A Conversation on Breaking Barriers with TEDxTownsville

A Conversation on Breaking Barriers with TEDxTownsville

By Kathleen Varghese

Our theme this year is Breaking Barrierswith TEDxTownsville 2016 being about overcoming obstacles and shining a light on what is holding our community back. To explore further, we spoke with Kylie Bartlett, Founder, Women of Achievement, Maddy Voinea, TV Producer, and Renee Turner, Co-curator, TEDxTownsville about what they think are the barriers facing Townsville, and how we can break them down.


Let’s start with the positives, what are the things Townsville has going for it?

RENEE: Tropical north Queensland is the most beautiful part of Australia and we are fortunate enough to live here. Our lifestyle is second to none and the emerging industries within Townsville such as tech and the innovation/start-up space are truly exciting.

MADDY: Public spaces projects such as The Strand and Riverway are great! Fantastic outdoor lifestyle and a great place to raise a family. I prefer the opportunities of a small town over the competition of a large city.

We may be regional in so many respects, but this is also our strength. / KYLIE


What barriers do you think Townsville needs to break?

MADDY: The size of the economy and population is still too small to be self-sustaining, which means the local economy is greatly impacted by two or three main industries. So when mining takes a hit, everyone feels it. The Townsville business community needs to continue to encourage population growth, make a concerted effort to growth hack the local economy and to spend money locally, especially council spending.

Townsville is a significant distance from other capital cities, and this does deter people from settling here long term. I think we can use technology/online services to create opportunities for high-skilled workers that are wanting to live here. Townsville’s population is less diverse than those of other Australian cities. I think this has contributed to certain sectors in the market becoming crowded—we’re all covered for gyms—and other sectors, like specialties, almost non-existent or struggling. 

Having a multi-ethnic, diverse demographic brings new opportunities for innovation and job creation. / MADDY

KYLIE: We are far more resourceful and resilient than most, yet a fixed mindset can be a huge barrier to future growth. I admire those locals who have a growth mindset. They understand that our abilities can be developed and this challenges the notion that we only have a certain amount of talent or funds. They think on a global level and understand the importance of networks.

There is room for all of us to rise to the top. / KYLIE

I often see individuals and business owners caught up in the fear of competition, and some go to grave lengths to be more concerned about what others are doing. Imagine investing the same energy into collaborating or working on a distinctive brand. The power of the collective is far more than that of the individual.

I have met so many people who have a brilliant idea, who really have a vested interest in elevating the city—and are met time and again with blocks—blocks for sustainable funding, blocks at council, blocks as the result of systems that are operating at a glacial pace. The corporate sector has a significant capacity to enact and accelerate change much faster than traditional pipelines. When the corporate world and small businesses invest in innovation and a diverse talent pool, that is when Townsville will really shine.

When doors close, create a window yourself. Don’t wait for an opportunity to knock, make it happen. / RENEE

Are we an accepting community, and how can we better ourselves?

MADDY: I moved to Townsville six years ago and as a professional I have found that it is a very friendly and accepting community with good opportunities for entrepreneurs. But I have met many locals who are afraid of change. Population growth equals change.

KYLIE: I’ve had so many positive experiences, however, being a local for most of my life I can say it has not always been that way. I get really sick of people asking where I went to school, and whether I know this or that person. Founder of Women for Women International, Zainab Salbi shares this sentiment, “A person’s beginning should never determine their end.” I want to be around people who use their voice to actively disrupt and accelerate positive change. Enough voices have the capacity to break the system.  

RENEE: There are so many wonderful hidden treasures in this city, and these are the people who contribute to community. Unearthing these gems is what TEDxTownsville is all about. It’s about creating an opportunity for anyone to share an idea, and become part of something that merely accepts people for who they are and their willingness to enrich society through action.

Through conscious awareness and collaboration, we plant the seed to acceptance. / RENEE

With an event like TEDxTownsville comes the opportunity to give voice to new and powerful ideas, and that remains the number one goal. How will the audience act on the ideas they hear on stage? Which of those ideas will spark a new theory, product or solution? The possibilities and potential impact are limitless. This year, we’re focussing on micro impacts—small actions and pieces of knowledge that can easily be integrated into our everyday lives and that contribute towards creating a future we want to belong to.

Note: This interview has been edited and condensed.