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Australia's got real talent

By John Töns - posted Thursday, 20 February 2014

Our pre-occupation with programmes like Australia's got Talent, the X factor and the like seems to be selling us short. Just in case television producers read OLO this is a pitch for a programme that celebrates and promotes our hidden talents.

Whilst I have no problems with unearthing the next big thing in popular culture what would happen if we expanded the format to showcase emerging talents in the sciences, mathematics, engineering, medicine and the like?

I do have an ulterior motive in suggesting such a show. For many years now politicians on both sides of the political fence have found education an easy, soft target to attack. Starting with John Dawson's 'reforms' we have had over the past thirty years or so a general devaluing of the important contribution that a university education makes to the quality of life that we all enjoy.


In the lead up to the last federal election questions were raised about the appropriateness of spending research funds on esoteric fields that seemed to have no relevance to our daily lives. Few of us demurred, instead I suspect that many would have questioned the value of some of the research that was being funded and felt that the money could be better spent on something that was of more practical use.

I suspect that part of the reason that education is such a soft target is that the vast majority of us are disconnected from the world of research, we have little knowledge of what is being achieved and we have few contemporary heroes. Without heroes aspiration to achieve is stunted. Kids can dream of getting a recording contract or becoming a sporting hero. They can see merit in spending hours perfecting their skills at a particular sport but see little merit in doing the hard yards to master any of the academic subjects.

But if we consider the challenges that we face – there is a need to celebrate our successes, there is a need to identify the talent that we do have. Arguably this is in being done. The ABC promotes the Eureka awards but the key point of difference between the Eureka Awards and Australia's got talent is that the public gets to vote. The New Inventors was perhaps the closest that we had to an Australia's got Talent type programme.

So what could an open ended Australia's got Talent programme look like? Start with public auditions – you would have a set of judges and an audience and people would be invited to come in and make a three minute pitch for what ever they were working or had produced. These public auditions would be transmitted online and the online audience plus the audience available in the studio would be able to determine who should be part of the final show. Once we have identified the top 100 a series of tv programmes would be made to whittle that 100 down to just one winner.

The payoff for all of us from such a show would be that we would get a better understanding of the contribution education makes to all of our lives. It would encourage young people to see that the contributions that these various people make are valued and that it is worth their while to invest time and effort at achieving excellence in whatever they filed that captures their interest.

I started out by saying that this is a pitch for a particular type of Australia's got talent. By posting it here I am inviting comment but before any of you make a comment think on this.


There is no need to comment along the lines 'no-one would watch it" or "They will never do it" – lets just take that as read – it costs money to put any show together and I am sure that before this gets off the ground someone will do the market research.

However, if you see a skerrick of merit in the idea why not make your own suggestions of how this could be done? Even better if you have come across some brilliant work that is being done why not promote it here? If you do not like my solution why not come up with one of your own that enables to celebrate our talent?

But perhaps you are sceptical of the idea itself. Then consider this. The death of our manufacturing sector has been in the news. However, if one were to make a list of Australian inventions that are being manufactured overseas because no-one in Australia was willing to take a punt, because governments do not believe in 'picking winners' you would quickly find that one of the reasons manufacturing is in such dire straits is because some of our best inventions have been sold to overseas interests are now being manufactured overseas.

So how can we make this happen. This article is but a first tentative step. The next step is to determine whether or not people who read OL have an interest in seeing something like this happen – one way to gauge this is by the number of unique comments in favour of something along these lines is generated. If all that is positive then I am confident that someone, somewhere in Australia will take it to the next step. But in the first instance you wll need to decide whether or not we should do more to get public recognition for the broad range of talent that we do have in this country of ours.

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About the Author

John Töns is President of the Zero Carbon Network a network established to promote clear thinking about the issues associated with climate change. In addition to operating the only zero carbon boarding kennels in South Australia he is also completing a PhD at Flinders University in the area of Global Justice. John is a founding member of a new political party Stop Population Growth Now.

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