Tuesday, October 30, 2012


Highlights of last month

The editors of Canberra Brain Food loved the talk by Prof George Williams in October. Prof Williams combines scholarly understanding of the intricacies of Australia’s constitution with a passion for reform and social justice. What made his talk exceptional however was the setting – the former chamber of the House of Representatives in Canberra’s Old Parliament House. While it won’t capture the ambience, the full transcript of the talk is available at:

On the theme of constitutional reform, Prof Megan Davis spoke at the ANU last month about her work to consult with the public about proposed changes to the constitution to recognise Australia’s indigenous people and remove discriminatory provisions. Prof Davis’ talk was particularly effective in describing how different people in very different circumstances became involved in the consultations and expressed the importance to them of meaningful reform. You can watch the talk here:

Next month

November has an amazing selection of talks on all manner of subjects (see below). For those looking for even more things to do, the Canberra Film Festival is on. This event seems to get better each year and the program includes award-winning films from around the world screened at a variety of locations around town:

Friday 2 November
Title: Book talk – Uncommon Soldier
Time: 12:30 – 1:45pm
Venue: National Library
Cost: $10

Chris Masters is one of Australia’s foremost investigative journalists having been one of the longest-serving reporters on the Four Corners program. In his latest book, he looks beyond the myths to analyse the character of the modern Australian soldier and the roles they play - war fighter, peacekeeper, diplomat and aid worker. Masters has apparently been given rare access into the life of the Australian ‘digger’ and examines how they are selected, trained and organised as well as giving an insider’s perspective of their day-to-day lives.

Monday 5 November
Title: Out and about in the universe
Time: 6:00pm
Venue: Australian Academy of Science, Shine Dome, Gordon Street, ANU
Cost: Free, registration required

Distances in the Universe may seem intimidating to most people – even beyond comprehension. Using recent, cutting-edge images, animation and the results of his own research, Professor Richard de Grijs will lead you through the cosmic distance scale, from our own Earth to the neighbouring planets, the nearest stars, our own Milky Way galaxy, and beyond, to the nearest as well as more distant galaxies, and the edge of the observable Universe. Should be an enjoyable ride!

Prof de Grijs is Professor of Astrophysics at Peking University, China, and scientific editor of The Astrophysical Journal. He recently spoke at the Sydney Ideas festival (where you would have had to pay $20 to hear him).

Monday 12 November
Title: Smart Justice: the way forward
Time: 1:00 -2:00pm
Venue: Pilgrim House, 69 Northbourne, Ave, Canberra City
Cost: Free, registration required

Peggy Hora, retired judge of the California Superior Court, has written extensively on issues including substance abuse,-domestic violence, drug treatment, cultural competence and ‘therapeutic jurisprudence’ (a view of the court as an interdisciplinary, problem-solving, community institution). In 2010, Judge Hora was appointed as an Adelaide Thinker in Residence. In this role she explored innovative and alternative options to the traditional courtroom as a means to improve access to justice, reduce criminal offending, resolve civil disputes more efficiently and effectively, improve safety and wellbeing and increase public trust and confidence in the judiciary.-He report can be viewed here: http://www.thinkers.sa.gov.au/lib/pdf/hora/smartjustice_lo.pdf

Monday 12 November
Title: Book launch – ‘Don’t go back to where you came from’
Time: 7:30pm
Venue: Smith’s Alternative Bookshop, Alinga Street
Cost: Free, registration required

Dr Tim Soutphommasane is one of Australia’s most interesting political philosophers and commentators. He lectures at Monash University's National Centre for Australian Studies and at the Graduate School of Government in the University of Sydney and you can read his regular column in The Age newspaper at: http://www.theage.com.au/opinion/by/Tim-Soutphommasane

One of Dr Southphomassane’s abiding interests is the particular characteristics of Australia’s diverse society and the challenges facing policies to promote ‘multiculturalism’. At this event, Australia’s finance minister, Senator Penny Wong, will launch his latest book, “Don't go back to where you came from: why multiculturalism works”.

Tuesday 13 November
Title: Book talk – Eureka the unfinished revolution
Time: 10:00 – 12:00
Venue: National Library Australia
Cost: $10

Broadcaster and best-selling author Peter FitzSimons’ latest book is about one of the landmark events in Australian history, the Eureka Stockade, which is seen by historians as a landmark event in the development of Australian democracy and national identity. In simple terms, the ‘rebellion’ arose when in 1854 workers in the goldfields resisted the imposition of licenses and the associated license fees. But the reality of those events was much more complex.

