Australian Skeptics National Convention, Melbourne 25th-27th November 2016
1800 666 996



Lawrence Krauss


Turning Metaphysics into Physics: Gravitational Waves and the Beginning of Time

Lawrence Krauss is Director of the ASU Origins Project at Arizona State University, and Foundation Professor in the School of Earth and Space Exploration and the Department of Physics. Described by Scientific American as a unique scientific ‘public intellectual’, Krauss is a renowned theoretical physicist as well as one of the most well-known advocates for science worldwide. In addition to over 300 scientific publications, he has written nine books for a general audience, including the international bestsellers The Physics of Star Trek and A Universe From Nothing, with translations into over 20 languages. His research focuses on the intersection of cosmology and elementary particle physics, including general relativity and quantum gravity, the early universe, the origin of mass, neutrino astrophysics and the long-term future of the universe. Lawrence is the winner of numerous international awards and is the only physicist to have received the major awards from all three US physics societies. In 2012, he was awarded the National Science Board’s Public Service Award for his many contributions. He frequently appears on TV and radio and contributes to newspapers and magazines, and is the subject of a new full-length feature film The Unbelievers, which follows Lawrence and Richard Dawkins around the world as they discuss science and reason.

367px-Edzard_Ernst_EuroSkepCon2015Edzard Ernst

A Scientist in Wonderland

Edzard Ernst is an academic physician and researcher specialising in the study of complementary and alternative medicine. He was formerly Professor of Complementary Medicine at the University of Exeter, the first such academic position in the world. Ernst served as chairman of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation (PMR) at the University of Vienna, but left this position in 1993 to set up the Department of Complementary Medicine at the University of Exeter in England. He became director of complementary medicine of the Peninsula Medical School (PMS) in 2002. Ernst was the first occupant of the Laing Chair in Complementary Medicine, retiring in 2011. He was born and trained in Germany, where he began his medical career at a homeopathic hospital in Munich, and since 1999 has been a British citizen.

In 2015 he was awarded the John Maddox Prize, sponsored jointly by Sense About Science and Nature, for courage in standing up for science and is the author of A Scientist in Wonderland.

Photograph by Nederlandse Leeuw – Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0,


Harriet Hall

Harriet A. Hall, MD[2]2
Fun with Alternative Medicine: It’s OK to Laugh

Harriet Hall, MD, is a retired family physician and Air Force flight surgeon who writes about medicine, quackery, alternative medicine, critical thinking and science. She is one of the editors of the Science-Based Medicine blog and a contributing editor to Skeptical Inquirer and to Skeptic magazine, where she writes the SkepDoc column. She is co-author of the textbook Consumer Health: A Guide to Intelligent Decisions and author of the autobiographical Women Aren’t Supposed to Fly. Harriet’s series of 10 free video lectures on science-based medicine vs. alternative medicine can be found on YouTube.

Her website is

Michael Marshall

Fighting Homeopathy in the UK: The NHS and Beyond


Michael Marshall is the Project Director of the Good Thinking Society – a UK skeptical charity founded by Simon Singh. He is also the Vice President of the Merseyside Skeptics Society and regularly speaks with proponents of pseudoscience for the Be Reasonable podcast. His work in skepticism has seen him organising international homeopathy protests, co-founding the popular QED conference, going undercover to investigate psychics like Peter Popoff and Sally Morgan, challenging the UK Government’s funding for homeopathy, and teaching at universities on the role of ethics and truth in PR and journalism. Michael has written for the Guardian, The Times and New Statesman.

melt_mtpconnect_portraitMel Thomson

No More Poo Woo

Dr Mel Thomson completed her Honours degree in microbiology and immunology at the University of Melbourne (1998). She then migrated to the UK, where she worked on various projects as diverse as allergy and cancer before undertaking further studies. She completed a Masters of Research, then a PhD in microbial genetic regulation in Neisseria species, both at the University of York, UK. After the award of her PhD in 2009, she became interested in host-pathogen interactions at the Leeds Institute of Molecular Medicine, UK. Dr Thomson returned to Australia in 2011 to start her own research group at Deakin Medical School and the Geelong Centre for Emerging Infectious Diseases. After more than 5 years as an independent researcher, she has now left the academy to help grow the innovation ecosystem for the Australian MedTech Pharma industry in her role as GM of Education, Skills and Events for MTPConnect.

A passionate science communicator, she has become a national torchbearer for the concept of crowdfunding research, with a track record of three successful Pozible crowdfunding campaigns, Mighty Maggots, Hips 4 Hipsters and No More Poo Taboo. She is involved with advocacy as a former steering committee member for Women in Science Australia.

