The Eighth Dawson Centre Colloquium, Saturday 8 July 2023 



Yes, we have a new home.  The eighth annual Colloquium ill be held at the St Mary’s Cathedral Centre, Harrington Street, Hobart



The cost is $100 per person, concessional rate $80.

Alternatively pay by BPoint here.  If using BPoint, under Biller Code please select ‘Christopher Dawson Centre DONATION’.

Please email special dietary requirements if any.


Mr Kenneth Crowther

The Incoherence of Babel

There is a deep incoherence at the heart of the modern west. Not only should it be plain for all to see, but when seen, it has the power to reveal the emptiness and confusion of many contemporary social and political movements. This paper contends that exposing this incoherence is a vital step often missed in cultural debate. The modern Tower of Babel is built on shoddy foundations; when these foundations are exposed, perhaps the tower might fall. But this approach requires much of us. Firstly, our own foundations must be strong, and our own worldviews must be coherent. Secondly, we must strengthen the foundations of the next generation, because incoherence is inconsequential to the poorly educated. 

Dr Kevin Donnelly

Looking Backward Leads us Forward: the True Nature of Conservatism

One of the tropes used by the cultural-left when denigrating conservatism is to attack it as backward looking, ossified and irrelevant.  At the same time, neo-Marxist inspired activists argue the history of Western civilisation is riven with injustice, oppression and violence against what Edward Said describes as the ‘other’.

The reality, instead of being backward looking and ossified, is that conservatism acknowledges the need to re-evaluate what we have inherited and to appreciate, where necessary, the need for change.  In addition to culture involving ‘the best which has been thought and said in the world’ Matthew Arnold also argues it is important to turn ‘a fresh and free thought upon our stock notions and habits’.  T S Eliot makes a similar point when arguing the need is ‘to maintain the continuity of our culture – and neither continuity, nor respect for the past, implies standing still’.

It’s ironic, while the indigenous welcome to country asks everyone to acknowledge and value ‘traditional custodians’ and ‘elders past and present’, the same respect is not given to the heritage and elders associated with Western civilisation.

Ms Sarah Flynn-O’Dea

What is driving the Rise of the ‘Wokeism’ Phenomenon, and how can we effectively respond?

Western society has undergone an inexorable shift in how we perceive reality. Increasingly, the emphasis is on shaping reality to our will. However, historically, the accurate perception of reality ‘as it is’ was considered the skill of a wiseman. Thus, it could be argued, we have turned our back on wisdom. This presentation will delve into causes and associated consequences of modern worldview, and its associated ‘negative thinking’ and ‘critical theory’ paradigms, with a focus on its impacts in education. I will discuss some of the genealogy and mechanics of woke academia, highlighting the work of Author James Lindsay of the ‘Grievance Studies’ fame and some personal experiences as a ‘woke’ graduate of the 90’s. Additionally, I will outline the principles of Classical Education and argue for its key role in dismantling woke ideology using the popular psychological paradigm of the wellbeing/ human flourishing movement. 

Dr Gerard Gaskin

Truth in Education?

Catholic Education in Australia has experienced five decades of radical change and experimentation, influenced by powerful and pervasive anti-Christian ideologies that have impacted pedagogy and curriculum.  The price has been high and the consequences are grave.  Yet, as always, the pursuit of Truth provides the only antidote.  A complete and comprehensive Catholic education, founded on the person of Christ, steeped in the transcendentals and informed by the best pedagogy and knowledge-rich curriculum frameworks will form Australian students for service and salvation.  Gerard will share how Catholic Education in Tasmania is supporting all our teachers, students and their families on their path to academic and spiritual achievement.

Mrs Karina Hepner

Unhistorical Acts of Everyman: Rising from the Slumber of Inertia

History has repeatedly demonstrated moments where one group has sought to dominate another group’s actions, beliefs and values. From antiquity to the Middle Ages to the twentieth century, some sources have identified these periods as a dark, deadly hour. Today is no different. In this modern climate where individuals fear questioning accepted notions or avoid challenging dominant narratives, how then should they proceed? Much like courageous groups and individuals from the past, often the obscure Everyman, the way forward is to become the hope and be the difference. 

Mr Daniel Lewkovitz

Safety in Numbers – Why Businesses have a Duty to stand up to Authoritarian Politics

Traditionally there were three things one never discussed in the workplace: Sex, Religion and Politics. Over the last decade two of those formally taboo subjects – sex and politics, have not only found their way into the workplace, they’ve become mandatory and highly visible requirements for virtue signalling corporations. Even though this may fly in the face of the third taboo – religion, and workers who previously did not have to contemplate the sexuality of the person sitting next to them at work. It is now inadequate to merely abhor racism or be tolerant of others. The new right-on obligations of businesses are to make what should be unnecessary public statements. That they abhor racism, or that they are committed to saving the planet from apocalyptic global warming all while waving rainbow flags. Never mind the inconvenient fact that – usually when nobody is looking – they outsource their manufacturing to human-rights abusing countries for whom racism, pollution or executing homosexuals is standard practice. Business is business, right?

Increasingly large corporations are subject to ESG (environmental and social governance) scores which affect their ability to trade, borrow and invest. ESG, also known as ‘corporate woke’, ‘social justice’ or a new form of ‘governance’ have become highly valuable tools for companies to cover their other failures and incompetence. 

This needs to stop. However business owners have been cowed into silence. With few exceptions, business owners won’t say in public what they believe in private. They remain silent for fear of being cancelled by a frothing mob and the resultant harm they believe it can cause their companies. But is the threat real?

This presentation will study what really happens when good businesses speak out, and why they must. If you don’t rock the boat you will go down with it.

