Thursday, May 31, 2012

JUNE 2012

* The information below is drawn from the websites of various institutions. The web addresses are supplied. Check the websites to confirm details.

Tuesday 5 June
Title: Transiting planets – Venus and beyond
Time: 6:15 – 7:15pm
Venue: John Curtin School of Medical Research, Garran Road, ANU
Cost: Free, registration required

On Wednesday 6 June, Venus will transit in front of the Sun. This will not happen again for another 105 years! Did you know that the primary purpose of Captain Cook’s first voyage to the South Pacific was not to find Australia, but rather to study the transit of Venus from Tahiti? By timing the transit from different locations, scientists of the time were able to more accurately calculate the distance from the Earth to the Sun. Astronomers in Australia and elsewhere are discovering distant planets that transit other stars, and measurements of these transits are helping us to understand how common planets are in our galaxy, as well as how they form and what they are made of. Dr Daniel Bayliss from the ANU’s Mt Stromlo Observatory and Dr Gáspár Bakos of Princeton University will tell you all about this astronomical phenomenon.

You will be able to observe the Transit of Venus on 6 June from Mt Stromlo’s solar telescopes – see: Or if you’re tied to your desk, watch it online at:

If you’d like to read a bit more about transits, the role they have played in astronomy and why they continue to be important today, here are a couple of excellent articles:

Wednesday 6 June
Title: Elegance in exile - portrait drawings from colonial Australia
Time: 12:45 – 1:30pm
Venue: National Portrait Gallery
Cost: Free

Joanna Gilmour, curator, National Portrait Gallery, discusses the significance of drawing and printmaking in colonial Australian art.

Thursday 7 June
Title: Warming in the Tasman Sea: a global warming hotspot
Time: 12:30pm
Venue: Australian National Botanic Gardens Theatrette
Cost: Gold coin donation

Oceanographers have identified ocean hotspots around the world generated by strengthening wind systems that have driven oceanic currents, including the East Australian Current, polewards beyond their known boundaries. Dr Wenju Cai, Principal Research Scientist at the CSIRO, will present the latest research on warming in the Tasman Sea and discuss its implications. (Pre-reading:

Thursday 7 June
Title: Spice Islands
Venue: Asia Bookroom, 3 Lawry Place, Macquarie. ACT
Time: 6:00pm
Cost: Registration required. Admission by donation (proceeds to indigenous literacy foundation)

Author Ian Burnet will discuss his new book “Spice Islands” about the history of the spice trade in south-east Asia and in particular the trade in clove and nutmeg from a small group of islands in the Indonesian archipelago. European appetite for these and other spices led to epic voyages of exploration and also to war and colonisation.

Friday 8 June
Title: Royal mistresses of the House of Hanover-Windsor
Venue: Paperchain bookstore, Manuka
Time: 6:00pm
Cost: Free, registration required

Author Susanna De Vries will discuss her new book “Royal Mistresses of the House of Hanover-Windsor: Secrets, scandals and betrayals” about the practice of royal princes – who often were forced into loveless marriages for reasons of state – to take mistresses. The book describes some of the more interesting of these mistresses (like Lady Jennie Churchill, mistress of Edward VII and mother of Winston) and the influence that they wielded.

Friday 15 June
Title: The Kingdom and the Quarry – China, Australia, Fear and Greed
Venue: Paperchain bookstore, Manuka
Time: 6:30pm
Cost: Free, registration required

David Uren, economics editor of the Australian newspaper, will discuss his new book “The Kingdom and the Quarry: China, Australia, Fear and Greed” with Chris Uhlmann, co-anchor of ABC TV’s the 7.30 Report. The book is about the changing nature of Australia’s relationship with China. The latter’s economic progress presents huge opportunities for Australia (witness the boom in our mining exports) but also poses a number of political and security challenges. Here is an extract from the book:

Monday 18 June
Title: Prison system - mass incarceration and prospects for policy reform in the US
Time: 5:30 - 6:30pm
Venue: Crawford Building, Lennox Crossing, ANU
Cost: Free, registration required

