Past events

In partnership with the Balmain Association

The Power of Beauty – or what we can learn from Balmain

We are richer and freer than ever, yet we continue to make cities that few of us like. Now, they threaten our very survival. Cronyism, uglification, sprawl, heritage destruction, misappropriation of public land, flogging of public assets, carbon emissions, habitat clearing and urban heat: at the heart of them all lies a fallacy; the idea of city as profit-machine rather than a ground of shared connection. Perhaps it is time for a reset.
What, asks Dr Elizabeth Farrelly, can we learn from old, unplanned and beloved environments like Balmain.

About Elizabeth

Elizabeth Farrelly is a columnist, essayist, novelist, critic and speaker. Trained in architecture, science and philosophy, she is fascinated by how humans engage with nature to make culture. Over thirty years her Sydney Morning Herald column on urbanism, planning, planting, climate, politics and public art has seen city-making go from back-page news to headline material. With a PhD in Sydney urbanism, Farrelly has been Assistant Editor of the Architectural Review in London, a City of Sydney Councillor, Associate Professor (Practice) in the Australian Graduate School of Urbanism at the University of NSW and inaugural chair of the Australia Award for Urban Design.

More about Elizabeth


Edwina MacDonald + Alison Aggarwal

14 October 2021

Women in Australia – How safe? How equal?

With recent reports of the gender pay gap widening, greater numbers of women dropping out of the workforce, and the ongoing reports of sexual harassment, sexual assault and domestic and family violence, Edwina and Alison will reflect on the current status of gender equality in Australia, specifically for people living in poverty. They will explore the impacts of COVID on work, caring and families, responses needed for women’s safety, and how economic decisions can entrench or challenge gender inequality.

About the speakers

Edwina MacDonald (she/her)

Edwina is Deputy CEO at the Australian Council of Social Service, the peak body for the Australian community services sector. She has over two decades of experience in driving change on social issues and social justice, human rights, gender equality and civil society, and has worked on research, policy and advocacy in government, university and community sectors.

more about Edwina MacDonald

Alison Aggarwal (she/her)

Alison is a feminist human rights advocate and activist is currently the Director, Policy Advocacy and Research at Chief Executive Women. She has previously held policy roles promoting gender equality and human rights in the federal government, the Australian Human Rights Commission, and in community legal centres. She has also promoted gender equality and human rights through international development projects, and through her work with feminist movements and organisations across the Asia Pacific.


Apr 11, 2019 Rebecca Huntley: Australia Fair/Listening to the nation


Thursday 11 April 2019
Rebecca Huntley

What do Australians want most from their next government? Rebecca Huntley listens to the people and hears a call for change.

Too often we focus on the angry, reactionary minority. But, Huntley explains, there is also a large progressive centre.

For some time, a clear majority have been saying they want action – on climate and energy, on housing and inequality, on corporate donations and the corruption of democracy.

Would a Shorten Labor government rise to this challenge? What can be learnt from the failures of past governments? Was marriage equality just the beginning? In Australia Fair, Rebecca Huntley reveals the state of the nation and makes the case for democratic renewal – should the next government heed the call.

“Often the claim is made that our politics and politicians are poll-driven. This is, on the whole, bunkum. If polls were influential, we would have invested much more in renewable energy, maintained and even increased funding to the ABC, and made child care cheaper. We may already have made changes to negative gearing and moved towards adopting elements of the Uluru Statement from the Heart. We would have taken up the first iteration of the Gonski education reforms. These are some of the issues where a democratic majority comes together, a basic agreement crossing party lines.” —Rebecca Huntley, Australia Fair


About the speaker

Dr Rebecca Huntley is one of Australia’s foremost researchers on social and consumer trends. She has a background in publishing, academia and politics. She is a sought after commentator on social trends on radio, in print and on television.

