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Eight everyday Darwinites will step up to the podium in Parliament House and tell the world about the issues closest to their hearts.

By Tamara Howie

Congress, one of the Darwin Festival shows celebrating 40 years of NT self-governance, sees the speakers paired with local wordsmiths to develop their personal ‘first speech’ to parliament. 

The concept for Congress was developed as part of the 2017 Melbourne Fringe. Creator Bec Reid, from All The Queens Men, says they were given a brief with the words ‘democracy’ and ‘participation’ and found themselves stuck on the idea of first speeches. 

Reid sat down with Off The Leash to tell us more.

What’s so special about first speeches?
It’s the one time you can outline your vision for the collective future and it’s also the one time the public can look straight into a politician’s heart and see them just go for it, because they don’t have to toe the party line. And the most important rule of the first speech is that a speaker cannot be interrupted.

Whose voices did you seek out in Darwin?
We wanted a living, breathing portrait of Darwin. We wanted to hear from people who we know represent contemporary Australia, but whose voices we don’t get to hear from, because traditionally it’s white, middle-class men speaking for all of us.

We’ve got people like well-known Darwin identity Charlie King through to Sophie Kuswadi, who is a freshly elected environmental school captain in grade six.

What are these Territorians speaking about? 
Some of the younger speakers are talking about what the future looks like, others are talking about recently arriving in Darwin and there are some great queries about self-identity. They’re all deeply personal.

Do you think people will be more politically engaged after seeing this show?
I think there’s potential to pique people’s sense of civic engagement and sense of where activism lies in their life. How you live your politics is what Congress reveals – and all of those things I would argue can be just as effective as being a politician.

Sat 25 Aug | 6pm | Parliament House | See the event listing

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