Fourth Common Dreams Conference, Brisbane, Australia, September 2016

Fourth Common Dreams Conference, Brisbane, Australia, September 2016

The conference title was Progressive Spirituality – New Directions.  PCN Britain’s chair, Adrian Alker, was invited to represent PCN at this triennial gathering of progressives from the South Pacific region. 

As well as a report on the conference from Adrian, this article contains links to audio recordings and transcripts of all the speakers.

Adrian Alker writes: Church attendance is rather higher in Australia than it is in the UK. A higher percentage of students are educated in Christian schools, colleges and universities. As in the US, it is not unusual to find Australian churches with well resourced social programmes.

Although not the largest denomination in Australia, a majority of those who attended the conference were from the Uniting Church of Australia. In all there were 350 delegates. The demographic was largely 40+. However, there seemed to be a greater number in the 40-60 range than I’d expect to find at a UK progressive conference.

It was race riots in Sydney in 2005 which spurred a group of like-minded people to come together and hold the first Common Dreams conference in 2007. From the start they invited speakers from across the world to join in. I am grateful to both the Common Dreams organising committee and to PCN Britain for their sponsorship of my attendance. My own speaking contribution was during the elective phase of the conference when I gave a lecture/workshop on the subject of my recent book, Is A Radical Church Possible? 80 people came.

All the conference proceedings are available online in audio format. Transcripts have been added and you can download both on the Common Dreams Website. You will also find some photos that I took in our Common Dreams picture gallery.

In addition, one of our members, Chris Loten, has started a discussion thread about the Common Dreams Conference in the PCN Online Forum. Should you have any difficulty accessing the audio of the talks using the link above, you’ll find that Chris has kindly provided direct links to all the main speeches in his Forum thread.

I would particularly recommend the talks by Val Webb and Diana Butler Bass. One particular joy was to spend time with Marianne Borg who spoke movingly of Marcus as a prologue to Diana’s lecture. Marianne is still seeking advice as to how best to direct the work of a foundation in Marcus’s honour and PCN Britain might be able to offer some ideas and support in this regard.

The closing address by David Felton (Living the Questions interviewer), was powerful and witty and was for me the highlight.


1 On 27/10/2016 Chris in Ledbury wrote:

Thanks, Adrian.

Glad to hear that the conference went so well. I was interested in your comments concerning the attendee demographics. You mentioned that most were AUS attendees were 40+ and more were 40-60 than is usual in the UK. Can I infer that most PCN UK event attendees are 60+? Helpful to know.

It would also be worthwhile to share reactions to the conferences speeches. I agree that the talks from Val, Diana and David were highlights. I will try to post my thoughts on those in the forum. If others can join in, please do.


2 On 27/10/2016 Sarah Guilfoyle wrote:

Hi Chris, the Membership Survey is still open, but from the 200+ responses that I have received I can tell you that most of those who have responded are over 60. Once we have the final results we’ll be sharing them via Progressive Voices and possibly online as well. The final format hasn’t yet been decided.

Best, Sarah

3 On 27/10/2016 Chris in Ledbury wrote:

Thanks Sarah, that’s really helpful.

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