Rebecca holds degrees in law and film studies and a PhD in Gender Studies.
For nearly 9 years Rebecca was the Director of The Mind & Mood Report, Australia’s longest running social trends report.
She is currently the Principal Consultant at Vox Populi Research

Rebecca is the author of numerous books including the recent Still Lucky: why you should feel optimistic about Australia and its people (Penguin 2017). She was a feature writer for Australian Vogue, a columnist for BRW and the presenter of RN Drive on a Friday. She writes and podcasts for The Guardian Australia. She is on the Artistic Advisory Board of the Bell Shakespeare Company, an adjunct senior lecturer at the School of Social Sciences at The University of New South Wales and a board member of The Whitlam Institute.



Mar 14, 2019: Edwina Kerr: Balmain Maps & Memories

Join us for the presentation of this online project that brings together the written and mapped history of Balmain with personal stories.

Edwina is seeking local stories for the project and will be inviting guests to share their memories in writing, which she will be adding to the website.

About the speaker

Edwina Kerr has spent her whole life in Balmain and is passionate about the suburb’s history. The ‘Balmain: Out of the Books‘ project is part of her history degree at the University of Sydney and the unit ‘History Beyond the Classroom’.

Read more about Edwina’s project on the University of Sydney’s Department of History blog:

History Matters


Feb 21, 2019: Ass. Prof. Amy Maguire: Human Rights & Australia


What are human rights and how does Australia’s performance stack up against its international human rights obligations?

Amy Maguire specialises in public international law and human rights at the University of Newcastle Law School. She is a sought-after commentator on international legal and human rights issues for Australian and international television, radio, online and print media and a featured author for The Conversation. Amy contributes to evidence-based policy-making through submissions to government inquiries in her fields of expertise. She has published widely in highly-regarded academic journals and edited books.

Profile: Associate Professor Amy Maguire

The Conversation | August 3, 2018
Amy Maguire, Jason von Meding,  Samuel Berhanu Woldemariam

Australia and other countries must prioritise humanity in dealing with displaced people and migration

Read the article






Nov 8, 2018: Prof. Jock Collins & Prof Carol Reid: Refugee Families in Australia


Refugee politics in Australia is the most divisive and controversial aspect of our immigration policy. Jock Collins and Carol Reid will present an overview of their current research through which members of 250 families from Syria, Iraq and Afghanistan have been interviewed across the Eastern States.

Despite prejudice-flamed opinions to the contrary, their research suggests that new refugees are settling well into Australia, are very thankful to be here, are eager to contribute to our society, but employment remains a challenging issue.

Jock Collins is Professor of Social Economics at the UTS Business School. He has been conducting research on Australian immigration since the early 1970s.  He currently holds four Australian Research Council grants, two of which relate to refugee settlement in Australia.

Professor Jock Collins bio

Carol Reid is Professor of Sociology of Education in the Centre for Educational Research, Western Sydney University. For the last four decades she has been involved in education for culturally diverse populations. Her recent research focuses on the settlement of refugees, compulsory education for ethnic minorities in Sydney, and immigrant teachers in Australia. She has published six books and more than 80 articles on these topics.

Professor Carol Reid bio





Oct 11, 2018: Gabrielle Chan Rusted off – Why country Australia is fed up


The daughter of a Singaporean migrant, Gabrielle moved from the Canberra press gallery to marry a sheep and wheat farmer in 1996 – the year Pauline Hanson was first elected to federal parliament. She noticed the economic and cultural divide between the city and the country, the differences in political culture and yawning gap between the parliament and small town life.

In September 2017 she swapped interviews with politicians with interviews with ordinary people on her main street to discover why they think politics has moved so far from their lives. The result is Rusted Off: Why country Australia is fed up. In the process, Gabrielle draws conclusions about the current state of our rural political representation, the gap between city and country and how to bridge it.

Gabrielle Chan has been a journalist for more than 30 years. She has been a political journalist and politics live blogger at Guardian Australia since 2013. Prior to that she worked at The Australian, ABC radio, The Daily Telegraph, in local newspapers and politics.  Gabrielle has written and edited history books, biographies and even a recipe book.




