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Meridian 180 explores issues of 'Trust and Distrust' at UNSW launch

Meridian 180 Explores Issues of 'trust and Distruct' at UNSW Launch

Meridian 180 has been officially launched at UNSW Sydney - as a platform for people to connect across disciplines and languages.

Former foreign affairs minister The Hon. Julie Bishop delivered a keynote speech to an audience of nearly 200 at the inaugural event which focused on the theme of Trust and Distrust.

Meridian 180, founded in 2012 in the wake of the deadly earthquake and tsunami in Japan, is a multilingual forum made up of more than 800 scholars, business leaders, community organisers and policy makers from around the world to discuss critical issues of the day.

UNSW has become Meridian 180's first base in the southern hemisphere and will now play its role in developing new solutions to pressing global problems.

Professor Annelise Riles, the founder and director of Meridian 180 said at the launch event: “It is so exciting for us to be here at UNSW Sydney.

“After the terrible earthquake and tsunami in Japan a lot of people were asking: 'How can this have happened? How could we have stopped this disaster?'

“We then started to have a conversation about the doubts we had about what we thought we knew and what were the blind spots in our previous methods.

“The issues and problems were a result of silo thinking and there was a disconnect between disciplines that was costing lives. We knew another crisis would eventually come and we wanted to feel we'd done everything in our power to help us be prepared.

“The goal of Meridian 180 is for all sectors of society to come together and be open-minded to all points of view to help channel new ideas in a creative way.”

Professor of Law and Academic Director of the newly established Meridian 180 base at UNSW, Fleur Johns, said: “Curiosity is what drives Meridian 180.

“We want to enable people to work together on very important issues, even if they would never have crossed paths and even if they do not share a common language.”

Bishop, who was Deputy Leader of the Liberal Party from 2007 to 2018, spoke at length at the launch event about the importance of trust in diplomacy, highlighting numerous examples from her time as foreign affairs minister – including Australian relations with Indonesia, Fiji, and Russia that all came under strain in recent years.

“Enabling peace and security only comes about through relationships between nations. And relationships between nations must be built on trust and respect,” she explained.

“And individual governments can only deliver peace if the people trust their government to do the right thing. But trust between nations and governments and people is in short supply at the moment. There is a trust deficit around the world.

“For Australia to reach its potential, and for Australia to continue to be an influential voice in our region and globally, we need to build trust. We need to embrace trust in all our relationships. And that is a never ending task.”

Four insightful 'conversation' sessions followed the keynote talks which provided a taste of the Meridian 180 concept, exploring topics such as trust in technology platforms, trust in professional advisors and trust in science and finally trust and hope. The conversations featured the likes of Airtasker co-founder and CEO Tim Fung, Asialink CEO Penny Burt, NSW Government's chief data scientist Dr Ian Oppermann and former Chief Scientist of Australia Prof Ian Chubb AC.