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Australia's Turning Point

22 January 2022
4.30pm – 5.45pm AEDT
Sydney Town Hall
Illustration of hands reaching out and holding onto Australia

Sarah Dingle | Stan Grant | Peter Hartcher | Emma Johnston 

What defines Australia in 2022? We’ve always pinned our identity on land and sea. As an island full of unique animals and home to the oldest living culture in the world, we’ve lived off the land one way or another – be it from bush tucker or mining the minerals in our red earth. But as our environment suffers, and pressures from the outside world and our biggest trading partner China loom, we are at a turning point.  

At the heart of our identity the Uluru process – so pivotal and full of potential – remains unrealised, the Great Barrier Reef is in grave danger, and koala populations are heading towards extinction. Can we resolve our relationship with our Indigenous people? Can we save our environment? Can we adapt to changing global power dynamics?  

Walkley award-winning journalist Sarah Dingle chairs this critical discussion on national identity and action, drawing on perspectives from journalists Peter Hartcher and Stan Grant, and marine biologist Emma Johnston, before comedian Dan Ilic closes proceedings with his unique take on what we can all do to save Australia. 

The Reckoning is presented by the UNSW Centre for Ideas and Sydney FestivalUNSW Sydney is the Education Partner of Sydney Festival. 


General Public
Standard – $25 + booking fees
Concession – $22 + booking fees

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Australia's Turning Point is presented as both a ticketed, in person audience event at Sydney Town Hall (tickets available above), and as a livestream event via Sydney Festival's AT HOME digital program. Livestream registration information to be announced in the coming weeks. 


Please read the COVID-19 visitor safety information prior to registering for this event. Check back closer to the event date as information is frequently updated. Information can be found here.


Wheelchair Accessible
Sydney Town Hall’s accessible entrance is via the Druitt St (opposite the Queen Victoria Building). Accessible unisex toilet facilities are available on each publicly accessible floor of the building. If you require assistance when visiting the building, please contact Sydney Town Hall to discuss your requirements on 02 9265 9282. 

Hearing Loop
Centennial Hall (both levels) is fitted with a hearing loop system.

This event will be captioned via the GoTheatrical! mobile app.

Other Access Services
Please email to request additional access services 


Sydney Festival 
To book tickets and for event enquiries, please call Sydney Festival on +61 2 8248 6500 or email

UNSW Centre for Ideas
For UNSW Centre for Ideas enquiries, please call + 61 2 9065 0485 or email

National Relay Service
The Centre for Ideas and Sydney Festival are happy to receive phone calls via the National Relay Service. 

Stan Grant

Stan Grant

Stan Grant is a Wiradjuri and Kamilaroi man. A journalist since 1987, he has worked for the ABC, SBS, the Seven Network and Sky News Australia. From 2001 to 2012, he worked for CNN as an anchor and senior correspondent in Asia and the Middle East. As a journalist, he has received a string of prestigious international and Australian awards. In 2015, he published his bestselling book Talking to My Country, which won the Walkley Book Award, and he also won a Walkley Award for his coverage of Indigenous affairs. In 2016, he was appointed to the Referendum Council on Indigenous recognition. Stan is now Chair of Indigenous/Australian Belonging at Charles Sturt University and International Affairs Analyst at the ABC. Stan’s newest book is With the Falling of the Dusk

Peter Hartcher

Peter Hartcher

Peter Hartcher is a leading Australian journalist and author. He is the political editor and international editor of The Sydney Morning Herald and The Age. He is the papers’ main commentator on national politics and international affairs. He is also a visiting fellow at the leading Australian think tank on foreign affairs, the Lowy Institute for International Policy. He has been writing about politics, economics and international affairs for nearly 40 years, including a decade as a foreign correspondent in Tokyo and Washington. His first book was a pathbreaking study of Japan’s Ministry of Finance and its economic dysfunction, The Ministry, published by Harvard Business School Press in 1988. His new book is Red Zone: China’s Challenge and Australia’s Future. Francis Fukuyama has described it as “clear eyed and utterly frightening”. 

Emma Johnston Headshot

Emma Johnston

Professor Emma Johnston AO is a marine scientist at UNSW Sydney and a national advocate for improved environmental management and conservation. Emma studies human impacts in the oceans including pervasive threats such as climate change, plastic pollution, and invasive species. Emma conducts her research in diverse marine environments from the Great Barrier Reef to icy Antarctica and provides management recommendations to industry and government. In recognition of her contributions to environmental science, communications, and management, Emma has received numerous awards including the Australian Academy of Science’s Nancy Millis Medal, the Royal Society of New South Wales Clark Medal, the Eureka prize for Science Communication, and in 2018 she was made an Officer of the Order of Australia (AO). She is immediate past President of Science & Technology Australia, a current Board Member of the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority and Co-Chief Author of the Australian Government’s State of Environment Report 2021. Emma is a high-profile science communicator and television presenter for the ongoing BBC/Foxtel series, Coast Australia and has appeared multiple times on ABC CatalystThe Drum and Q&A. Emma is currently Dean of Science and Professor of Marine Ecology and Ecotoxicology at UNSW Sydney. 

Image of Sarah Dingle

Sarah Dingle | Chairperson

Sarah Dingle is a dual Walkley Award-winning investigative reporter and presenter with the ABC, working across radio and TV current affairs. She has investigated everything from indigenous affairs and human rights to defence and sport. Her work has also won the Walkley Foundation’s Our Watch award for reporting on violence against women and children, the UN Media Peace Prizes, the Amnesty Media Prizes, the Voiceless Media Prize, and the Australian College of Educators Media prize. Her radio documentaries for the ABC’s Background Briefing have been recognised by the Australian Human Rights Commission, the Australian Sports Commission Awards and the National Press Club. In 2010 she was the ABC's Andrew Olle Scholar. In 2021 she released her first book, Brave New Humans.

Dan Ilic

Dan Ilic | Performer

Dan Ilic is one of Australia’s most prolific comedic voices. Dan recently returned home after working in Los Angeles as the Executive Producer of Comedy for pop culture, satire and news network, Fusion. Dan has been making television in Australia for over ten years. His credits include Tonightly with Tom BallardAustralia’s Funniest Home VideosThe Olympic ShowThe Ronnie Johns Half HourThe MansionHungry BeastHamster WheelCan of WormsThe Feed as well as being a regular on comedy panel shows and news magazine programs. 

In 2021, Ilic spearheaded the JokeKeeper: Shaming Australia’s climate inaction fundraiser which has collected more than $145,000 and is dedicated to using “subversive comedy to ridicule fossil fuel supporting parties in the upcoming federal election”.