The Stuff of Dreams


Walk with the dreamers, the believers, the courageous, the cheerful, the planners, the doers, the successful people with their heads in the clouds and their feet on the ground. Let their spirit ignite a fire within you to leave this world better than when you found it.

      – Wilfred Peterson

Twenty such people took the stage in front of a 1,200 strong sellout crowd at the Melbourne Convention & Exhibition Centre on Friday 14 August 2015 for the Annual TEDxMelbourne event, “The Stuff of Dreams”.  Storytellers, luminaries, artists and adventurers told tales of courage, invention, and exploration. They shared inspiring hopes and visions for humanity and our local community.

The plenary theatre in Melbourne was bursting at the seams with so many ideas worth spreading, making the task of writing this story a very difficult one, so this is a snapshot of five that really resonated with me.

In a stellar openingDr Maithri Goonetilleke (founder of NGO Possible Dreams International, medical doctor and author) told stories from the mountains of Swaziland where there is the highest prevalence of AIDS in the world.  He’s spent much of the past decade delivering medical services and poverty alleviation programs, providing housing, clean water, agricultural programs, reintegration into community and “the healing balm of music into lives of sufferers”.  In that ten years they saw they had succeeded where medicine had failed.  He talked about health as being more than the absence of disease and the need to integrate body, mind and spirit, and the right of every person to dream:

There’s more to health than medicine, we need to re-imagine medicine. We need to look at the larger picture of health…

It’s (dreaming) not restricted to a privileged few, it’s a sovereign right of every human being . Each of us is an artist of dreams capable of putting a story forward.  To love a seed into bloom, a womb into healing, love the world into change.

George Bej

George Bej talked of constant disruption as a chronic condition infringeing upon every part of our existence and the need to disrupt interruptions in our lives or fail what we set out to achieve as teams, businesses and families.

“We are in a perpetual state of over communication,” said George, who went on to present some fascinating stats:

  • We are interrupted roughly every 8 minutes – that’s 50 to 60 distractions a day!
  • Each distraction takes around 10 minutes to resolve – that’s 8 hours we need  to deal with the distractions and an extra 4 hours to achieve what we need to.
  • 109 billion emails per day 48% are deleted in 3.2 seconds because messages aren’t valued by the recipient, and 28% of our day is in our inbox, with 15 checks per day .George Bej TED

It sounds like complete and utter madness, doesn’t it?  What’s the answer?  Reduce the number of emails you send, disable alerts (“you are inviting world to interrupt you” says, George), check your emails only twice per day and challenge the status quo.

You have an obligation to disrupt. Nonsense in your world is preventing you from realising your dreams.

Create time and space to do things that matter. We are the most evolved species on earth, isn’t it time we started acting like it?


Professor Andrew MacLeod
 gave a compelling talk about his vision for Melbourne to be the world’s great cultural translator.  He had us all marvelling in wonder as he described his love of Melbourne and the uniqueness of the crowd at the MCG as the ideal example of humanity on the earth today – where else in the world can you find such an example of all socio-economic groups and religions, coming together in such a way without violence?

Melbourne has been voted the world’s most liveable city for the fifth year running, and we have one of the most culturally diverse communities in the world but how many of us see that as a great opportunity, with everything else going on in the world today?

Andrew highlighted a once in epoch shift that is occurring from the white Anglo-Saxon Christian world towards the Asian Buddhist Hindu – Islamic world and many of us see that as a threat.  He talked about the cost of our fear and the perception of Australia on the world stage as unwelcoming, and a fickle and unreliable trading partner, for the way we have handled issues of international importance, like live cattle exports and asylum seekers.

“Imagine if there was a country that had the ideal cultural mix: Muslims, Jews, Atheists, Hindus, Christians; perceived by everyone as someone they can trust, the hinge through which the epochal shift can pass,” said Andrew.

He continued:

When our leaders lose sight of what is right, we the people, have the power and responsibility to enforce that which must be changed.

“The world doesn’t need another country to cringe away from, it needs a hinge.  This is the ideal time.”

We can be the great cultural translator. Don’t squander for the sake of short term politics.  The window for this opportunity is closing rapidly.  It can be this country that is the hinge, not the cringe. That is the thing of my dreams.


Robert Lee Davis
Robert Lee Davis gave the artist’s view on why we don’t finish things.  He shared heartbreaking and deeply personal experiences of the challenges he faced as a teenager with debilitating scoliosis, of going into cardiac arrest, and months of rehab which meant giving up on his dream of going to college.  Robert said:

We put our dreams on hold because of fear of failure, embarrassment, family circumstances. We don’t finish things when we’re not passionate or on purpose. Unfinished pieces are part of the learning process. Some pursuits will be finished. Some will not. Either can be okay.

As if Robert hadn’t already experienced his fare share of life’s challenges, he was also in Malaysia at the time of the Boxing Day 2004 tsunami.  Describing the experience he said:

“The tide receded as quickly as it came in, taking away anything that wasn’t chained down, giving way  to a new way of being.”

From that point on, Robert’s art became personal and deeply vulnerable.

Every one of us is an unfinished landscape evolving into the wonderful work of art that we are intended to be. We all have uncompleted stuff, and dreams that make us who we are.


Well done to John Yeo, curator and franchisee of TEDx Melbourne, his team and all twenty speakers for an outstanding event.

TED is a non-profit organisation committed to ideas worth spreading.  The annual TED conference in the US brings together world leaders, thinkers and innovators to give the talk of their life, in 18 minutes or less.  There are eight independently organised TEDx events every day in more than 145 countries and they are viewed online two million times per day.  It is, in a nutshell, the launching platform for the world’s great speakers.

To find out more about TEDxMelbourne head to



Zara is a healthy home coach and keynote speaker on a mission to empower 1 million people to takes steps towards a healthier home. Zara learned about the link between our homes and our health after going through two different types of cancer. Zara is passionate about shining the spotlight on what she believes to be the least understood health challenges of our time, and sharing the things she wishes she had known, that could have prevented the illnesses she has been through. Recognised as one of Australia’s leading health influencers, Zara was a finalist in the 2014 Bupa Health Influencer of the Year Awards. She has appeared on TEN News, Today Show and The Project, been featured in the Herald Sun, I Quit Sugar, and contributed Medibank’s Be. Magazine and Fairfax health online publications. Zara contributed to the National Breast Cancer Foundation’s first comprehensive report on breast cancer in young women in Australia.

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