Ep. #39 Heartless Foundation, Stories, Reconciliation & Failed Election Prophecies: This month on TFS

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On this month’s panel, we welcome Will Grant from The Wholesome Show onto the podcast and introduce Kylie Wong Dolan, one of TFS’ Editorial Board members who is making her podcast debut!

Dr Will Grant is a senior lecturer, researcher and Graduate Studies convenor at the Australian National Centre for the Public Awareness of Science (CPAS) at the Australian National University. He is no stranger to podcasts, as one half of The Wholesome Show, and co-host of G’Day Patriots and G’Day Sausages as well.

Julia [1:01] dives straight into the Heart Foundation’s latest campaign ‘Heartless Words’, which has caused a bit of controversy in Australia (see Links below to watch the ad). Julia elaborates: “the message is basically that if you love your kids, you’ll take better care of your heart. Now… [it’s] irresponsible…to suggest that all heart conditions are caused by people’s behaviours” since it portrays the victims of heart disease as selfish. One thing that this campaign does highlight is the radical change in thinking about and approaching health problems from an individual-focus (which has dominated Australian medicine) to one of a collective-body-focus (i.e. your health affects your kin and you do not stand isolated from them). Given this scenario, Julia asks if there is a more effective way that health organisations can demonstrate this shift in thinking about the collective body WITHOUT turning to victim-blaming portrayals?

ep 39_heart health screen capture

Next, Will [5:13] changes our focus to stories, since recently he’s been grappling with the questions of what a story is, what a story means to us, how a story works and how it has worked throughout history. After trying to define what a story is, Will alters his question to us: “We engage with stories so much, why is it hard to articulate what it is?” Kylie shares, “for me, when you brought up stories, I thought that the most resonating stories that I’ve ever heard are moral tales… fables … And I feel like maybe they’re supposed to communicate something that can be interpreted and emplaced and taken on differently [by] whoever hears them. And different stories can have different effects on people as well.” Simon contests that “It’s a very hard question Will!”

Kylie [11:05] moves our discussion onto Reconciliation Week, which marks and celebrates two very important moments in Australia’s history – the 1967 referendum to improve services available to Indigenous Australians and include them in both federal protection laws and the national census, and the 1992 Mabo decision that overturned the myth of terra nullius, which held that Australian land belonged to no one prior to British colonial arrival and occupation (obviously NOT TRUE). This year’s Reconciliation Week theme is ‘Grounded in Truth, Walk Together with Courage’, about truth-telling and grounding the relationship between Aboriginal and Torres Strait people and non-Indigenous Australians. So Kylie asks: what does it take to tell the truth about something you’re afraid of or ashamed of?

Lastly, Simon [17:15] concludes our discussion by asking what happens when prophecy fails? Referring to the recent Federal Election in Australia, in which the predicted outcome of the election – which had received a lot of hype leading up to it – ended up being incredibly incorrect, Simon questions what happens when you invest strong ideas into something which is predicted to come about, but then it doesn’t come true? What happens next? Julia suggests maybe we should lower our expectations, Will tells us a story about balloons, the Trump election and coming to terms with outcomes, and Kylie offers that maybe after the prophecy fails, we naturally try to gain control over whatever we can, such as cleaning our bathroom.

Holding Hands


If you’d like to listen to the witty banter of The Wholesome Show, check them out here: http://wholesomeshow.com/

And find the ‘Life in a Herd’ series Will mentioned here: http://wholesomeshow.com/life-in-a-herd

You can watch The Heart Foundation ad here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xkNwG60zfVk

And read about its public reception here: https://www.smh.com.au/national/victoria/every-time-i-told-you-i-loved-you-i-was-lying-backlash-over-heart-foundation-campaign-targeting-families-20190528-p51rvb.html?utm_medium=Social&utm_source=Twitter#Echobox=1559024111

For an overview of Martin Seligman‘s strength-based approach, give these a browse:



If you’re interested in storytelling in anthropology, why not check out Kirin Narayan’s work: https://researchers.anu.edu.au/researchers/narayan-k?term=kirin+narayan/

The official website for Reconciliation Week is: https://www.reconciliation.org.au/national-reconciliation-week/ 

An overview of the book ‘When Prophecy Fails’ that Simon references can be found here: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/When_Prophecy_Fails

This anthropology podcast is supported by the Australian Anthropological Society, the ANU’s College of Asia and the Pacific and College of Arts and Social Sciences, and the Australian Centre for the Public Awareness of Science, and is produced in collaboration with the American Anthropological Association.

Music by Pete Dabro: dabro1.bandcamp.com

Shownotes by Deanna Catto

[Image: ‘Holding Hands’ by Beryl Chan, available at:

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