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We acknowledge the Gadigal people of the Eora Nation - the custodians of the country in which we meet - and acknowledge their Elders, past and present.

Absolutely Justified

Ed Coper, Kosta Lucas, Megan Phelps-Roper [USA]
Chaired by Fran Kelly
Sun 25 August 5:45pm
Sun 25 August 5:45pm
The dangers of believing the story.

A good story can be one of the most dangerous devices in the world. As human beings, we have a near-magical capacity to justify, to ourselves, even the most horrendous conduct when it is part of a compelling narrative, even if it is made of nothing more than prejudice and lies. When we combine ‘absolute certainty’ with ‘absolute conviction’ this lethal combination can be woven into a story that allows us to inflict degradation and terror on others. How can we disarm a dangerous story that admits no doubt? 

When you’re in it, when you are a total believer, everything seems to make sense… There is an apparently reasonable justification for every belief and everything that you are doing.
Megan Phelps-Roper

Ed Coper

Ed Coper is a leading communications expert and was on the front lines when the internet collided with democracy, growing Australia’s first online political movement GetUp to quickly amass more members than every political party combined. He powered’s global expansion into over eighteen countries and pioneered techniques to bring politics into the digital age, and has been behind the scenes of many of the last decade’s most prominent social movements. He has advised campaigns on every continent except Antarctica, and high-profile changemakers from Malala to Richard Branson. Ed founded the New York-based Centre for Impact Communications, which has led efforts to safeguard US elections from disinformation and overcome vaccine hesitancy. Ed also founded a New York City creative agency that serviced multiple Nobel Peace laureates, political and social leaders to scale their social impact. His groundbreaking campaigns have raised hundreds of millions of dollars for causes, won landmark social change and have featured in several museum exhibitions. Ed is based in Sydney and is director of the Populares communications agency.


Kosta Lucas

Kosta Lucas is an experienced researcher and practitioner with over 15 years of expertise in preventing and countering violent extremism, peacebuilding, and conflict resolution in Australia and internationally. To date, his work has included advising and developing programs for, Google, Meta, the United Nations, and various Australian government agencies, focusing on extremism, societal polarization and/or pro-social civic engagement. Currently, Kosta is a Lecturer at the University of Notre Dame Australia in Fremantle, where he coordinates the Social Justice Major, integrating his extensive field experience into course design and delivery. Since taking on this position in 2024, Kosta is concurrently completing his doctorate, conducting research that seeks to illuminate the “justice sensitivities” of violent extremist actors. Kosta also leads Counterbrace by DrawHistory, a community engagement practice dedicated to creating opportunities for meaningful conversations that explore and address pressing societal issues. As an extension of this mission, Kosta also hosts the agency’s podcast, Undesign, which serves as a platform to engage with world-class experts tackling the world’s complex challenges.


Megan Phelps-Roper [USA]

Born and raised in the Westboro Baptist Church, Megan Phelps-Roper left a life of religious extremism in 2012. She has spent the past decade using her experiences to work with schools on anti-bullying campaigns, with law enforcement organizations investigating deradicalization, and with tech companies on the intersection of safety, free speech, and the value of dialogue across ideological divides. Her journey has been chronicled in The New Yorker, a trio of BBC documentaries, a TED talk, and her memoir Unfollow. She hosted and produced The Witch Trials of J.K. Rowling, an audio documentary that examines some of the most contentious conflicts of our time through the life and career of the world’s most successful author.


Fran Kelly

Fran Kelly is a respected ABC radio presenter, current affairs journalist and political correspondent. She has held positions including chief political correspondent for the AM and PM programs, political editor of the 7.30 Report and ABC Europe correspondent based in London. She currently presents Saturday Extra on Radio National  and is co/host of The Party Room podcast.

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25 August
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