Changes to convention program

We have made a few changes to the National Convention program for Sunday, November 30.

Unfortunately Robyn Williams has had to withdraw due to ill health. We wish him a speedy recovery.

Consequently, we have shuffled some of the Sunday afternoon sessions. A particular change to note is that Peter FitzSimons’ presentation has moved from the final session on the day to 2:35pm. Other speakers have also been changed, with Dr Steve Novella presenting the final session of the convention, a fitting conclusion to what is bound to be a great event.

View the revised program on the Program page.

The Saturday program remains unchanged.

Ebola in, Ebola out – new speaker for convention

The latest addition to the line-up of the 2014 Australian Skeptics National Convention is Dr Grant Hill-Cawthorne.

Dr Hill-Cawthorne is a medical microbiologist and lecturer in communicable disease epidemiology at the Marie Bashir Institute for Infectious Diseases and Biosecurity and School of Public Health, University of Sydney.

After completing medicine and medical training and the University of Cambridge he went to Saudi Arabia where he set up a laboratory specialising in pathogen genomics. His ongoing research is on the evolution of drug resistance and epidemiology of infectious diseases in Australia, South Africa, Mongolia and Papua New Guinea, and he has spoken extensively in the media on the control of the current Ebola outbreak, based on his public health role in communicable disease control.

This will be the substance of his talk, “Ebola — lots of scare mongering, but what about the facts?”

Dr Hill-Cawthorne is, actually, replacing Sonya Pemberton in the convention schedule.

We truly regret Sonya’s inability to take part in the convention, however, she has started work on a major Ebola film with the Howard Hughes Medical Institute, for release on PBS NOVA in September next year.

Grant has stepped up to take her place, and we very much appreciate his willingness to do so at short notice.

The full program for the convention is available here.

More convention speakers – top communicators

hadfield-langenbergWe’re pleased to announce two excellent additions to the 2014 Australian Skeptics National Convention program!

These speakers cover the best of science and skeptical communication – in the media and in the schools.

Peter Hadfield, a journalist with a degree in geology and over 20 years’ experience working in print, radio and television, is well known as a prolific YouTuber on scientific issues, including the science behind global warming, as well as the age of the Earth and arguments used by young earth creationists. As a correspondent in the Far East he worked at various times for CNN, the BBC, Britain’s Sunday Times andUS News and World report. He was also the Tokyo correspondent for New Scientist magazine, and contributed regularly to the BBC’s Science in Action and to the Science Show on ABC radio. He spoke at the Skeptics’ 2011 convention, and was so popular that we have brought him back for a second round.

Adam vanLangenberg was the winner of the 2012 Skeptics’ Thornett Award for the Promotion of Reason, an award he won for setting up the McKinnon Secondary Sceptical Society. The Society is a lunchtime gathering of school children – the SceptiKids – who discuss a wide range of skeptical topics. So successful has the event been since its establishment in 2011, that teachers as well as students often attend the meetings which cover everything from astrology, homeopathy, psychics and power balance wrist bands to whether you can tell if someone is looking at you from behind your back and why Santa wears red and white. His talk is appropriately titled “101 Fun Things to do at Lunchtime”.

These two highly-effective communicators are on top of what is already a power play of skeptical thinkers. More information on the convention, including the program of presentations, plus a range of exciting extra activities, is available right here at the convention website.

One-day tickets now available

We’re happy to announce that one-day tickets are now available for the Convention.

For those with limited time, this will provide the perfect opportunity to attend sessions on either Saturday, November 29, or Sunday, November 30. You can make a choice based on your own availability or on the presentations on a specific day.

The full program for the convention – and those days – is available at the program page.

Tickets are available at the Skeptics shop.

Those attending on just one day will still, of course, be able to attend the special social evening on Friday, November 28, and purchase tickets for the SGU Extravaganza on Friday and/or the convention dinner on Saturday. Further details on these events can also be found on the program page.

Latest announcements: SGU Extravaganza, welcome social event and dinner entertainment

We’re pleased to announce three new exciting events for 2014 National Convention.

SGU Extravaganza

George Hrab and the SGU crew will be putting on a special show at 7pm on Friday, November 28 – the day before the convention proper gets underway. It will take place at the Chatswood Club, and tickets will cost $25.

Geo will host the SGU Skeptical Extravaganza and Quiz Show, an evening of surprising fun, music, a quiz show, audience interaction and much more. This is a must-see event!

Note that this is a separate event to the main convention, with all profits going to the SGU. Bookings are essential, and it will be suitable for all ages.

Welcome event

On the same night and location, beginning at 6pm, we will be holding a free welcome social event where you will be able to mingle with speakers and other attendees. Here you will get the chance to talk to your heroes and skeptical colleagues in a relaxed atmosphere of good cheer and conversation.

Geo and the SGU crew will be present at this event before and after their Extravaganza.

