TEDxSydney 2015 Speakers & Performers
Sixteen extraordinary Australians will take to the stage on 21 May to share their stories and spread new ideas and thinking to the world. From the great-great grandson of Charles Darwin to a champion kick boxer and a Director of the International Committee of the Red Cross, this year’s curatorial theme of learning will be explored with great enthusiasm.


Hairdresser, social worker

Trans woman Starlady is a youth worker and LBGTI advocate in some of Australia’s most remote and challenging places. Using an unusual set of tools, the flamboyant hairdresser spends her time travelling thousands of kilometres across the central desert.

Orthopaedic Surgeon/Writer

Munjed’s ambition to become a world leader in osseointegration surgery started when he was a young child watching “The Terminator” movie. How to combine robotics and humans? This passion inspired him to develop and expand this technology for amputees, to enable mobility, to enhance comfort, reduce pain and to facilitate a better quality of life. To date Munjed has helped more than 108 amputees mobilize and function with greater ease, comfort and control. Osseointegration enables the amputee to focus on the destination rather than the journey; this in itself has been life-changing for all of Munjed’s patients. Munjed is an Australian-trained Orthopaedic Surgeon and Adjunct Clinical Associate Professor with Notre Dame University School of Medicine, Sydney. Born in Baghdad, he fled to Australia as a refugee and embarked on his journey to become an Orthopaedic Surgeon on his release from a detention centre on 26 August 2000.

Paralympic Basketball medallist, Australian Wheelchair Tennis Champion

Dylan Alcott OAM is a Paralympic gold medalist, World Champion, Grand Slam champion and world record holder for both wheelchair basketball and wheelchair tennis. In 2008, Dylan won Gold at the 2008 Beijing Paralympic games at the age of 17, the youngest ever winner of a wheelchair basketball gold medal. In 2013, Dylan switched sports to wheelchair tennis, and in 2015 won his first grand slam title at the Australian Open. Dylan was born with a large tumor wrapped around his spinal cord, leaving him a paraplegic. He is a keen advocate for people with disabilities, and is an ambassador for the charities Starlight Foundation and Variety which help change the lives of kids with disabilities across the country. Dylan is also a music enthusiast, and is well known for his wheelchair crowdsurfing at music festivals.

Oral Historian

Mohmed Bangoura was born into a Griot family in Guinea, West Africa. Griots are the traditional oral historians of Africa. It is their hereditary responsibility to tell and re-tell the stories of their ancestors through music, song and dance. Mohamed started to play at the age of 5 for traditional ceremonies, and became a member and featured soloist of the internationally-acclaimed "Percussion de Guineé" and other National Ballet ensembles based in Conakry. He is described in Guinea as the man with “Hands of Fire”, “the Lion of Matam”, and is regarded by many connoisseurs as one of the best Master Drummer in the world. His life is totally dedicated to music and his traditions; he mesmerizes audiences with his out of this world skills, talent, power and virtuosity. Bangouraké is a true master through initiation and ability.

Death Row lawyer

Richard Bourke works in Louisiana – America's Deep South – as a Death Row lawyer, defending people who are facing or have already received a death sentence.


Tega Brain is an artist working at the intersection of art, ecology and engineering. Creating eccentric engineering, her work reimagines quotidian technologies to address and reveal their politics. Her projects have taken the form of site-specific interventions, dysfunctional devices, experimental infrastructures and information representations. They explore the institutions, technologies and interfaces that shape our relationship with environmental systems. Tega is currently a resident at Eyebeam, the leading art and technology center in the United States. She also teaches at the School for Poetic Computation and at the State University of New York. She was recently awarded a Creative Australia Fellowship for early career artists from the Australia Council for the Arts.


Julian Burnside joined the Bar in 1976 and took silk in 1989. He specialises in commercial litigation and human rights. He acted for the Ok Tedi natives against BHP, for Alan Bond in fraud trials, for Rose Porteous in numerous actions against Gina Rinehart, and for the Maritime Union of Australia in the 1998 waterfront dispute against Patrick Stevedores. He was the Senior Counsel assisting the Australian Broadcasting Authority in the “Cash for Comment” inquiry. He has acted pro bono in many human rights cases, in particular concerning the treatment of refugees. He is passionately involved in the arts. He collects contemporary paintings and sculptures and regularly commissions music. He is Chair of Fortyfive Downstairs and Chair of Chamber Music Australia. He has written a successful children’s book, Matilda and the Dragon (Allen & Unwin) and a book of essays on language and etymology, Wordwatching – field notes from an amateur philologist, (Scribe, 2004). In 2004 he was elected as a Living National Treasure. In 2009 he was made an Officer of the Order of Australia. In 2014 he was awarded the Sydney Peace Prize. He is married to artist Kate Durham.

