2015 will be the ninth year Archbishop Freier has hosted public conversations in Deakin Edge (formerly BMW Edge), Federation Square, with community leaders on important topics of general interest and concern.

“The underlying theme of the conversations is what kind of society do we want Australia to be?” Dr Freier says.

The Melbourne Foundation has been pleased to sponsor the conversations, says Executive Officer Sharon Osborne, “because they model a way for the Church to engage with society, exploring issues of social justice in depth and in a conversational, rather than adversarial style”.

Topics this year have so far been Economics for a sustainable future and This can’t continue: ending domestic violence. Two more conversations are planned for later in the year.

In previous years the topics have included Asylum Seekers – in search of a humanitarian solution, The challenges of disability – how Australia can do better, Childhood well-being in a toxic society, Ageing gracefully, Pursuing a vision of the common good, Australian politics – spin or vision? and Cutting carbon – local answers to a global problem.

Roland Ashby, Director of Anglican Media and co-ordinator of the conversations, says he believes the conversations are highly regarded. “The archbishop’s willingness to engage with important topics of wide public interest and with respected public figures, in public forums, where members of the public are invited to question or comment, has I believe helped to create a positive public image for the Anglican Church in Melbourne.

“The conversations have successfully challenged the view that church leaders can simply be dismissed as irrelevant authoritarian figures who preach and moralise from the pulpit about matters of dogma and doctrine, and who are not interested in the views and experience of ordinary people or those who offer a different perspective.

“The conversations have taken the Church and the Christian voice into the public square, and have been helpful in establishing the relevance of Christianity to the major issues facing society, and indeed, to all aspects of life.”