13781850_1054119771333340_4565748376973425417_nLynne Kelly

A Rational Approach to Oral Tradition and Stonehenge

Dr Lynne Kelly is an Australian writer, researcher and science educator, as well as being a foundation member of the Australian Skeptics. Her academic work focuses on the way indigenous cultures memorise vast amounts of rational information through the mnemonic devices used by ancient and modern oral cultures from around the world. In applying that research to archaeology, she has proposed a new theory for the purpose of Stonehenge and ancient monuments the world over. Her most recent book The Memory Code (Allen & Unwin) has already gone into reprint in Australia and will be published in the USA and UK in February 2017.


Ken Harvey

Improving the Regulation of Complementary Medicines in Australia: The Current State of Play

Dr Ken Harvey is an Adjunct Associate Professor at the School of Public Health and Preventive Medicine at Monash University. Described by the Age newspaper as an ‘anti-quackery crusader’, he is an advocate of evidence-based medicine and a critic of unethical pharmaceutical marketing and unproven diet products, and is proud to wear his designation by industry as a ‘serial complainer’. He represents Choice (Australian Consumers’ Association) on the Therapeutic Goods Advertising Complaint Resolution Panel and the Therapeutic Goods Advertising Code Council. Ken was awarded the 2016 Australian New Zealand Association for the Advancement of Science (ANZAAS) Medal, ‘For contributions to science which go beyond normal professional activities’.


Deanne Carson & Meredith Doig (with Tony Pitman)

Fairness In Religion in Schools: Parent-Driven Grassroots Activism

Deanne Carson is a leading Australian sex education expert and the author of the 2015 Carson Review, which demonstrates that curriculum support material from Christian Education Publications contravened Department of Education guidelines.

Dr Meredith Doig is President of the Rationalist Society of Australia Inc. (RSA).

The RSA is the oldest freethought group in Australia, promoting reason since 1906. Members and supporters hold that all significant beliefs and actions should be based on reason and evidence, that the natural world is the only world there is and that answers to the key questions of human existence are to be found only in that natural world. They seek to stimulate freedom of thought, support a secular and ethical system of education, promote the fullest possible use of science for human welfare, and encourage interest in science, criticism and philosophy as connected factors in a progressive human culture.

10303867_10152506593468573_6102466337380967680_nJo Alabaster

Mental Illness: Myths, Stigma, Quackery and Best Practice

Jo Alabaster is an aspiring science communicator, Skeptic Zone Podcast reporter, blogger at and contributor to the Skeptic magazine. For her presentation at the Convention, Jo has chosen to concentrate on little-discussed skeptical issues surrounding mental illness. She will compare current evidence-based therapies with historical and ongoing quackery.

pbtalkingPeter Bowditch

Is Philosophy Dead?

Peter is a writer, IT consultant, TAFE teacher, journalist and general all-round polymath and know-it-almost-all. Despite degrees in psychology, philosophy and business management, he claims some knowledge of science and how it is done. He is a regular writer for several publications including Australasian Science, the Skeptic and some online outlets, including his own web site at As evidence of the breadth of his interests, he has been taken to court by a cancer quack, a pyramid scheme operator and an anti-vaccination activist, all of whom were upset by hearing the truth about themselves. He has been on the committee of the Australian Skeptics for a long time and was even the President for a couple of years. Peter lives in Oberon, west of the Blue Mountains in NSW and, despite the next road on the right after driving past his place being Titania Road, he doesn’t really believe in fairies.

thumbnail_Me Doing Scienceross balch preferredRoss Balch

Zika Virus: Myths and Reality

Ross Balch is a medical researcher currently studying the anti-viral response to respiratory viruses, having previously studied genetic diversity in dengue virus. A skeptical activist, Ross was formerly President of the Brisbane Skeptic Society. He is also a science populariser, podcaster, musician and photographer.

emma 2Emma Miley

Chiropractics vs Medical Imaging

Emma is a quiet skeptic usually found sitting at the back of the room, listening intently. However, after working in the area of health for the last… many, many years, she has seen the repercussions of having faith in quackery. She has a special interest in how our society treats our smallest members, the ones who cannot speak up for themselves and also how we teach critical thinking to our younger generations.

tim-elite-2010-13-headTim van Gelder

Probabilistic Reasoning: 2 out of 3 Ain’t Bard

“A core part of my work for the past fifteen years has been development of software to support reasoning, argument and critical thinking.”