Dr Fiona Mueller and Dr Deidre Clary

The Place of Debate in Australian Education: Fortifying a Free and Civil Society

Taught well, students can learn to debate important issues in ways that enhance their cognitive, intellectual, linguistic, academic and social skills, with profound advantages for post-school study, work and life, and – ideally – for the nation.  Australian school education is guided by documents such as the Alice Springs (Mparntwe) Declaration (2019). Like its three predecessors, that Declaration identifies an overarching goal of helping young Australians to become ‘active and informed citizens’.  The capacity to debate important issues on the basis of sound research and reason is the essence of a free and civil society.

Active and informed citizens need to appreciate the origins and purpose of critical debate, including the extent to which it reflects the development of Western and Christian values and beliefs such as freedom of speech, individualism, the pursuit of truth, and justice and the rule of law.  The art of debating is not a distinctive feature of the Australian Curriculum, nor is it commonly taught in schools. Few teachers have the expertise and skills to model effective debating or to facilitate the process. 

This paper will focus on the importance of debate and consider current tensions between a knowledge-based curriculum and the so-called 21st century learning agenda.

Archbishop Julian Porteous

The Way of Beauty

In the history of humanity, cultures and the moral structures that underpin them have found their stability in a reference point beyond themselves. They have some form of transcendental foundation. The moral structures have, in their turn, defined the cultures and have been a point of social cohesion.  However, Western societies, whose foundation has been based in Christianity, have now entered a stage of abandoning such a reference point. Replacing the Christian worldview there is now an emphasis on individual moral perceptions alone. 

This paper will explore the cultural shift away from the transcendent. It will consider the rise of the self as the moral point of reference.  It will then propose a path by which people may find a way back to recognising the need for a transcendental point of reference. This is the way of Beauty. 

The paper will consider the thought of Gerard Manly Hopkins, Hans Urs von Balthasar and Joseph Ratzinger and their understanding of the importance of Beauty as the Transcendental that can lead to a discovery of Truth and Goodness, and ultimately of their source in God.

Mr John Roskam

Creating a culture of freedom

‘What just happened to our country?’ is a popular refrain from mainstream Australians.  In the space of what seems like just a few years the cultural landscape of the country has been transformed.  The idea of Australia as a successful liberal democracy is under attack, our history is assaulted, and freedom of thought and religion are threatened in a way unprecedented in recent history.

While what’s occurring appears to have come upon us suddenly it has been decades in the making.  Critiques of the tenets of liberal democracy in the form of ideologies such as critical race theory, the cultural relativism of postcolonial theory, and the nihilism of postmodernism have been allowed to take hold of our civic institutions unchallenged.  The false assumption that Australians are a ‘practical’ and ‘pragmatic’ people has blinded conservatives to the reality of the change in our culture.   Creating a culture of freedom requires us to comprehend what’s taken place, accept responsibility for our role in allowing it to happen and then renewing a commitment to creating a culture of freedom.

Mr Alex Sidhu

The Denial of Objective Reality Constitutes and Existential Threat to our Society

The denial of the biological reality of human beings constitutes an existential threat to the future of our society. All politics is based on some particular controversial conception of the human person, (there is no neutrality) while there has always been disagreement over exactly how we should understand the nature and purpose of human existence, increasingly these conceptions are detached from the biological reality of human life. This is a very serious development the full implication of which have not been properly understood. 

Prof Ramesh Thakur

Wokism risks the descent of the West into Nihilism

Like the Overton Window of political possibilities, the ‘opinion corridor’ channels the range of acceptable speech. Step outside it and professional offence archaeologists will dedicate themselves full-time to investigation, mob denunciation and cancellation. This is where the power of the woke mob comes from. The pursuit of social justice animated by group rights and an expanding victimhood hierarchy and grievance industry has become a war on truth, science, facts, merit and achievement. The ‘increasingly hegemonic set of ideologies’ has infiltrated and captured the classroom, boardroom, public institutions and newsroom and morphed into cancel culture. It has been corrupted into a full-frontal assault on the values of empirical science, rationalism, and objective truth; and on the great social, cultural, literary and artistic progress made under the impact of the Enlightenment in exploring the full range of human emotions that originated in Europe. Criticism, ridicule, sarcasm, an alternative point of view to the orthodoxy – all these today can be interpreted by someone, somewhere, on some occasion, as microaggression, hate speech, making them feel unsafe, etc.

Yet, underlying prejudices, injustices, resentments and bigotry are not addressed by arresting and cancelling people, but by being confronted with evidence, data and logic. 

The Enlightenment taught us to reject inherited traits to assess people’s worth, potential, dignity and value; to focus instead on their character, behaviour and accomplishments. Wokedom turns that on its head to insist that everything and everyone must be judged on their pigmentation and gender attributes, that every disadvantage of rank and income is the result of systemic privileges and discrimination. It is the degenerate prodigy of political correctness. Ideas that once seemed crazy but harmless, have captured culture- and economy-defining institutions. No one is responsible for what s/he himself did, but we are all responsible for what somebody else did decades and even centuries in the past.

This Manichean framing is erroneous and dangerous. We cannot have a society or constitute a community without a multitude of shared frames of reference and patterns of action. This is why the claim that subjective feeling and self-affirming identity must be given legal recognition and protection is an existential threat to society itself. And, because it is limited to Western societies, it is an existential threat to Western society. The control of language is crucial, with the wholesale banning of perfectly good words and their replacement with bizarre and ugly substitutes. The debate on language is not an argument about human rights, but over truth and science versus lies and dogma. The fightback must also begin with decolonising language from the Empire of the Woke.