The following was written by Tesla Kavanagh, the National Communications Director of Australia and New Zealand Students for Liberty.
On July 5th 2014, Australia and New Zealand Students for Liberty held our first ever Regional Conference at RMIT University in Melbourne, Australia. With 47 attendees from over 11 different institutions and faculty backgrounds, the event was a resounding success for our first regional conference.
The weekend featured academic and student speakers alike, covering topics from the regulatory state to the drug war; left-libertarianism to freedom of speech; internet censorship to the market for sex. We were graced with the support of Professor Jason Potts of RMIT University’s Economics Department; Dr. Julie Novak, Senior Fellow with the Institute of Public Affairs; Chris Berg, Policy Director of the Institute of Public Affairs; Simon Breheny, Director of the Legal Rights Project and 2014 Young Libertarian of the Year (ALSFC); and Tim Wilson, Human Rights ‘Freedom’ Commissioner with the Australian Federal Government.
Saturday morning started with the simplest of questions from Professor Jason Potts: “What is the end goal of libertarianism?” “Freedom!” the room echoed, myself included. Potts laughs, flicks the slide over, and shows us that this is exactly the answer he was expecting. “Freedom is the answer appealing to under 35’s” … but freedom is merely the mechanism we use to achieve our end goal. The real end-goal, that we all should work towards, that we should share with others to promote our means and mechanisms, is building a society we want to be in. In that society, spontaneous order is the centrepiece.
But we wanted to do more than have amazing names speaking ‘at’ our attendees since workshops, skill training, and student engagement mark core aspects of being a member of Students for Liberty’s Charter Teams. Topher Field, liberty communications professional, opened a dialogue about how we can communicate the message of liberty in media. “The left woke up a long time ago to the power of popular culture, and it’s time we did too.”
We were lucky enough to have Yaël Ossowski, Program Manager for European Students For Liberty, join us as a panelist on ‘SFL Clubs for Dummies’– teamed with ANZSFL Vice President (Australia) Rachel Connor, and ANZSFL Treasurer Lara Jeffery, the trio introduced us to common problems experienced when leading a SFL team on campus, and had a hands-on engagement with team problem solving and possible solutions to the experiences that some of our Charter Team Leaders have had.
Attendee students were also encouraged to network with their interstate colleagues during ‘Liberty on the Rocks’ Friday Night, a pizza and drinks event on the Saturday Night (generously provided for by the Civic Group), and Sunday night farewell drinks at Federation Square, held in conjunction with the 2014, Australia and New Zealand Students for Liberty held our Australian Liberal Students Federation’s Conference opening drinks. Building a sense of community and support regardless of geographical location was a core goal of ours in organizing the conference. We organized scholarships to cover flight costs for Western Australian and New Zealand Students with the Mannkal Group, and students unable to attend were engaged online via our Facebook, Twitter and Tumblr tag #ANZSFLC.
Additionally, we expanded the networking opportunities for our student attendees by inviting liberty-community names and local organizations to engage with our attendees by 1) providing material in our ‘goodie bags’, and 2) attending as tabling guests on Sunday afternoon. Our goodie bags featured publications and information from the Institute of Public Affairs, the Centre for Independent Studies, the Australian Sex Party, the Liberal Democratic Party, Freedom Goat, and our own publication: Liberty, 2014. The tabling session involved representatives from the IPA, the Smokers Rights Party, the Australian Sex Party, the Liberal Democratic Party, Australian Liberal Students Federation, and Drug Law Reform Australia being available for informal Q&A with attendees on Sunday afternoon.
Saturday afternoon marked our organization’s first Annual General Meeting, with ratification of our Constitution, and election of our 2014 Executive Team. Austen Erickson was re-elected as ANZSFL President; Rachel Connor as Vice President (Australia); Aidan Carter as Vice President (New Zealand); Kerrod Gream as Secretary; Lara Jeffery as Treasurer; Tesla Kavanagh as Communications Director; and Nick Umashev joined us as a General Executive. Our outgoing General Executive John Humphreys is owed a special mention for all his work with us during the first half of 2014, and we are sure he will continue his great work while being engaged with ANZSFL in a membership and team leading capacity.
The new executive team is thrilled to have been elected and looks forward to serving as a network for communication, support and resource production for Students for Liberty teams across Australia and New Zealand. In the words of ANZSFL Secretary Kerrod Gream, “We’ve got to have a supportive attitude. Doing what we do, it’s easy to get pessimistic. But we have to keep fighting, we have to keep supporting each other, to be able to go to each other.” It is this support, this ongoing engagement and sense of inclusion and community that made the Australia and New Zealand Regional Conference an absolute pleasure to run and attend.