Public Program

There was a large public participation program linked with the Congress.  The program touched on a wide range of topics that impacted, fascinated or concerned members of the public.  The program was engaging, creative, and stimulated dialogue. 

Details of all public program events appear below, however if you wish to view information on one particular event you can click the event name below to be taken straight to their event page.

I am not my chromosomes - the science of sex differences (this event was held Monday 29 May)
Jurassic Park 3D - (this event was held Thursday 22 June)
Celebrating Science & Faith at St Paul's - An Evensong Worship Service - (this event was held Sunday 16 July)
Women in Science – Unique Journeys to Different Peaks - (this event was held Monday 17 July)
Origins - (this event was held Tuesday 18 July)
Genetics vs Sport - (this event was held Wednesday 19 July)
Future Forums: The Genetic Rescue of Our Fantastic Beasts - (this event was held Wednesday 19 July)
Population DNA screening for disease risk is coming – what you need to know - (this event was held Thursday 20 July)
The Scientific & Spiritual Human - (this event was held Saturday 22 July)


Monday 29 May 2023

6-7pm Monday May 29 
Science Gallery, 700 Swanston Street, Melbourne 

"Are they a girl or a boy?" That question is often asked of expecting parents almost out of habit. 

But biology is far more complicated and more interesting. 

Some of us are born with variations in sexual development, also known as intersex conditions. 

Members of the public joined us for a powerful, compassionate, and open dialogue between trailblazers - scientists, people with lived experience, clinicians, and more. 

Our experts untangled the confusing maze of sex, hormones, biology, medicine, and the law ... and explored our evolving understanding of sex differences. 

Hosted by Natasha Mitchell, presenter of ABC Radio National's Big Ideas program and podcast. You can listen to the program made from this event here or on the ABC Listen app (within Australia) or on your favourite podcast app (not yet on Spotify)

You can join a moderated discussion here.
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Thursday 22 June 2023
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Members of the public had the opportunity to celebrate the International Congress of Genetics with a screening of Spielberg’s masterpiece JURASSIC PARK 3D and an exclusive conversation with Dr Andrew Pask, Professor in the School of BioSciences at the University of Melbourne and head of the Thylacine Integrated Genetic Restoration Research lab. 

In this one-off Q+A event, Pask delved into the critical questions the movie poses – could living dinosaurs be cultivated from prehistoric DNA? – and how this 1993 Hollywood classic informs his work into the de-extinction of the thylacine (Tasmanian Tiger).  

Sunday 16 July 2023

Attendees enjoyed a reflective and celebratory Evensong service on 16 July at the beautiful St Paul's Cathedral to welcome a week of discussing genetics, genomics, and society at the International Congress of Genetics.  We celebrated the wonder of science and faith, with worship led by the Cathedral Choir, a sermon from Archbishop Philip Freier, prayers, and Scripture readings.  Archbishop Freier has supported science:faith dialogue.  In 2009 he spoke at another special service at the Cathedral, celebrating Charles Darwin’s 200th birth anniversary.  Among several other qualifications, the Archbishop holds a Bachelor’s degree in Applied Science.   

Monday 17 July 2023, 6 -7:30pm

We gathered at the Melbourne Convention and Exhibition Centre for an engaging moderated conversation with extraordinary women who are leaders in scientific research and communication.  We heard of their journeys, achievements and interests outside of science. 

Speakers included:

Professor Doctor Christiane Nüsslein-Volhard (Germany) who shared the
Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine 1995 for “discoveries concerning the
genetic control of early embryonic development”. 

Professor Anne Muigai (Kenya) who is the joint leader of the African Biogenome Project
that aims to sequence the genomes of 100,000 species of plants and
 animals endemic to Africa.

Valda Vinson (USA) with a research background in Chemistry and Biochemistry,
Valda is the Executive Editor of the Science journals published by AAAS.

The Moderator for this event will be:
Associate Professor Jen Martin, award winning science communicator, radio host, teacher and ecologist.