Editor of the Macquarie Dictionary

Susan Butler is the Editor of the Macquarie Dictionary. After starting out as a research assistant in 1970, she has been at the helm of the dictionary for more than 30 years.

Martial Arts Sensei & champion fighter

Sensei Nadine Champion is a martial artist with almost 30 years experience. An undefeated fighter and inspirational teacher, she is dedicated to applying what she has learned in and out of the boxing ring to transform not only people's physical health but the way they think and feel about themselves.

Nature Conservationist

Chris Darwin is a great great grandson of Charles Darwin. He has a BSc (Hons) in Psychology and Physical Geography. Two of his expeditions were world firsts, the first Round Britain Windsurf expedition and the World’s highest dinner party on top of Peru’s highest mountain – an event that was only marred by the wine freezing and two of the guests getting hypothermia during dessert. He has written two books and taken the photographs for three books. He started the first London bicycle rickshaw company, then worked in advertising, following by 20 years as a mountain guide. He financed the creation of the 68,000 hectare Charles Darwin Reserve in Western Australia, he has raised over $1.3 million for charities and is the Ambassador of Bush Heritage Australia. He has never felt greater love that he does for his wife and three children. His big hairy audacious goal in life is to prevent the Global Mass Extinction of Species. Early in life Chris’ grandmother gave him some advice, ‘If you cannot be first, be peculiar.’ As you will see he took this advice seriously. Image: Bush Heritage Australia

Actor, speaker, cultural advisor

Alec is a descendant of Waanyi, Garawa and Gangalidda tribes from the Aboriginal community of Doomadgee in the Gulf of Carpentaria QLD. He was born and raised on the Waanyi/Garawa Land Trust with his extended family. After many years as a radio announcer, including as part of the National Indigenous Radio Service Sydney Olympics broadcast in 2000, Alec decided to follow his dream to become an actor. Since then, he has starred in numerous television and film productions, notably opposite Leah Purcell in the award-winning drama series Redfern Now on the ABC. In 2013 Alec went on a spiritual “Walkabout” to North America, where he created a pathway between ancient cultures, spending time with the Native Americans in Arizona, South Dakota, Montana and Alberta, Canada. Alec has been working on a feature documentary called “Zach’s Ceremony” for the past 10 years – he promises it’s due out soon!

Director, International Law and Policy, International Committee of the Red Cross

Australian born and raised, Dr Helen Durham is the first woman to head International Law and Policy at the International Committee of the Red Cross.


Sandy Evans OAM is an internationally renowned ARIA award winning saxophonist, composer and music researcher with a passion for improvisation and new music. She has played with and written for some of the most important groups in Australian jazz since the early 1980s and has toured extensively in Australia, Europe, Canada and Asia. In 2014 Sandy received her PhD from Macquarie University for research in Carnatic jazz intercultural music, and a Churchill Fellowship to continue her research in India. Her latest CD, ‘Kapture’, a fusion of jazz and Indian music, is a tribute to South African freedom fighter Ahmed Kathrada. In ‘Transcendent Arc’ she is joined by two of Australia’s leading wind players, James Greening, pocket trumpet and trombone, and Boyd, contrabass clarinet, to explore and celebrate the beauty of breath and melody. Sandy is a lecturer at the Sydney Conservatorium of Music and the University of New South Wales.


Captain Frodo is a third generation showman. He began his career in his father's magic show. Frodo had always been a bendy kid and his first act utilizing his joint popping double jointed skill was being strapped into a child-sized straitjacket in his dad's show. As the assistant to the Great Santini he travelled along the windy mountain roads of Norway. For the last nine years, Frodo has been a core member of La Soiree, who recently won their second Olivier award.

