As soon as I arrived in Sydney I learned the hard way about their crazy regulations (but that’s just the beginning). If you’re traveling to Australia you’re only allowed to bring in 25 cigarettes or 25 grams of tobacco. So, I can now proudly add to my CV – international smuggler.
Jokes aside, as a smoker on such a long flight, the first and only thought once you finally land is a smoke. Well, that’s gonna be a bit hard in Sydney. There are only a few designated areas outside the terminal where you can smoke. I tried to be positive and think of a nice Starbucks where I can both drink coffee and smoke but, guess what – smoking is forbidden almost everywhere. I could not even smoke at my hotel room balcony. Luckily, our fellow Australian libertarians thought of this and booked the conference venue with a designated smoking area. And you’re guessing it right – I spent most of my time there and got a chance to meet some extraordinary people over the cigarette break.
The conference started on Thursday night with a pre-social but my jet lag did not allow me to attend. The official program (or “Student day”) started on Friday. Even if I were a bit nervous before holding my presentation, I attended all breakouts before mine and was really surprised by the quality of the program. That’s when I realized all speakers were fantastic with myself being the only non-native speaker, so I started panicking that I’m gonna embarrass myself. In the end, I did not – but that’s a classic pre-public-speaking-me.
My panel was called “Communicating Liberty” and you’ll be able to see all recordings from it very soon. I presented the work of SFL and tried to explain the ways we communicate liberty in Europe. We also had a chance to hear more from Vale Sloane from Atlas Network, IPA and brave Rene Gorman, Ben Whimpey etc.
I must say I learned so much. Maybe because this was a completely new context for me but the organizers really did their best to cover all important topics, not only libertarian. I really enjoyed the discussions and socials. Again, as I came there completely alone I was a bit scared that I’d be sitting in a corner alone. But that was not the case – I was constantly talking to the attendees, that were really interested to hear about Serbia and the EU in general – but also keen to share their experience from Australia.
I talked to many students, many cool kids who’re interested in starting SFL chapters at their Uni. I also spoke with many politicians, public figures and influencers. And I was thrilled to see how strong the libertarian community is in Australia.
Talking to Tim Andrews (the Friedman conference organizer and a fantastic person), we came to a conclusion that LibertyCon and Friedman conference really look alike as the atmosphere and the vibe on both of these events is just fantastic.
I was feeling very energized after these 3 days which reminded me how important our work is. It doesn’t matter if you’re from Serbia, Australia, China or Malaysia – governments everywhere are trying to impose more laws and regulations and that’s what we’re fighting against.
Australia is one of the happiest countries, and you can feel that everywhere. People are just very laid-back, cheerful, open and friendly. As Jeffrey Tucker said during his keynote, Australia is one “no worries” country. What I was surprised with were the regulations: vaping is forbidden (you can vape but without tobacco – what’s even the point then?!), weed is illegal, smoking is forbidden almost everywhere. Seems that our slogan “My life, my choice, no nanny needed” is very much needed in Australia.
Saturday was the day for those who wanted to meet Australian libertarian celebrities and dig deeper into the free market world of Australia. We had some speakers from the US – fantastic James Lark, my liberty hero and superstar Tom Palmer and the conference keynote Jeffrey Tucker.
I was really honored to get to introduce Mr. Tucker at the Gala Dinner on Saturday – which was such a cool event. More than 300 people gathered at the dinner and the program didn’t only consist of talks but also Liberty Awards, which was very emotional and beautiful – in addition to the 3 main Awards, they also have one very cool award – Power Couple. Power Couple was actually the couple I spent the most time with (smokers) and I was really glad that I got the chance to meet such an amazing family. The evening ended with a nice performance by Gabe and Cath (yes, they also have a band, how cool are they?!).
And finally, Sunday – only the brave woke up on time as the conference started at 9am already. Another whole day of lectures and networking.
On a personal note – I stayed in Sydney only for two more days (I know, not enough), but at least I did a few mandatory things – like Koala photo, ferry ride, Opera, Darling Harbour etc. I was really lucky to be in Australia during the Vivid Sydney festival. Fantastic experience, which made me feel completely overwhelmed. I guess I’m still processing some things that I experienced over the last 10 days.
And finally I’m on my way back to Belgrade (hour 26 on a plane) and even though I’m exhausted I must once again thank Tim and his team – thank you for having me at your amazing event. As an events manager myself I can just say congratulations. A beautiful event – keep up the great work.
I’m coming back home even more inspired and ready to fight for liberty. One thing I realized being in Sydney and listening to all these amazing individuals is how important our work is. It doesn’t matter if it is Piotr in Belarus or Mathilde in Paris, or Rene in Sydney, these cool kids are changing the world and building a freer society, these cool kids are my motivation to keep up my work in Europe and I’m happy to see that we have like minded friends all around the globe.