Tim van Gelder is an applied epistemologist plying his trade in a small Melbourne consulting firm (van Gelder & Monk). He has particular interests in reasoning, argumentation and critical thinking, and has developed software packages and online platforms for structured deliberation. He has worked with a wide range of organisations, from intelligence agencies through to Hawthorn Football Club. In 2001 he won the Australian Skeptics Eureka Prize for Critical Thinking. He is not a Shakespeare scholar.

stoptheavnTracey McDermott, Ken McLeod, Wendy Wilkinson & David Hawkes

SAVN: Not Just Stopping the AVN – The Evolution of a Grass Roots Skeptical Movement

Tracey McDermott is a student studying Public Health and Health Promotion at Deakin University. She has been involved in promoting vaccination for several years through a range of projects including Stop the Australian Vaccination Network and Light for Riley, and was recently appointed to the board of the Immunisation Foundation of Australia.

Ken McLeod is a retired air traffic controller and a national manager of Australian Search and Rescue. Along with Wendy Wilkinson, Ken was awarded the Australian Skeptics’ 2010 Thornett Award for skeptical activism. He uses his spare time to submit formal complaints about quacks to acronyms.

Wendy Wilkinson is a Registered Nurse with postgraduate qualifications and a clinical background in Emergency Nursing, although nowadays she drives a desk in the field of Patient Safety and Quality. Wendy got involved in SAVN in 2009 and her complaint to the then NSW Office of Liquor, Gaming and Racing ultimately resulted in the AVN losing its Charitable Fundraising Authority in 2010. That same year Wendy was joint recipient of the Australian Skeptics’ 2010 Thornett Award with fellow SAVNer Ken McLeod. Her anti-anti-vaccination activism continues to this day, as she is passionate about people making healthcare decisions based on good, credible, accurate information, not scaremongering and pseudoscience.

David Hawkes has a PhD in molecular virology from the Burnet Institute and has been a vocal opponent of the professional anti-vaccination movement for over five years. He has published a number of articles in both scientific journals and more mainstream outlets like Mamamia and the Conversation on the topic of vaccination.

DSC_6253 Mal Vickers mod 1200WMal Vickers

Chiropractors Crack Me Up

Mal works as an electronics engineer in medical technology and is a member of the Victorian Skeptics committee. He became interested in  all things skeptical when a couple of creationists dared to come knocking on his door. Mal is also a former student of RMIT University and commenced investigating chiropractic in 2011 when he learnt that RMIT is graduating more chiropractors than any other Australian university.

hardingTim Harding

The Birth of Experimental Science

Tim Harding writes a regular column on logical fallacies for the Skeptic magazine and also writes longer articles for the magazine, often on the history of science. His blog is called The Logical Place. Tim is also an admin of the large ‘Skeptics in Australia’ group on Facebook and a co-organiser of the Mordi Skeptics in a southern suburb of Melbourne. He majored in biological sciences at Monash University and, after a long career in environmental science, has returned to study history and philosophy part-time at Monash.

Convention MCs

Joanne Benhamujoannebenhamu150x150

Saturday MC

A long-standing and active member of the Skeptic community, Jo Benhamu is currently a vice-president of Australian Skeptics Inc., a vocal advocate of vaccination through Stop the AVN in addition to being involved in a range of other sceptical organisations and activities. She is an experienced Clinical Nurse Consultant and is currently leading the coordination of clinical trials in Radiation Oncology. Jo is passionate about the integrity of research and protecting participants, she is currently completing a Masters of Bioethics.


Nicholas J Johnson

Convention Dinner MC and performer

Nicholas J Johnson knows scams. After decades of rubbing shoulders with fraudsters and liars, he works as a magician, author and consultant, exposing the tricks of the con artist’s trade. His live shows have featured at corporate events, high schools and private events, simultaneously entertaining and educating audiences about swindlers and scams. As an expert on fraud and deception, he has appeared on A Current Affair, The Project, Sunrise, Kid’s WB, Today, Radio National, Triple J and more. He has consulted with everyone from magician David Blaine to Circus Oz. A critically acclaimed comedian and Melbourne magician, Nicholas has performed at Edinburgh Fringe, Adelaide Fringe, Melbourne Fringe and the Melbourne Comedy Festival, where he was nominated for the 2014 Golden Gibbo Award for best independent comedy and received the 2015 Moosehead Award. He has published two novels, Chasing the Ace and Fast and Loose.

Tony Pitmantonypitman150x150

Sunday MC

Tony Pitman grew up in Gippsland and studied science, law and philosophy in Melbourne, Vancouver and Paris. He has also lived in London, Vienna, Mexico City and Lagos, Nigeria, and has travelled widely across six continents. His media experience comes from years of campaigning with Amnesty International and Australian marriage equality, as well as work as a TV actor and radio presenter. He is a committee member of the Australian Skeptics Victorian Branch Inc and the presenter of the skeptical podcast and radio show Reality Check.