team we had Belle Lane, a family lawyer and mediator, alongside Stephanie Woollard, a social entrepreneur and founder of an outreach organisation in Nepal, Seven Women. Across the stage sat philosopher Dr Steven Curry from Capability Builder and human-centred design consultant and CEO of Huddle Melis Senova.

Belle and Stephanie put forth a fierce argument, advocating for rational thought processes rather than emotional ones. Melis and Steve countered them by arguing that empathy gives us the best kind of insight, and that using it forms a strong strategy for success – at work and in our personal lives.

The audience, who had cast an initial vote when they arrived at the Museum earlier in the evening, voted again at the conclusion of the debate. Initially 55% of the audience disagreed with the statement ’empathy is an impediment to success’ while 22% agreed and 23% were unsure. In our second round of votes, 77% disagreed, 9% were still on the fence, and only 14% of audience members still believed that empathy is an impediment to success.

Of course, although the evening was structured as a debate, the important thing at Humanities 21 events is not to find a winner or loser, and certainly not to answer questions like this one with a firm ‘yes’ or ‘no.’ The empathy debate was a forum for discussion what the terms ’empathy’ and ‘success’ mean to us all, guided by some experts.

We gleaned some insights into the worlds of consulting, philosophy, and law through this event – and found a new paradigm to replace the ‘golden rule of morality.’ That is, rather than ‘do unto others as you would have them do unto you,’ do unto others as THEY would like you to do unto them. Steve and Melis impressed upon us the importance of listening to others in order to work productively, while Belle and Stephanie warned us to be aware of our biases and use logic to make judgments.