Sept 13, 2018: The Uluru Statement from the Heart – An invitation to all Australians


Dean Parkin was closely involved in the process leading to the Statement and will take you on a deeper exploration and the invitation it gives to the Australian people.

Dean is the Executive Director of the Uluru Education Project, which aims to drive public awareness of the Uluru Statement From the Heart that was developed by Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples in May 2017.

An experienced independent management consultant, Dean has worked across the public, corporate, not-for-profit and political sectors at national, regional, and local levels. He has advised a range of clients on strategy, engagement and co-design, and in addition to extensive experience in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander affairs, he has commercial experience both in Australia and the UK.

Dean is from the Quandamooka peoples of Minjerribah (North Stradbroke Island) in Queensland and works with his community on their Native Title journey. Dean has a Bachelor of Arts (Politics and Journalism) from the University of Queensland. He is an inaugural Fellow of the Atlantic Fellowship for Social Equity (University of Melbourne) and is a board member of the NAISDA Dance College, Australia’s premier Indigenous training college.

Balmain Institute Talk Transcript


Uluru Statement From the Heart


Aug 9, 2018: North Korea, from Revolution to The Rocket Man


What challenges and opportunities face North Korea in it’s 70th year – and our region and the world?

Dr Christopher Richardson

North Korea’s model of totalitarianism has proved remarkably resilient and resistant to change. As the 70th anniversary of the state’s foundation looms, Dr Christopher Richardson explores North Korea’s past, present and future, with an emphasis on the evolution and imposition of the Kim Family Cult of Personality and the consequences of this Kim Cult for the state’s security and military posture, its culture and daily life (with a special emphasis on children’s lives).

Dr Christopher Richardson from Sydney University is an expert on North Korea with a particular focus on policies affecting children. He has published widely in both academic and fictional modes and is author, among other things, of a novel for children – Empire of the Waves: Voyage of the Moon Child.

Recommended reading on North Korea

Dear Leader
Jang Jin-sung (London: Rider Books, 2014)
Nothing to Envy: Ordinary Lives of North Koreans
Barbara Demick (New York: Spiegel and Grau, 2009)
The Cleanest Race: How North Koreans See Themselves and Why It Matters
Brian Myers (New York: Melville House, 2010)

“My Escape From North Korea”
Lee Hyeon-seo, TED, February 2013.

“Life Under Kim Jong-un”
Anna Fifield, The Washington Post, 17 November 2017

“I’ll Rejoice in Trump’s Triumph When Kim Opens His Gulags To Scrutiny”
Michael Kirby, The Sydney Morning Herald, 13 June 2018

“Hagiography of the Kims & The Childhood of Saints: Kim Jong-il”
Christopher Richardson, Sino-NK, 12 August 2014.

“Hagiography of the Kims & The Childhood of Saints: Kim Il-sung” 
Christopher Richardson, Sino-NK, 31 January 2015.


July 12, 2018: Disruption is the name of the game


Traditional media are being disrupted by digital technologies. If civility and progress are to survive the current communication tornado we need a restoration of the basic rules for reflective discourse and a redirection of our engagement with public policy.

Kim Williams

Kim Williams AM has had a long involvement in the arts, entertainment and media industries in Australia and internationally. He has held various executive leadership positions since the 1970s, including: chief executive at News Corp Australia; FOXTEL; Fox Studios Australia; the Australian Film Commission; Southern Star Entertainment and Musica Viva Australia; as well as a senior executive at the Australian Broadcasting Corporation.

Mr. Williams was the chief executive of the subscription broadcaster FOXTEL for the decade up until November 2011. At FOXTEL he pioneered many of the major digital broadcast innovations in Australia.

