Michael West

Thursday 11 June 2020
Michael West

The rising power of corporations in democracy

Veteran Journalist, Michael West reluctantly turned media entrepreneur, will talk about the crisis in media, the rising power of corporations in democracy and what we can do about it.

About the speaker

Michael West spend eight years at Rupert Murdoch’s News Corporation and eight years at Fairfax Media (now Nine Entertainment) before striking out on his own to produce journalism of high public interest.
West is a Walkley-award winner and Adjunct Professor at the University of Sydney’s School of Social and Political Sciences.


Bates Gill

Thursday 14 May 2020
Bates Gill

How will Australia’s relations with its number one trading partner look in the post Covid-19 era?

As the political and economic disruptions of the pandemic become clearer, what impacts can we expect it to have on Australia’s critically important relationship with China?

This presentation will examine both the promise and perils of ties with our giant neighbour, and whether we  should expect Australia-China relations to remain the same or change dramatically in the years ahead.

About the speaker

Bates Gill  has a 30-year career as a professional China-watcher.
He is an  author, scholar,  policy advisor, and  internationally-respected expert on Chinese politics and foreign affairs.  He has lived and worked  in China, Europe, and the United States, and is now Professor of Asia-Pacific Security Studies at Macquarie University.   Dr Gill  co-authored  China Matters: Getting it Right for Australiaa go-to guide for understanding the risks  and opportunities ahead for Australia-China relations.


Kribo Ackerman

Thursday 5 March 2020

Acting locally on climate change

In this time of climate anxiety it’s more important than ever to take action in our private lives and local communities to create a low-carbon future.

Join Kribo Ackerman, Engagement Officer with the Green Living Centre (an initiative of Inner West Council), for an interactive discussion about the most effective actions we can take and how to connect with others taking action in our community.


Rick Emory McGary


Thursday 14 November 2019

It didn’t end with the Hougoumont –
The ongoing penal colonialisation of Indigenous Australia.

*The Hougoumont was the last convict ship to arrive in Australia – 1868

Rick Emory McGary is a legal academic and is currently obtaining a PhD in law at the ANU’s National Centre for Indigenous Studies on the topic of Racism in the Criminal Law of Australia studying under Professor Mick Dodson.

Rick has a long personal and family history of fighting institutional racism in the courtroom. He is himself a mixed race Texan with significant Cherokee Indian ancestry, a former researcher for the Innocence Project of Texas, the son of an international womens’ rights lawyer, and the grandson of the attorney who desegregated Texas public schools. Currently living in Canberra, Rick is incredibly grateful for the opportunities he is receiving in Australia, and hopes to help make a difference here as well.

more about Rick Emory McGary

Shayne Higson


September 12, 2019

Dying with Dignity: one small step or one giant leap?

For most Australians providing this compassionate option is a natural progression in end of life care but for others it is considered a ‘crossing the Rubicon’ moment for our society.

Join Shayne Higson, Vice President of Dying with Dignity NSW, in an interactive discussion about voluntary assisted dying laws, why they are needed, how they differ around the world and when we are likely to see the next Bill introduced in NSW.

more about Shayne

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



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