Interview with Van Badham in Paris COP21

Alex Kelly, an Australian working for Naomi Klein’s social justice movement as a global outreach officer, speaks with Van Badham about her work and how it all began in a Central Australian desert.

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Jeremy Corbyn, Naomi Klein and how the politics of climate solutions are also the politics of hope

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Behind the scenes on This Changes Everything – interview

In the lead up to the UN Climate Change Conference (COP21) in Paris, we’re excited to be hosting a special program of talks and screenings including a provocative climate change film based on Naomi Klein’s international best-selling book, ‘This Changes Everything’.

Tapping into the momentum of the film and the broader climate justice movement, our series of talks and screenings gives the Melbourne community an opportunity to come together and be part of the collective conversation to confront the challenges of the future.

We were lucky enough to go behind the scenes of This Changes Everything and chat to the film’s Impact Producer & Distribution Strategist, Alex Kelly (pictured below), who is currently on the road in Europe for the project.

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Behind the scenes of This Changes Everything

Interview -

In the lead up to the UN Climate Change Conference (COP21) in Paris, we’re excited to be hosting a special program of talks and screenings ( including a provocative climate change film based on Naomi Klein’s international best-selling book, ‘This Changes Everything ( ’.

Tapping into the momentum of the film and the broader climate justice movement, our series of talks and screenings gives the Melbourne community an opportunity to come together and be part of the collective conversation to confront the challenges of the future.

We were lucky enough to go behind the scenes of This Changes Everything and chat to the film’s Impact Producer & Distribution Strategist, Alex Kelly (pictured below), who is currently on the road in Europe for the project. Fed Square: There have been countless films and documentaries created about climate change, how is This Changes Everything different to the others?

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How to Make Trouble wins SBS KICKSTART!

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Slow Living Magazine


Slow Living Magazine cover interview -


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Art & Activism – 2970 Speech

Green Agenda have published my speech from 2970 The Boiling Point, on the Gold Coast in June, here.

Radically Re-Imagining the World as our Climate Changes.

We don’t need more fear-based stories of rising seas and hotter summers and drowning polar bears and killer storms and bushfires. We need work that triggers conversations, that makes us think about other possibilities – ideas beyond capitalism, beyond closing our borders, towards a more inclusive, more just, wiser and more creative world. A world that we can all see ourselves in and that we are excited to engage to fight for.

Read the full speech here.

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Art Gets Hot – interview with Alex Kelly & David Pledger

David Pledger and Alex Kelly: Art gets Hot!

By Celeste Hawkins

One of the topics that is hot right now and will continue to be is art and social change. This weekends forum 2970 º The Boiling Point” on the Gold Coast, which will see a combination of local and international innovative creatives come together,promises to be an event for futurists,artists, activists,cultural workers, academics and those interested in social change. And with the impressive line up, this is undoubtedly the case. Stelarc, Alex Kelly, Liam Young, Dr Daniel Glaser and Alex Monteith will take centre stage. What else is so great to hear is that the Gold Coast Mayor-Tom Tate is very supportive of the arts, so it will be interesting to see how this support helps to develop the art scene there into the future.

Ahead of the big event, I have spoken to Curator David Pledger and Australian filmmaker and activist, Alex Kelly. 


David Pledger

Firstly, I asked David how he orchestrated the forum, especially in regards to choosing the particular speakers that he has:

“I think of the speakers as a constellation of five points in a galaxy of knowledge and imagination. I wanted a certain chemistry of positions, points of view and different qualities of brightness. They are all very distinctive in their use of language and their way of thinking and approaching ideas. But their starting point is the same – they are human beings interested in and grappling with the things that occupy the time, space and thinking of all human beings.”

So why hold the forum on the Gold Coast?

“The Gold Coast does not have the constraints of other Australian cities. It’s operating at a high rate of evolution in terms of its identity, which is always driven by cultural imperatives; how we behave and what we do and how we do it defines who we are. Other Australian cities have this worked out and their job is mostly about maintenance. The Gold Coast, on the other hand, is less defined. The stereotypes that used to be attached to it don’t fly anymore so artistic and cultural production are crucial to the process of creating a new identity. It’s this space of play, of aesthetic experience, of a sense of wonder that will determine what the Gold Coast becomes.”


Alex Kelly

Alex Kelly

Alex Kelly grew up with a strong sense of justice. “My mum works in the union movement and my father came form a poor working class background, so I guess that had a strong impact on the way I view things”. At the age of 19, she went to the Jabiluka Blockade in the Northern Territory. These were very formative times in terms of setting her career path with a trajectory for social justice. “I watched the court case when Yvonne Margarula was charged for trespass on her own country. I was in the courtroom. But what I read in the mainstream media was not that of my own experience at the blockade. I was reading the press but not seeing the actual story as it occurred – I didn’t see a reflection of my own experience until I saw the film ‘Fight For Country’ by Pip Starr.”