Design Theorist and Philosopher

Tony Fry BA (Hons) Design, MA, PhD Cultural Studies, is a designer, design theorist, cultural theorist, educator and author. He is the creator of The Studio at the Edge of the World, Adjunct Professor, Griffith University, and a contributing editor of the e-journal Design Philosophy Papers. As a consultant, Tony has worked in many areas of design, sustainability and futures for the corporate sector, professional organizations and government. Currently he is working on project in Cairo and with Ibagué University (Colombia) Tony is the author of twelve books, has edited three, has essays in twenty-four collections and has over 200 published articles and conference papers. His book City Future in the Age of a Changing Climate was published in Europe and the USA in October 2014. Currently he is working on a commissioned book on Remaking Cities, based on the concept of ‘Metrofitting’. His books on Design and the Question of History, jointly authored with Clive Dilnot and Susan Steward, and Steel: A Design, Cultural and Ecological History, jointly authored with Anne-Marie Willis were published in early 2015.


Over a career that takes in almost two decades with Dead Can Dance, award-winning movie soundtracks and a series of acclaimed solo and collaborative albums, Lisa Gerrard has established herself as one of Australia's most ground-breaking and in-demand artists. Lisa is a composer, vocalist and instrumentalist. Lisa has recorded nine albums with Dead Can Dance, numerous solo albums and scored countless films. She has collaborated with many of the world’s leading artists such as; Hans Zimmer, Daniel Johns, Ennio Morricone and Russell Crowe.


Michael Hing is a Sydney-based comedian. He is the host of Good Game Well Played, a weekly show made about e-sports and professional gaming for the ABC, as well as the occasional Mid-Dawn on triple j. He has performed at music festivals Falls, Harvest, and Secret Garden, and is the Artistic Director of comedy at Splendour in the Grass.


Alon Ilsar creates visually compelling and futuristic music by grabbing, altering and morphing between sounds on his new 3D timbral Theremin, the AirSticks. This gestural electronic drumkit designed by Ilsar and computer programmer Mark Havryliv also allows the live sampling and manipulation of other live instruments, completely blurring the line between drumming, sound designing and dancing. As an improvising drummer Ilsar ‘brilliantly comments and reflects on the action,’ but as the world’s only AirSticks player he creates ‘freaky-future shit.’ Look out for the release of a new album featuring the AirSticks by Sydney live electronic music act the Sticks.


Jack Ladder (real name Tim Rogers) is a singer / songwriter / composer based in The Blue Mountains, west of Sydney. Since 2005 he has released four albums: Not Worth Waiting For, Love is Gone, HURTSVILLE (the last two shortlisted for the Australian Music Prize) and Playmates. Each album has seen a stylistic shift musically, but always there are his distinct baritone voice, well-honed songwriting craft and an ability to draw the listener into his narratives, holding them there to the end. Backed again by his band The Dreamlanders, Playmates was his most acclaimed album to date, and saw a release in early 2015 by the esteemed label Fat Possum in North America and Japan.


Dr. Daniel Pauly was born in Paris, but he completed his high school and university studies in Germany. After many years at the International Center for Living Aquatic Resources Management (ICLARM), in Manila, Philippines, in 1994 Dr. Pauly became a Professor at the Fisheries Centre of the University of British Columbia (Vancouver, Canada), of which he was the Director from 2003 to 2003. Since 1999, he is also Principal Investigator of the Sea Around Us project, which is devoted to studying documenting and mitigating the impact of industrial fishing on the world’s marine ecosystems. The concepts, methods and software that Dr. Pauly co-developed, documented in over 500 heavily-cited publications, are used throughout the world, following multiple courses and workshops given in four languages on all five continents. This applies especially to the ELEFAN software for fish growth analysis, the Ecopath approach for modelling aquatic ecosystems, FishBase, the online encyclopedia of fishes. This work is recognized in various profiles, notably in Science, Nature and the New York Times, and by numerous awards, notably the International Cosmos Prize (Japan, 2005), the Volvo Environmental Prize, (Sweden, 2006), the Ramon Margalef Prize (Spain, 2008) and the Nierenberg Prize for Science in the Public Interest (US, 2012).

As TED's Fellows Director, Tom created and runs the international TED Fellows program, with 378 Fellows from 86 countries among other responsibilities. He is TED's resident satirist, a role he's played for many years. Rielly found his career passion in personal computing. He recognized early the incredible power of Macs and the Web, co-founding Yale's Macintosh User Group in 1984, then working at SuperMac, Farallon and Voyager. Rielly is perhaps best known for being founder and CEO of PlanetOut, which was the largest digital home for gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender people. He also co-founded the influential nonprofit Digital Queers. At TEDGlobal 2007 in Arusha, Tanzania, Tom met our youngest TED Fellow, Malawian windmill inventor William Kamkwamba, whom he’s subsequented mentored for the last 8 years. Kamkwamba recently graduated from Dartmouth College. With William he founded an NGO, Moving Windmills Project, that works on rural community economic development projects in Malawi.