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Tuesday 18 July 2023

Origins – of the universe, of life, of species, of humanity – is a breathtaking, contemporary oratorio conceived by evolutionary geneticist Jenny Graves. This major secular work uses words and images from cosmology, genetics, evolution and anthropology to tell the creation story from science. Brilliant Australian composer Nicholas Buc has woven beautiful and inspiring text by Jenny and poet Leigh Hay.  The world premiere of this oratorio was performed by a full orchestra, the 100-strong Heidelberg Choral Society and professional soloists under the baton of well-known conductor Peter Bandy. Origins made the audience think, despair, laugh and celebrate the role of science in our understanding and stewardship of our beautiful little planet.

You can watch a magnificent recording of this incredible performance here.

Jenny Graves speaks to Robyn Williams about Origins on the Science Show (ABC Radio National)
Jenny Graves on the origin of Origins
Jenny Graves speaks about her love of music and Origins in The Age
Singing the story of our origins
Creation story from a scientific perspective
Origins: A unique adventure in science and music

Reviews of Origins
Eureka Street
The Age

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Wednesday 19 July 2023
Genetics vs Sports
Are super athletes born or made? Our panel of experts shared their takes on the nature vs nurture debate in sport.

From cultural norms to scientific factors, the field of sports is a complex and fascinating arena. Whether you're an Olympic weightlifter or a basketball player, your genetics can give you an edge, but it’s not the only factor at play. Family support, economic status, coaching, training and diet also make a difference. Our experts explored the latest scientific research. Attendees gained insight into what makes a super athlete. 

Our experts included:

Professor Kathryn North
 a global leader in research on human genetics,
is the Director of the Murdoch Children's Research Institute and leads the
national body Australian Genomics. In her research on genes involved in
muscle function her team identified genetic variants associated with
elite athletic performance.

Darcy Moore, 
an extraordinarily talented and widely respected AFL footballer,
Captain of the Collingwood Football Club.

Melissa Tapper
 a champion table tennis player who has the remarkable
distinction of competing at a Paralympic and Olympic Games in the same year.

The Moderator for this event will be Tracey Holmes, one of Australia’s
very best sports journalists and presenters with a career spanning over 30 years.

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Wednesday 19 July 2023
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Attendees heard from experts leading ground-breaking advancements in genetics to save critically endangered species from extinction. Those in attendance joined the conversation which explored cutting-edge research into genetics and genomics, and learnt how these innovations can preserve genetic diversity, restore populations of endangered animals and protect the precious biodiversity of our planet.  

Hosted by Natasha Mitchell, presenter of ABC Radio National's Big Ideas program and podcast. You can listen to the program made from this event here or on the ABC Listen app (within Australia) or on your favourite podcast app (not yet on Spotify)

You can watch a recording of this event here.
Listen online now

Thursday 20 July 2023, 6 -7pm

DNA screening for risk of disease that can be prevented or treated (like some cancers or heart disease) is being offered to 10,000 Australians (18-40yo) though the DNA Screen pilot study. This testing could save lives, but there are many ethical and societal issues to consider. Are Australians ready for this kind of testing? Would you take the test?  What are the benefits? What are the drawbacks? How does this compare to international approaches? Attendees at this exciting event learnt about cutting-edge research, informing the future of population DNA screening. 

Hosted by Natasha Mitchell, presenter of ABC Radio National's Big Ideas program and podcast. You can listen to the program made from this event here or on the ABC Listen app (within Australia) or on your favourite podcast app (not yet on Spotify)
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Panelists included:

Assoc. Prof Paul Lacaze (Monash University) - a pioneering leader in
public health genomics and population DNA screening. 
He is the Project Leader of DNA Screen

Dr Jane Tiller (Monash University) - a lawyer and genetic counsellor
and has a keen interest in the ethical and legal aspects of genomics and public health

Professor Nancy Cox (Vanderbilt University, USA) - Director of the Vanderbilt Genetics Institute
and Director of the Division of Genetic Medicine.

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Saturday 22 July 2023
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The Scientific & Spiritual Human was a one-day, in-person conference in Melbourne which explored the intersection of faith and science in shaping humanity’s genetic future. Those in attendance enjoyed presentations by an impressive lineup of experts in science and theology on how faith can speak into being humans of the future (gene editing, human enhancement, etc.), and humans of the earth (biodiversity, caring for the planet, etc.). 

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