We previously announced this event would take place at the Orchard Tavern, so please note it has been moved to the Chatswood Club.

All ages are allowed into the bistro area, but you must be aged 18+ to be near the bar or gambling machines.

Dinner entertainment

We’ve organised some exciting entertainment to accompany the convention dinner on Saturday, November 29.

While the dinner itself will be a great event, featuring a three-course meal and drinks, the entertainment on offer will round out a great evening.

Nicholas J Johnson, “the honest conman”, is an award-winning author, magician, comedian and conman. He knows his scams, and after decades of rubbing shoulders with fraudsters and liars, he will show the dinner audience how to become a human lie detector, why they shouldn’t trust him at the ATM, and the best way to cheat the casino.

Later in the evening, the SGU will hold their traditional auction of goodies from the rogues’ treasure trove. Bookings are essential!

Five students can win a free ticket

Thanks to the generosity of the Australian Skeptics Science & Education Foundation, we have five free tickets to give away for students to attend the 2014 Australian Skeptics National Convention to be held in Sydney, November 29 – 30!

Any current student can apply to win a free ticket – all you have to do is write an entry in 200 words or less, explaining why you should receive the ticket, with special reference to skeptical activities you have been involved in.

The five winning entries will be chosen by a panel drawn from the Committee of Australian Skeptics Inc.

Entries should be sent to by October31; we will notify the winners personally the following week.

Entries must be accompanied by a scanned, photographed or faxed copy of your student ID card.

If you’re a student who has already registered and paid for the convention, you can still enter – with the chance to have your registration fee reimbursed!

Each free ticket is to the equivalent value of A$220 — the price of the concession ticket to the convention. The prize does not cover travel or accommodation costs.

UK and US perspectives at Aus Skeptics convention

Michael ‘Marsh’ Marshall, presenter of the Skeptics with a K podcast, co-founder of the Merseyside Skeptics and the QED convention held in Manchester every year, and Project Director of the Good Thinking Society is just one of the latest additions to the speaker list for the 2014 Australian Skeptics National Convention.

Marsh is particularly well-known around the world for having instigated the 10:23 campaign, a mass demonstration designed to show the lack of efficacy of homeopathic products.

He will be able to give a UK view on key Skeptical issues, and his analysis will be complemented by a presentation from across the Atlantic by Kendrick Frazier, editor of the US-based Skeptical Inquirer.

These global perspectives will be highlights of the Convention, to be held in Chatswood, Sydney from November 29-30.

Marsh will also be moderating the special consumer protection panel, which will feature Julian Morrow, Kirsten Drysdale and Chas Licciardello of the ABC’s Checkout and Chaser programs, as well as Alan Kirkland, CEO of Choice, and Delia Rickard, deputy chair of the Australian Competition & Consumer Commission.

Facilitated mis-communication
Another new speaker for the convention is Dr Bronwyn Hemsley, a speech pathologist with 25 years’ experience in working with people with communication disabilities in clinical, research, teaching, and policy development capacities.

She is a senior lecturer at the University of Newcastle and clinical researcher in the field of communication disability.

Dr Hemsley has been particularly active in investigating so-called ‘facilitated communication’, the technique for supposedly helping disabled people communicate with the world via hand pressures. And for her efforts, she has regularly been the subject of reactive campaigns by supporters of the unproven methodology.

She will present the findings of a recent scientific review of research on this topic, and discuss these in the light of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with a Disability.

Other speakers
Other presenters include all of the members of the Skeptics Guide to the Universe, Dick Smith, Dr Karl Kruszelnicki, Peter FitzSimons, Robyn Williams, Dr Rachael Dunlop, Sonya Pemberton, Dr Alex Wodak, Peta Ashworth, and Dr Amanda Bauer.

Unfortunately Bettina Arndt, one of our previously announced speakers, will not be able to appear.

We anticipate more presenters to be announced – stay tuned!

Checkout/Chaser for Skeptics Convention

In a special consumer affairs discussion panel, the 30th National Australian Skeptics Convention will feature three entertainers from hit ABC satirical programs The Checkout and The Chaser!

Julian Morrow, Kirsten Drysdale and Chas Licciardello are known for their fearless attacks on ignorance and double-dealing wherever that might be – politicians, shonky services or pseudoscience (vitamins a speciality).

They will be joined by two leading figures in consumer protection in Australia: Delia Rickard, deputy chair of the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC), and Alan Kirkland, CEO of CHOICE.

This dynamic, informative and no-doubt hilarious session will be an exciting addition to what is already proving to be a stellar line-up of speakers – the largest number of international speakers at any Australian Skeptics Convention (outside of TAM Oz 2010).