For a number of years, Alex had the opportunity to work with Pip Starr who made the independent documentary about the Jabiluka campaign. Pip has since passed away, “ Watching Pip’s film I realized that you don’t have to rely on the mainstream media. For me, working with Pip and the rest of the team at SKATV’s Access News was my big epiphany, I could see art, film and social justice all combining and saw the power of telling your own story – and working with other communities to support them to tell their stories.”

It wasn’t long after this that Alex was involved with setting up Melbourne Indymedia, an independent grass open publishing website. Since then, this Filmmaker, artist and activist has worked on community and environmental programs, in Australia and around the world, with a strong focus on social change.

One of Alex’s major works over 6 years was the Big hART Ngapartji Ngapartji project based in Alice Springs and working across Pitjantjatjara communities in Central Australia. Alex is heartened by the uplifting determination of the indigenous community despite all the difficulties they endure. “Despite the severe impacts on indigenous people they show an incredible cultural resilience. Amazing Indigenous artists and filmmakers are leading the way-bridging culture and-film and comedy over the last few years- I believe that it has shifted the Australian consciousness”.

Alex’s film Queen of the Desert – featuring beautifully shot footage by cinematographer Anna Cadden – captures the level of strength in these communities and focuses on the empowerment of cultural stories and leadership-despite levels of structural racism and systemic marginalisation. “I am constantly inspired”, she says. Her short film-Queen of the desert about transgender hairdresser Starlady really captures a level of spirit and creativity in the Areyonga (Utju) community in NT.

“There is such a vibrant youth culture in the desert with the hairstyles, music, culture and fashion, there is a really amazing a blend there –I really wanted to show that in the film. With the NT intervention, remote indigenous Australia is often framed as dysfunctional. Yes, there are social issues but also amazing beautiful vibrant spirited people.”

Alex’s current job that she has been working on for the past 18 months is that of impact producer with world-renowned writer and activist Naomi Klein. The book entitled This Changes Everything  is her third major book, which also has a companion documentary directed by Avi Lewis. “Our philosophy is that books and films don’t change the world, social movements do.” Alex says that people tend to get ‘stuck in silos’, in that they may just focus all their detail on one issue, but that its important to bring a stronger coalition of people and social movements together.

“Basically it seems we are being given two choices when it comes to responding to climate change; “Its too late it’s stuffed” or, “we just need to look after the status quo look and after economic growth and everything will be fine”. Neither of these choices are good.” I asked Alex how she plans on delivering this message to as many people as possible. “What we are doing is building a sophisticated hybrid distribution strategy that has a mainstream release alongside a grass roots distribution strategy.” Alex says she also wants to see movements working together and not just ‘getting the choir signing’, but get the choir signing more loudly and in harmony – more connected to each other.” One of the key things she said was that we know the environmental challenges are happening, its up to creative and collaborative communities to rise up to the challenge of bringing about change. “ It can be a beautiful thing, any time there has been sickness or a flood-the community rallies together to respond to a crisis, we need to tap into that resilience and sense of caring for each other in responding to climate change”

Learning from other speakers at the forum is one of the main things Alex is looking forward to as well.

“Art and culture have significant role in our future. I believe we are facing one of the biggest crises humanity has ever known and the inspiration for the many changes we need to make in terms of how we respond to this moment is going to come from the artists. Now we need the work of the imagination.”


26 – 28 June 2015

Art gets hot with science, politics, sport, technology and architecture

2970° Program OUT NOW.

2970° is three days of simmering thought and action. Fuelled by invention, imagination and ideas, we will interrogate the space where art, science, technology, architecture, politics and sport meet.

Program Highlights:

Take your thinking into the future with Stelarc, Alex Kelly, Liam Young, Dr Daniel Glaser and Alex Monteith who will take centre stage. Together we will forge ideas, collaborate and determine a new way of looking at the world. The future is here.

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Original post:

Alex Kelly is an activist, make no mistake. When she speaks, you can tell that she’s used to having difficult conversations with people about issues that have profound impacts on society. She’s considered and incredibly well-spoken and has a way of breaking down her activist work without using jargon. Trust me, that’s a special skill.

She spoke to me from Alice Springs where she was pushing a friend’s two year old around a park. Originally from a sheep farm outside of Albury-Wodonga it was activism that drew her to the Territory. The Jabiluka mine, to be exact.

“That’s the first time I visited the Northern Territory,” she said. “In 1998. I moved to Coober Pedy in 2003 to support a campaign there for Indigenous women against a nuclear waste dump proposed near Woomera. They were successful and then I moved to Alice Springs after that.”

Alex has been working with arts company Big hART for a long time. In fact, she started working on a project in Coober Pedy which she continued in Alice. Called Ngapartji Ngapartji, which means I give you something, you give me something in Pitjantjatjara – a concept of reciprocity and exchange. Alex explained what its focus was.

“It was a bilingual, cross-cultural project,” she said. “Working in Pitjantjatjara and exploring the impacts of the Maralinga atomic tests on communities in the central desert.” The project also looked at using Language as tool for crime prevention. As well as shining a spotlight on the significance of maintaining and promoting Indigenous languages it also had a very specific end goal.

“We were working towards getting a National Indigenous Language Policy established,” Alex told me. “And that happened in 2009; an example of using an art project to promote and change policy.”