Toilet supplier

The king of the compost toilet, Hamish Skermer knows a thing or two about how to deal with human waste. The Australian entrepreneur invented his own environmentally friendly dry toilet 15 years ago which has since been used at some of the world’s biggest music festivals including Glastonbury, the Falls and Meredith festivals in Australia.


Charlie Teo is an inspirational neurosurgeon, pushing the boundaries to the point where the medical fraternity shun him. He gives people hope, time and life. Charlie is an internationally acclaimed neurosurgeon and a pioneer in keyhole minimally invasive techniques. He founded the Cure Brain Cancer Foundation (formerly the Cure for Life Foundation) in 2003, which, for the last 10 years, has been the largest funder of brain cancer research in Australia and which supports the Neuro-oncology wing of the Lowy Cancer Centre. As passionate about teaching as performing surgery, Charlie has been awarded Best Teacher awards in both the USA and Australia and devotes three months of every year instructing and doing live surgery pro bono in developing countries. In 2013, he was the first non-politician Australian to address the US Congress on the need for more funding for brain cancer research. Charlie is a father to four beautiful girls, husband to a very understanding wife, Genevieve, and supports the rights of girls and young women in impoverished countries through various charities including the Teo Family Foundation.

Professor of Medieval English Literature

Prof. Stephanie Trigg is Professor of Medieval English Literature at the University of Melbourne. She is also interested in the long afterlife of medieval literature and culture and has published studies on the reading history of Geoffrey Chaucer (Congenial Souls: Reading Chaucer from Medieval to Postmodern) and the cultural history of the Order of the Garter (Shame and Honor: A Vulgar History of the Order of the Garter), as well as her book, Gwen Harwood and her edited collection, Medievalism and the Gothic in Australian Culture. She is a Chief Investigator and one of four program leaders with the Australian Research Council Centre of Excellence for the History of Emotions, and is working on several projects for the centre: a study of the representation of emotion on the human face in English literature; and an affective history of bluestone in Melbourne and Victoria.

A collaboration between Synergy & Lingalayam

In 2014 Australia’s premiere taiko ensemble Taikoz and South Indian Classical dance company Lingalayam presented an 80-minute dance theatre work called Chi Udaka at the Sydney Festival. Their TEDxSydney performance is a snapshot of that work. Entitled Of The Fields, this scene is set on the afternoon of a hot summer’s day. The music and choreography partners – and sometimes pits – dancer against drummer in a display of furiously fleet, fancy foot and stick work. At turns delicate and dramatic, Of The Fields connects the dynamism of Taikoz’ taiko with Lingalayam’s blend of Bharatha Natyam and Kuchipudi dance forms.

Creative Director, Google Creative Lab

Tom Uglow has worked at Google for nearly 8 years, starting Google’s Creative Lab in Europe and, since 2012, building a Creative Lab in Sydney, Australia. His team work on experimental projects that help connect people and that use Google, Android and YouTube's products in creative ways. Previous projects include Hangouts in History, Dream40 with the RSC, buildwithchrome.com, Web Lab, Life in a Day, and the YouTube Symphony Orchestra. Most of his projects are collaborations with charities, agencies and cultural organizations around the world that help artists and creators explore new forms of creative practice using digital tools. Tom speaks on innovation around the world; tweets, posts and blogs on digital creativity; he is a trustee of D&AD and AWARD and has judged, presented, and enthused on TV, online, and in print. He is a Sunday-coder, a traditional creative, and a fuzzy strategist. Occasionally he knits.

Guitarist, Songwirter

Frank Yamma is a traditional Pitjantjatjara man from Australia's central desert and speaks five languages. An extraordinary songwriter and an exceptional guitarist frank has been on the stage since he was nine first performing with his father Isaac Yamma, founder of CAAMA (Central Australian Aboriginal Music Association, Frank Yamma also has an incredible voice, rich, deep and resonant. Regarded by many as one of Australia’s most important Indigenous Songwriters, Yamma’s brutally honest tales of alcohol abuse, cultural degradation, respect for the old law and the importance of country are spine tingling. Frank has the ability to cross cultural and musical boundaries and constantly sets new standards through his music.