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Event Details

The Price of COVID

22 January 2022
2.00pm – 3.15pm AEDT
Sydney Town Hall
Illustration of hand touching a computer screen

Richard Holden | Benjamin Law | Sam Mostyn | Yasmin Poole

While many of us (sorry Melbourne) spent 2020 believing we had escaped the worst of the pandemic, 2021 brought forth the ugly reality of living with the virus. Even as the nation returns to something that feels like normal, beneath the thrill of gigs, gatherings and barista coffee, it’s clear the pandemic has changed the picture for good.   

We’ve seen our governments and fellow citizens succeed at some things, fail badly at others, and discovered who ‘essential’ workers really are. After two years of arguing about how to ‘balance’ public health and the economy, what have we actually learned?  

Chaired by author and broadcaster Benjamin Law and featuring economist Richard Holden, business leader and CEO Sam Mostyn and youth advocate Yasmin Poole, this talk will explore how the last two years have challenged our health systems, and shown us what went missing as we globalised our economy.   

The incomparable Virginia Gay will close the conversation with a monologue from Melbourne Theatre Company’s production of Cyrano – twice thwarted by COVID outbreaks on its journey to opening night 

What will happen as fortress Australia wakes up from the COVID spell? 

The Reckoning is presented by the UNSW Centre for Ideas and Sydney FestivalUNSW Sydney is the Education Partner of Sydney Festival. 


General Public
Standard – $25 + booking fees
Concession – $22 + booking fees

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Please read the COVID-19 visitor safety information prior to attending this event. Check back closer to the event date as information is frequently updated. Information can be found here.


Wheelchair Accessible
Sydney Town Hall’s accessible entrance is via Druitt St (opposite the Queen Victoria Building). Accessible unisex toilet facilities are available on each publicly accessible floor of the building. If you require assistance when visiting the building, please contact Sydney Town Hall to discuss your requirements on +61 02 9265 9282.  

Hearing Loop
Centennial Hall (both levels) is fitted with a hearing loop system.

This event will be captioned via the GoTheatrical! mobile app.

Other Access Services
Please email to request additional access services.


Sydney Festival 
To book tickets and for event enquiries, please call Sydney Festival on +61 2 8248 6500 or email

UNSW Centre for Ideas
For UNSW Centre for Ideas enquiries, please call + 61 2 9065 0485 or email

National Relay Service
The Centre for Ideas and Sydney Festival are happy to receive phone calls via the National Relay Service. 

Richard Holden

Richard Holden

Richard Holden is Professor of Economics in the UNSW Business School. He received a PhD from Harvard University and has been a faculty member at MIT and the University of Chicago. He has published in leading economics journals such as the Quarterly Journal of Economics, American Economic Review and Review of Economic Studies. His popular writings have appeared in outlets such as The New York Times, New Republic, American Affairs, Australian Financial Review, The Australian, The Sydney Morning Herald and The Conversation. He is a fellow of the Econometric Society and President Elect of the Academy of the Social Sciences in Australia.

Sam Mostyn

Sam Mostyn

Sam Mostyn AO is a businesswoman and sustainability adviser, with a long history of executive and governance roles across business, sport, climate change, the arts, policy, and NFP sectors. Sam is the President of Chief Executive Women. She serves on the board of Mirvac, is the chair of Citi Australia’s consumer bank, and chairs the boards of the Foundation for Young Australians, Australians Investing in Women, Ausfilm, ANROWS (the Australian National Research Organisation for Women’s Safety) and Alberts.  

She also serves on the boards of the GO Foundation, the Centre for Policy Development, The Climate Council, Tonic Media, and until recently as an inaugural board member of Climateworks Australia, and was a Commissioner with the Australian Football League for over a decade until 2017. 

Previously, Sam has served on the Global Business & Sustainable Development Commission, and on the boards of Reconciliation Australia, the Australia Council for the Arts, the Sydney Theatre Company, Sydney Swans, Transurban, Virgin Australia, Australian Volunteers International, and has chaired Carriageworks and The Australian Museum. 

Yasmin Poole

Yasmin Poole

Yasmin is an award-winning speaker, writer and youth advocate. She is Plan International’s National Ambassador and champions the importance of young women being heard in Australia’s political conversations. She has also appeared on prominent television programs such as Q+AThe Drum and The Project.  

Yasmin is the Non-Executive Board Director of OzHarvest, Australia’s leading food rescue charity and YWCA, a national feminist organisation that has supported women and girls for 140 years. In 2019, Yasmin was the youngest member of the Australian Financial Review 100 Women of Influence and Top 40 Under 40 Most Influential Asian Australians. She was most recently named The Martin Luther King Jr Center’s 2021 Youth Influencer of the Year. 

Benjamin Law

Benjamin Law | Chairperson

Benjamin Law is an Australian writer and broadcaster, and is the author of The Family LawGaysia: Adventures in the Queer East, the Quarterly Essay Moral Panic 101 and editor of Growing Up Queer in Australia. Benjamin created and co-wrote three seasons of the award-winning SBS TV series The Family Law, based on his memoir, and wrote the sold-out mainstage play Torch the Place for Melbourne Theatre Company. In 2019, he was named one of the Asian-Australian Leadership Summit’s (AALS) 40 Under 40 Most Influential Asian-Australians – winning the Arts, Culture & Sport category – and one of Harper Bazaar’s Visionary Men. He has a PhD in creative writing and cultural studies from the Queensland University of Technology (QUT). 

Every week, Benjamin co-hosts ABC Radio National’s weekly national pop culture show Stop Everything and interviews public figures for Good Weekend. He hosted ABC TV’s two-part feature documentary on Chinese-Australian history Waltzing the Dragon, and has appeared on TV shows like Filthy Rich and Homeless (SBS), Q&A (ABC), The Drum (ABC) and The Project (Ten). He has also written for over 50 publications in Australia and beyond — including The MonthlyfrankieGuardianMonocle and Australian Financial Review

Virginia Gay

Virginia Gay | Performer

Virginia Gay graduated from the Western Australian Academy of Performing Arts, then spent four years pretending to be a nurse on All Saints, six months pretending to be Julia Gillard in the Sydney Theatre Company’s Wharf Revue, and then five years on Winners & Losers, where she pretended to know a lot about high finance. That last one, particularly, was a stretch. She won a Sydney Theatre Award for Best Actress for Calamity Jane, starred in the film Judy & Punch, which premiered at Sundance 2019, and wrote and directed her first short film Paper Cut, which made 2018 Tropfest. She is currently writing a new play for Belvoir, which will premiere in 2021. 

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