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How Should We Manage the Next Pandemic?

How Should We Manage the Next Pandemic?

The pandemic might or might not be over, but it is definitely time for an honest, forthright, forward-looking discussion about what happened - what was done well and what was not - moving on to how we can do better next time. 

Deep fault lines in our society, polity and economy were exposed in 2020-21 - not only within the health sector, but among states, between levels of government, between authoritarians and those more concerned with human rights or civil liberties, and between those who benefited from accelerated digitisation and those who lost out from it, to name a few. And of course, we racked up huge public debt and for many, private debt and loss of equity.

As it stands, there is no official process of review of Australia's preparedness or response to Covid-19. Sweden completed its official inquiry in February. The Prime Minister has reportedly promised one. There is a non-government, philanthropy-funded inquiry which reported on 20 October (and which two of our speakers served on).

One discussion on one night in Brisbane will not be enough, but it could be the start of an informal national series of productive discussions in the Big Dialogue format or similar, complementing other processes, which just might make a difference.

Following on from this event, the Queensland Academy of Arts and Sciences (QAAS) will host a series of Round Tables early in 2023 on the same topic. The Round Tables are to be multidisciplinary, multisectoral, evidence-based and future-focussed. QAAS will also lead the development and dissemination of a substantial report arising from the Big Dialogue and the Round Tables.

Without further ado:

The Brisbane Dialogues, in collaboration with The Queensland Academy of Arts and Sciences, is pleased to present a different and better discussion about how to manage the next pandemic.

As always, we will have a small number of panelists with widely-differing perspectives and expertise to facilitate an in-depth, long-form, enlightening discussion in a congenial, conducive setting. The discussion will be moderated to keep it focussed on a limited number of themes or topics.

And, as always, the dialogue will be conducted under The Brisbane Rule:All participants agree to listen carefully, speak civilly and concentrate on the content of discussions, not on characters - before, during and afterwards, online and offline.



Peter Varghese AO, Chancellor of the University of Queensland, chair of the Asialink Council, member of a philanthropy-funded, independent inquiry into Australia's Covid-19 response and formerly Secretary, Dept of Foreign Affairs and Trade, a High Commissioner and Director-General of the Office of National Assessments


Gigi Foster, Professor of Economics at the University of New South Wales, author of the Voices Against Lockdown newsletter and co-author of two books on the pandemic: The Great Covid Panic and Do lockdowns and border closures serve the “greater good”? A cost-benefit analysis of Australia’s reaction to COVID-19

Peter Harris AO, Advisory Board member at Global Infrastructure Partners and formerly Chairman of the Productivity Commission, Departmental Secretary and CEO of National COVID-19 Commission Advisory Board

Paul Griffin, Director of Infectious Diseases at Mater Health Services, Associate Professor at the University of Queensland School of Medicine, Medical Director at Nucleus Network and a frequent media contributor on the pandemic

Isobel Marshall, Young Australian of the Year 2021, medical student at University of Adelaide, social entrepreneur (TABOO Products) and also a member of the philanthropy-funded, independent inquiry into Australia's Covid-19 response

The evening will be MC'd by Christy Johns, journalism and communications professional, former executive producer Sunrise News, Ch7 Reporter and producer.AUDIENCE PARTICIPATION

  • Links to reading materials will be distributed in the lead-up

  • Guests will be able to submit questions for the speakers by email before the event and by SMS during the dialogue (latter to be confirmed)

  • The Princess Theatre in cabaret table format on the main floor, with bars on both levels, is congenial for social discussion before and afterwards 

  • Come early, on your own or with friends, family and colleagues; stay late and carry on the discussion

  • A small number of people in the audience will have the opportunity to ask questions from the floor

  • Speakers will be invited to join Premium ticket holders in a private bar after the stage discussion

  • Review the discussion from the high quality video recording included in the ticket (no live stream)

  • An attendees-only, limited-time, online forum is being considered this time

  • Really want to get involved? Volunteers always needed!

Escape the small screen for a proper, real, live, physical, in-person, multi-speaker event on the big stage at the beautiful, refurbished Princess Theatre. Buy a ticket, bring a friend or get a table together and join in the discussion, before, during and after!

Produced by:

The Brisbane Dialogues (TBD) is Australia’s first dedicated civil discourse organisation and a growing corner of the public square - a wholly independent, neutral, intergenerational, not-for-profit, volunteer-based project to stimulate better discussions about big ideas and issues. We aim to demonstrate what good public discussions look like and to support other organisations to turn one-way talks and one-sided discussions into genuine, respectful dialogues.

In collaboration with:

The Queensland Academy of Arts and Sciences exists to promote excellence in the arts and sciences, to stimulate activity in those areas that lie on the intersection between disciplines, and to provide independent scholarship and advice for social and public policy. 


Tickets are priced from $10 to make the event widely accessible, made possible by:

  • the generous provision of the use of The Princess Theatre by its owners

  • financial sponsors

  • the donation of time and expertise of all the speakers and volunteers

  • Premium ticket sales and donations

Hard costs of around $40 per person overall need to be covered and we rely on a small surplus and donations to cover our modest overheads between events, so please consider buying a Premium ticket or making a donation to keep events accessible and The Brisbane Dialogues independent, expanding and sustainable.

Donations at this event will again be applied to Dialogues @ School, a significant civic and pedagogic initiative started with great success in 2022, which will be scaled up nationally in 2023.

A small number of complimentary tickets are available for those who post a short (20-60 seconds) selfie video to social media on why they are interested in this topic, event or The Brisbane Dialogues generally, and email the link/s to


Doors open: 6:00pm till late

Dialogue: 7:00pm till approx 8.45pm

Date: Mon 21 Nov 2022

Venue: The Princess Theatre, 8 Annerley Rd, Woolloongabba Qld 4102

The Big Dialogue will start at 7pm sharp, so please arrive no later than 6.45pm and preferably earlier to have a snack and drink and talk to fellow guests.

After the dialogue on stage, the speakers will be invited to join Premium ticket holders in a private bar for relaxed follow-on discussion.

All guests will be able to socialise at other bars or tables and carry on the discussion for a time after the dialogue, at the discretion of venue management.

Two bars on the main level and one on the upper level will be open from 6:00pm.

Light meals and drinks may be ordered at the bars or online via a QR code, for delivery to tables only.

This is a family-friendly event and teenage attendance is encouraged.

Photo ID may be required - tickets are not transferable unless arranged prior.

Seating will be at cabaret tables on the main level (Premium and Standard-main), and in theatre seats in the mezzanine (Standard-mezzanine, Concession and Schools tickets).Transport, $5 parking and other venue-related information here.

With thanks to our generous venue sponsor, The Princess Theatre: Queensland's oldest-standing theatre, now Brisbane's newest home for live music and performing arts, not to mention stimulating live discussions and private events. Please consider booking your next event at the beautiful Princess.

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