He is currently the Chairman of Trustees of the Thomson Reuters Founders Share Company and an AFL Commissioner.MUP (Melbourne University Publishing) published his book Rules of Engagement in 2014.

Balmain Institute Talk Transcript



May 10, 2018: The Future of Work


What does it look like, who will be doing it, and how will we regulate it?
How can we re-think the very concept of work to make sure that work works for as many of us as possible?

Susan Price is an experienced employment lawyer and diversity consultant.
She has worked in private practice, most recently with PwC, as well as in-house.
Susan is one of the inaugural Fellows of the University of Sydney Policy Lab, and is also an Honorary Affiliate of the Business School in the Discipline of Work and Organisational Studies.   Susan has a keen interest in the future of work and how it will be regulated.  She is an active member of Women Lawyers NSW, and sits on the boards of Epilepsy Action and the Bondi Beach Cottage.

more about Susan Price


April 12, 2018: The Future of the Fair Go


The link between hard work and good living standards in Australia is broken. We need to find out why, and how to fix it. Australian workers deserve their fair share of prosperity in one of the wealthiest nations on earth.

Emma Dawson

Emma Dawson is the Executive Director of Per Capita.
Per Capita is an independent progressive think tank, dedicated to fighting inequality in Australia. We work to build a new vision for Australia based on fairness, shared prosperity, community and social justice.


Formerly, Emma was a senior advisor on Digital Inclusion at Telstra, Executive Director of the Institute for a Broadband Enabled Society at the University of Melbourne, and a senior policy advisor in the Rudd and Gillard governments.

Emma has published articles and opinion pieces on a wide range of public policy issues, which have appeared in the Sydney Morning Herald, The Age, the Guardian, The Australian, and a number of online publications. She is a regular panellist on The Drum on ABC TV and various Sky News programs.

Emma holds a BA with First Class Honours from LaTrobe University and an MA with Distinction from Monash University. She sits on the board of the Prader-Willi Research Foundation Australia and is an Honorary Fellow in the School of Social and Political Inquiry at the University of Melbourne.

more about Emma Dawson


March 8, 2018: Women, Work & Sex

Dr Olivia Murphy

from Mary Wollstonecraft to #metoo

Dr Olivia Murphy

It’s 2018, and women still face sexual harassment and discrimination at work and in public life. What can the eighteenth century teach us about how we got into this mess, and how to fix it?

Dr Olivia Murphy is the author of Jane Austen the Reader, and has published widely on eighteenth and early nineteenth century literature and culture. She is currently a postdoctoral research fellow, Department of English, Sydney University.

more about Dr Olivia Murphy


Feb 8, 2018: The Bentley Effect screening/Q&A with Naomi Hogan

The Bentley Effect documents the highs and lows of the battle to keep a unique part of Australia gasfield-free. This timely story of a community’s heroic stand shows how strategic direct action and peaceful protest from a committed community can overcome industrial might and political short-sightedness.

The screening will be followed by a short Q&A with Naomi Hogan
Naomi has a science communications background and is the National Coordinator for the Lock the Gate Alliance. For the past six years she has been fighting CSG and fracking alongside impacted communities in Australia.

This event is Co-hosted with Climate Change Balmain-Rozelle


Tamara Winikoff


HeARTless – Arts funding in Australia

March 2017

Tamara is Executive Director, National Association for the Visual Arts.

She spoke about the directions and challenges for art practitioners and art organisation in 2017. Some issues she addressed were:

  • How are artists/arts organisations funded?
  • What was Brandis up to?
  • How did arts organisations counter this?
  • What’s happening now?
  • What should concerned citizens like us do?

Prof. Simon Chapman

Wind farms – what are they doing to us?

November 2016

While most recently ‘wind farms’ have been in the news for their capacity to disrupt (or not!) power generation in South Australia, at this event Professor Simon Chapman will provide an update on research into the human health impacts of wind energy and the role he has played in trying to bring some sense to the often emotional and ill-informed debates about it.


Past events