We’re also pleased to announce several other new speakers:

  • Peta Ashworth, a leading researcher in understanding public perception to climate change and low emission technologies (former leader of the CSIRO’s Science into Society Group)
  • Dr Amanda Bauer has a PhD in Astrophysics, and she is currently Research Astronomer and Outreach Officer at the Australian Astronomical Observatory
  • Dr Alex Wodak, Director of the Alcohol and Drug Service at St Vincent’s Hospital in Sydney, and President of the Australian Drug Law Reform Foundation and former President of the International Harm Reduction Association

These are all in addition to the previously announced:

  • The Skeptics’ Guide to the Universe, including special SGU podcast recordings and private sessions – Steve Novella, Jay Novella, Bob Novella, Evan Bernstein, Rebecca Watson
  • Dr Karl Kruszelnicki – Australia’s leading science communicator
  • Dick Smith – patron of Australian Skeptics, entrepreneur, 1986 Australian of the Year
  • Peter FitzSimons – journalist, author, sports commentator
  • Robyn Williams – presenter of ABC Radio Science Show and Ockham’s Razor
  • George Hrab – musician extraordinaire and convention MC
  • Dr Rachael Dunlop – skeptical campaigner, science researcher, VP of Australian Skeptics Inc
  • Sonya Pemberton – Emmy Award-winning filmmaker, producer of Jabbed
  • Kendrick Frazier – Fellow of the US AAAS, science writer and editor of The Skeptical Inquirer
  • Bettina Arndt – sex therapist, journalist and clinical psychologist

For more details on the speakers, go to the Speakers page.

Announcing ticket price reduction

We have major news! After a great deal of negotiations, we are very excited to announce a ticket price reduction for the 30th Australian Skeptics National Convention.

The new standard ticket price for the whole convention is only $260 (previously $320), effective immediately.

Since we began planning this convention, trying to reduce the ticket price has been high on our priority list. Conference attendance costs can be prohibitive, but we wanted to make sure that as many people as possible – both from Australia and overseas – would be able to attend.

Now, after finalising the last price adjustments and overall budget, we’re extremely pleased that we can offer the same event with the same wonderful speakers – for less!

What has changed?

The only change directly impacting the attendees is that we won’t be offering a catered lunch this year. This is because the convention venue is located in the middle of one of Sydney’s busiest shopping and business centres, which is bustling with restaurants, cafes and takeaways – you won’t have to walk more than a couple of minutes to find something of your fancy. However, you will not go thirsty: we will be serving tea and coffee throughout both days of the convention.

Are there concession tickets?

Yes! We are also pleased to finally announce a limited number of concession tickets for pensioners and full-time students. The concession ticket price is $220. Those who feel they qualify for the concession should email or fax a copy of their pensioner or student card to or 02 8088 4735 with their name and contact details.

I already bought a ticket, do I get a refund?

Absolutely! We are aware that so many of you have already booked at the old price, and everyone will be reimbursed the price difference. Reimbursements will happen automatically within a couple of weeks for all ticket holders. If you already have a ticket and want to apply for a concession as well, please do so as soon as possible so we can reimburse the correct amount.

What about the dinner?

The price reduction applies to the convention only; the price for the convention dinner with the special SGU event on the evening of Saturday, November 29, will remain the same.

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The SGU sells out

The rogues of the Skeptics Guide to the Universe will be holding an auction of all sorts of goodies at the convention dinner on the night of November 29.

Always a popular event at any Skeptical get-together, the money raised will go toward helping the SGU carry on their good work.

So what will be up for grabs? Steve Novella’s stethoscope, perhaps? Jay Novella’s book of jokes? A lock of Evan Bernstein’s hair? Who knows. But one definite item will be the chance to sit in during the Science or Fiction section of the SGU podcast recording on the next day of the convention. Last time the entire SGU crew were in Australia was at TAM Australia in 2010, and at that event, the big prize went for more than $900. Will it break the $1k mark this year?

You’ll just have to come along and see … and bid.

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Dick Smith to give convention keynote address

We’re pleased to announce that Dick Smith, one of Australia’s best-known and respected personalities, will be giving the keynote address on the first day of the convention.

Dick is, of course, a founder and patron of Australian Skeptics. From setting up Australia’s first scientific tests of water divining with James Randi in 1980, Dick has kept a watchful eye on skeptical activity. At TAM Australia in 2010, he took part in an intimate discussion with Randi on the history, status and future of the skeptical movement – a definite highlight of the event to see two such icons of skepticism at the one time.

So it is great to have such a notable (and sometimes controversial) Australian back for our 2014 convention.

As well as being 1986 Australian of the Year and an official Living National Treasure, Dick is a businessman, entrepreneur, adventurer, philanthropist, aviator, and passionate advocate for the environment. He is active in many fields of public life, and often takes on ‘difficult’ topics such as supporting refugees and the fair treatment of Guantanamo prisoner David Hicks. His latest interest is in initiating a debate on Australia’s population policy, sparked by his concern for the future his grandchildren will face.

No doubt he will add to this controversial reputation with his keynote address on the morning of Saturday, November 29.

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