August 8, 2019 Philip Bray


Reflections on 50 ‘odd’ years of local politics & bookselling.

Philip Bray is well known as the proprietor of Brays Books and a champion of Independent Booksellers in NSW and VIC.

Books have changed the world and they change individual lives. Philip will reveal the four books which changed his life, brought him to Balmain and hence played a part in both changing and preserving Balmain and surrounding suburbs.

As Deputy Mayor for Leichhardt, Philip helped lead the movement for more open democracy and he has many activist tales to tell!

Balmain Institute Talk Transcript

Read the Transcript

Given the limitations of time, Philip has had to leave out many incidents and events. For this, he offers his apologies. What he has provided is an overview of his 50 years in Balmain.


July 11, 2019 Warren Yates

Thursday 11 July, 2019
Warrren Yates

Warren will give the Australian election result a broader context, presenting evidence that progress towards decarbonisation of the world economy is gathering pace and may well be unstoppable.

Ironically, and certainly undeservedly, this will be to Australia’s advantage.

About the speaker

After an academic career in electrical engineering at University of Technology, Sydney and a post retirement stint in local government as an elected councillor on Mosman Council, Warren’s focus has evolved towards environmental activism.

In the absence of political leadership he feels compelled to join with likeminded individuals in grass roots actions to hasten the transition to a more sustainable economy. He is public officer and treasurer of Clean Energy for Eternity and a director of the social enterprise ClearSky Solar Investments Ltd.

more about Warren Yates BSc BE PhD



June 13, 2019 Deborah Snow: On the Campaign Trail


Thursday 13 June, 2019
Deborah Snow

Can accurate reporting counteract the effects of dirty tricks & social media? Which of the many influences on public opinion seem to have the greatest impact?

Based on her first hand experiences, Deborah Snow will discuss the role of the print media in the recent election.  She will discuss how reliable mainstream media is more necessary than ever before.

About the speaker

Deborah Snow is a senior journalist with the Sydney Morning Herald whose work is also published in several other news outlets across Australia.She is a former Moscow and London correspondent for ABC TV and is the author of Siege,  a book that provides a compelling account of the Lindt Cafe events.



Read Sydney Morning Herald articles by Deborah Snow



May 9, 2019 Will Steffen: Climate Change 2019 – Rising Risks, Growing Challenges

Thursday 9 May 2019
Will Steffen

Will Steffen is an Earth System scientist. He is a Councillor on the publicly-funded Climate Council of Australia that delivers independent expert information about climate change.

About the speaker

Will Steffen is an Emeritus Professor at the Australian National University (ANU); Canberra, a Senior Fellow at the Stockholm Resilience Centre, Sweden; and a Fellow at the Beijer Institute of Ecological Economics, Stockholm. He is the chair of the jury for the Volvo Environment Prize; a member of the International Advisory Board for the Centre for Collective Action Research, Gothenburg University, Sweden; and a member of the Anthropocene Working Group of the Sub-committee on Quaternary Stratigraphy.

Steffen’s interests span a broad range within the fields of sustainability and Earth System science, with an emphasis on the science of climate change, approaches to climate change adaptation in land systems, incorporation of human processes in Earth System modelling and analysis; and the history and future of the relationship between humans and the rest of nature.


Read Will’s reports on the Climate Council website

ANU logo

Read Will’s ANU profile



Dr David Smith


Understanding populism today – Brexit, Trump, Hanson and Le Pen

May 2017

→  The Brexit vote of 2016

→  Trump’s victory in the US Presidential election

→  The return of Pauline Hanson to Canberra

→  Marine Le Pen’s revival of the Front National

What do these things have in common?  The word “populism” is often used to describe them all, but does that make sense?

Every populist sees the world as divided between corrupt, self-indulgent “elites” and hard-working, virtuous “people”. Anti-immigration politics plays a role in all of them, because it raises the question of “who are ‘the people’?” All of these cases have also exposed painful political divides between major cities and rural hinterlands, divides that have been ignored for too long.

But the differences are just as important, especially when it comes to the different kinds of nationalism that go along with populism. British and French nationalists feel cold in the shadow of past colonial glory. American nationalists struggle with the idea that their nation may no longer be the greatest on earth. Australian nationalism is more relaxed—we don’t have the burden of seeing ourselves as being at the centre of the world. But it is still a powerful tool for politicians willing to use it.

From the perspective of the present day it is hard to say what the meaning of all this is. Only history will tell us whether we are at the beginning, the middle or the end of something. But in the meantime, we have much to learn from careful comparison of populist success and failure.

Dr David Smith is jointly appointed between the US Studies Centre and the School of Social and Political Sciences at the University of Sydney. He is the academic director at USSC. His research examines political relations between states and minorities, with a focus on religion in the US. His book Religious Persecution and Political Order in the United States was published by Cambridge University Press in 2015.




Jane Caro


Fake News

April 2017

Pope Backs Trump

Hillary sold weapons to Isis

SA lights go out due to renewables

Fake news is big news, with repercussions for journalism, political engagement and social cohesion.

Jane Caro is a celebrated commentator on public affairs. People appreciate her engaging forthright style and the strength of her convictions on social policy particularly education. She has a huge media presence and is a respected author and columnist.

We were pleased to welcome Jane to the Balmain Institute to talk about Fake News and its implications in the Australian context.