catallaxy files

catallaxy in technical exile

The NSW Humanists and public talks

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The mention of Gerard Henderson’s venue for speakers at The Sydney Institute brought to mind the achievement of David Duffy in the NSW Humanist Society who has been the prime mover in organizing a speaker at Humanist House every Wednesday evening since 1971. Beat that!

David is a dealer in secondhand books, he is a libertarian monarchist and a photo can be found at the bottom of this page. This is a sample of previous Wednesday Forum talks.

This is an archive of monthly talks organised by the Society itself. Pretty much the same kind of thing.

The NSW Humanist Society was the first of a number of State groups that formed in the 1960s to promote secular freethought. Rationalist and Humanist groups tend to work in parallel, with slightly different agendas depending on the interests of the leadership. The Rationalists in Sydney never really took off and they folded a few years ago when they could not raise a quorum (about five people) at the AGM. The year before I attended in response to a desperate phone call from the Secretary and made up the numbers to keep them alive for one more year.

The Rationalist Association is (or was) stronger in Victoria and it attracted some professional philosophers unlike the Sydney group where doctors and teachers were the major occupational groups and the activities were mostly practical rather than argumentative.

At its peak in the late 60s the NSW Humanists had 1200 members and three or four suburban groups (plus Wollongong and Newcastle) each with regular meetings and cognate activities. The Society had a property in Darlinghurst but sold out when it became a red light district and they settled in Shepherd Steet, Chippendale, near Broadway and Sydney Uni.

The Society was in the forefront of a lot of worthwhile initiatives including Abortion Law reform, civil liberties, Aboriginal Affairs and general freedom regarding the activities of consenting adults in private, plus a critical and evidence-based approach to controversial issues of all kinds. It never recovered from the Vietnam debate when more progressive elements took the Society out of its tradional non party political role to become involved in the Moratorium. This started a slide to the left that resulted in the society becoming effectively a Green/Democrat group.

David Duffy (no relation to Michael Duffy) stood apart from that move and it is something of a miracle that he has kept the open forum going despite spasmodic efforts by the host Society to close it down or at least get rid of him. I would like to write more about the Humanist movement and what I found when I visited Humanist and freethought organisations in Britain, Italy, and  other foreign parts but my fingers are getting too cold.

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Written by Admin

May 22, 2006 at 4:38 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

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