I’m curious now as to whether Alex mastered the Pitjantjatjara language while working on the project and she laughs, “I’m a very basic speaker.”

The project resulted in an online language course as well as a theatre show in both Pitjantjatjara language and English. People would learn some language in the online course before coming to the show. Alex said they ran ten seasons of the show including the Melbourne Festival, Perth Festival, Sydney Opera House and the Dreaming Festival in Woodford.

We chat about concepts around activism and how society often pictures the extremes: locking on to gas lines, abseiling down. Alex says there are lots of ways of facilitating and influencing change and we need all of them.

“I really support what people call diversity of tactics and I’ve been involved in all different types of activism,” she said. “But I have a particularly strong interest in art and culture and making change.”

Alex believes that the way our society functions and is run is based on the stories that we tell as well as the stories that we believe in. “So art and culture have a really powerful role to pay because they can introduce new ideas and new ways of thinking of things into the culture.”

“And the profile of arts projects – like when we did a big show in the Sydney Festival and then talked about Indigenous languages, provides a pretty powerful platform to talk about things.”

Alex has travelled the world making documentaries and working on a large range of political projects, with a focus on art and culture in her approach. At the moment she’s working on a project called This Changes Everything with Canadian author and social activist Naomi Klein and her journalist and documentary-maker husband Avi Lewis. She just spent seven months in New York as Klein’s book was being published.

The book was published immediately prior to the People’s Climate March, the largest climate march in history with nearly 400,000 people participating in the streets of New York City. The march was a response to the UN Climate Summit of world leaders which took place in the city two days later.

WATCH: Nocturnal Warriors from Alex Kelly on Vimeo (5mins)



Alex believes that books and films don’t change the world but social movements do.

“A lot of my work is about finding ways to put the book and film at the service of movements,” she said. And the climate movement is just one of those. She lists anti-fracking, labour rights, access to public transport and Black Lives Matter amongst others.

“I really think about how we can share our platform and the convening power that Naomi has, to bring people together to have a conversation to reframe climate change,” she said.

“And we’re really looking at climate change not as a green issue, but as an economic issue, and unpacking why some people don’t want to take action, realizing that a lot of that is connected to their interest in maintaining the economic status quo.”

Alex argues that responding to the climate crisis is going to be an amazing thing for the world. She says we can fix things that are broken and make a more just world in the process.

Alex goes on to talk about a new genre in the arts world called Cli Fi – climate science fiction.

“There is no shortage of films that tell us about the doom and impending disasters coming, but we don’t have a lot of stories that looks at a future powered by renewables and local economies or sustainable agriculture. What we need and what artists are really capable of is a new vision for the future – not based on disaster and resource wars – but based on creativity and mutual collaboration.”

“Theatre, visual artists and other practices assist us to imagine a different future.”

But Alex says climate change is just one of many issues that artists can impact.

“We’re always told that this is the status quo, that it’s normal and inevitable,” she said. “But we can see from droughts, floods, fires, bank bailouts, economic collapses, that there is a lot of upheaval and change happening all the time. So we actually need different stories to think about how we respond to that and to be able to think that we can all play a part in creating a different future.”

So what does that future look like?


Alex Kelly. Image courtesy Kristelle Sherwood.

“I’m lucky enough to live in a really connected and strong community in Alice Springs on a property very close to my neighbours and we share a lot of resources,” Alex said. “In some ways I don’t think the future I imagine is that much different to now except that we won’t have as big a gap between the extremely wealthy and the rest of us.”

“And we will see the majority of people given access to education, health care, transport – because if we have a society where everybody has access to be healthy and to participate in that society, we’re going to see a much more innovative and creative world because everyone will have the opportunity to express their potential.”

I ask Alex about the key message she’ll be bringing to the Gold Coast when she speaks at 2970° The Boiling Point running 26 – 28 June and she says she’ll been putting a lot of thought into her presentation.

“A lot of it is about the critical role of artists in imagining the future,” she said. “And the need for new narratives to respond to crisis, to see it as an opportunity and a gift to create a more just world.”

_ _ _ _

Alex Kelly is one of the internationally renowned future thinkers who will take centre stage on the Gold Coast as part of 2970° The Boiling Point from 26 – 28 June. More

Feature image by Rusty Stewart & Anna Cadden: still from Nocturnal Warriors, a short film starring anti fracking bilby superheros.
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2970 Degrees – The Boiling Point – Art & Activism talk links

Big hART

This Changes Everything 

Steve Lambert artist

Ursula Le Guin acceptance speech

Carbon Tracker research

The Guardian re NASA temperature rise studies 

Ngapartji Ngapartji 

Ninti – Pitjantjatjara learning website

Nothing Rhymes with Ngapartji documentary 

National Indigenous Languages Policy

First Languages Australia

Binibar books

Occupy Sandy


Beautiful Solutions

People’s Climate March

Pope’s encyclical

Jobs, Justice & The Climate march Toronto

The Australia Institute on fossil fuel subsidies

Clive Hamilton Scorcher

Liberate Tate 


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