In the United States, prison and jail populations have grown dramatically over the last 35 years. Because incarceration is so highly concentrated in poor urban neighbourhoods, the criminal justice system has come to have a large influence on the life chances of young, mostly minority, men with little schooling. Might pressure to cut budgets present the best possible opportunity to reform America’s criminal justice and penal system? Bruce Western, Professor of Sociology at Harvard University, will discuss. Professor Western is the author of Punishment and Inequality in America. Here’s a good article by him to get you warmed-up for the theme: You might also want to read this recent article about imprisonment in America: 

Wednesday 20 June
Title: Judicial Engagement in the High Court of Australia
Time: 6:00pm
Venue: High Court of Australia
Cost: Free, booking required

“Judicial engagement” is the term used to describe the practice of courts to refer to the decisions of the courts of other countries in their reasons for judgment. Courts in Australia have followed this practice fairly consistently with only limited controversy. The topic has, however, been much more controversial in the United States (see for example:

This talk by Professor Cheryl Saunders, professor at the University of Melbourne and the founding director of its Centre for Comparative Constitutional Studies, will examine judicial engagement in the High Court of Australia and consider why and how foreign decisions are used and whether that use has changed over time.

Wednesday 20 June
Title: What’s so great about being displaced?
Time: 6:00 – 7:00pm
Venue: Sir Roland Wilson Building, McCoy Circuit
Cost: Free

Come and mark World Refugee Day by attending Dr Kim Huynh’s talk about how forced displacement and extreme alienation have had a positive and valuable impact on some peoples’ lives and their work. For example how did their experiences of displacement shape Albert Einstein’s vision of the universe, Primo Levi’s writing, Leo Strauss’ philosophy and Roman Polanski’s film-making. Dr Kim teaches refugee politics and political philosophy at ANU and is himself the child of Vietnamese boat-people. His biography of his parents is called ‘Where the Sea Takes Us’. (Pre-reading:

Thursday 21 June
Title: Hope: refugees and their supporters in Australia since 1947
Venue: Paperchain bookstore, Manuka
Time: 6:00pm
Cost: Free, registration required

Historian Ann-Mari Jordens will discuss her new book “Hope: Refugees and Their Supporters in Australia Since 1947” which compiles interviews conducted with people from a range of different countries who have found in Australia a refuge from persecution. The book also describes the individuals, community groups and government workers who gave welcome and support to the refugees.

Friday 22 June
Title: Travelling the Silk Road
Time: 12:15 – 1:30pm
Venue: Visions theatre, National Museum
Cost: Free, booking required

In association with the National Museum’s exhibition ‘Travelling the Silk Road: Ancient Pathway to the Modern World’ (which comes from the American Museum of Natural History in New York), Ken Parry and Joyce Morgan will discuss travels on the Silk Road from the time of Genghis Khan to today. Joyce Morgan is co-author of ‘Journey on the Silk Road’ an account of the discovery of the Diamond Sutra, the oldest known printed book (circa 860 AD), and how Buddhism spread through central and east Asia. (Here’s a good review of the book: Dr Parry is Senior Lecturer and Research Fellow in the Department of Ancient History at Macquarie University in Sydney.

Tang-era drum  (detail). Courtesy: American Museum of Natural History, Division of Anthropology.

Thursday 28 June
Title: Encounters in Arcadia - von Guerard and his Aboriginal subjects
Time: 12:45pm
Venue: Project Gallery, National Gallery of Australia
Cost: Free

Dr Philip Jones will discuss the depictions of Aboriginal subjects in the paintings of Eugene von Guerard and how these depictions were influenced by von Guerard's German background and his encounters with Aboriginal people. Dr Jones is Senior Curator at the South Australian Museum which holds one of the most impressive collections of aboriginal art and artefacts. He is the author of the beautiful book Ochre and Rust in which he looks at a selection of artefacts to tell the story of aspects of Aboriginal experience and the effect of their encounters with other people. See what the Australian newspaper had to say about this book at

Friday 29 June
Title: Media reporting of the next federal election: what can we expect?
Time: 12:15 – 1:15pm
Venue: Parliament House theatre
Cost: Free

What can we expect of election reporting in Australia? Will it be ‘dumbed down’? Will it focus on the sensational rather than the substantial? Will it be biased? Sally Young, Associate Professor of Social and Political Sciences at the University of Melbourne, should be a good guide to these issues. She has recently published ‘How Australia Decides’, her analysis of election reporting in the 2000s. (You can listen to an interview with Dr Young here:

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