Tuesday 13 November
Title: National Gallery – annual lecture
Time: 6:00pm
Venue: National Gallery
Cost: $20, booking required

Neil MacGregor, Director of the British Museum, will present the first memorial lecture in honour of Robert Hughes.

Wednesday 14 November
Title: The Unrecognised Reserve Powers
Time: 6:00pm
Venue: High Court of Australia
Cost: Free, booking required

Talks at the High Court of Australia are always a highlight. They line up some of Australia’s finest legal scholars to present the lectures with the full bench of the High Court attending. After the talk, you can join the students, academics and members of the public to share a glass of wine and a chat with Chief Justice French and his crew. In what other country can you do that? The November talk will be presented by Prof Anne Twomey of Sydney Law School and will focus on the so-called reserve powers (i.e., powers vested in the head of state that are exercised independent of ministers and the parliament). A fine article by Prof Twomey is at: http://theconversation.edu.au/bringing-down-the-house-keeping-school-chaplains-means-a-surrender-to-the-executive-7926

Wednesday 14 November
Title: Diplomatic protection of Australians abroad
Time: 6:00 – 7:00pm
Venue: Coombs Building, Fellows Road, ANU
Cost: Free, registration required

It seems that one hears more and more that “the Australian Government is providing consular assistance” to Australian citizens who have found themselves in trouble overseas – because they get caught up in natural disasters, traffic accidents, international conflicts or are the subject of charges such as drug smuggling, bribery and corruption or terrorist activity. Names such as Schapelle Corby, David Hicks, Julian Assange and Stern Hu have been very prominent in the media. But what does “consular assistance” mean, what is its legal basis, what can it really deliver, what are our expectations of our diplomatic representatives to provide such assistance and how do we expect them to meet these expectations for every Australian abroad in even the most remote or war-torn places? Don Rothwell, Professor of International Law at the ANU will discuss these issues.

Thursday 15 November
Title: Book talk – After Love
Time: 6:00pm
Venue: Asia Book Room, Lawry Place, Macquarie
Cost: Free, registration required

In the mood for romance? Come and hear local novelist Subhash Jaireth talk about his latest book.

Tuesday 20 November
Title: Justice in Australia – and no Bill of Rights in sight
Time: 5:30pm
Venue: Manning Clark House, 11 Tasmania Circle, Forrest
Cost: $20 for non members, booking required

When he retired in 2009, Michael Kirby was Australia's longest-serving judge at the High Court. During his time in the court, he became known for his dissenting opinions – often delivered in passionate language (his opinion in the Al-Kateb case is a classic) - where he took a fierce approach to human rights and civil liberties. It promises to be a real highlight to hear Justice Kirby in the pleasant and relaxed surroundings of Manning Clark’s historic home expounding on the nature of justice in Australia and the prospects for a bill of rights.

Wednesday 21 November
Title: International Crime and Punishment – 10th Anniversary of the Rome Statute
Time: 6:00 – 7:30pm
Venue: Hedley Bull Centre, ANU
Cost: Free

The Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court came into force on 1 July 2002. 121 states are now party to the Statute and the Court recently delivered its first judgment in the case of the Congolese warlord Thomas Lubanga (See : http://www.guardian.co.uk/law/2012/jul/10/icc-sentences-thomas-lubanga-14-years). It is therefore an appropriate time to evaluate the effectiveness of the Court as a vehicle for the enforcement of international law, the extent to which it has lived up to the aspirations of its proponents and the future of the ICC and international criminal law more generally. And there could be few better to lead the discussion than Tim McCormack, Professor at the Melbourne Law School and Special Adviser on International Humanitarian Law to the prosecutor of the ICC in The Hague. Prof McCormack will be joined by Geoff Skillen who is currently the Chair of Australian Red Cross’ National International Humanitarian Law Committee and was a member of the Australian delegation to the 1998 Rome conference that adopted the Statute of the ICC.

Thursday 22 November
Title: Timor-Leste and the New Deal for Engagement in Fragile States
Time: 12:30 – 2:00pm
Venue: JG Crawford Building, ANU
Cost: Free, registration required

Timor-Leste (or East Timor), gained its independence in 2002 after a violent independence struggle and is one of the poorest countries in the world. What then are its prospects for growth, social development and stability? And what are the lessons of its experience that may be applied to other so-called fragile states? Can they take the lead in shaping their own destinies or must they remain at the mercy of powerful neighbouring states, aid donors and the NGO community? Emilia Pires should have some fascinating insights into these questions. She has been Finance Minister of Timor-Leste since April 2007 and is a member of the High-level Panel advising the United Nations Secretary-General on the global development agenda.

Saturday 24 November
Title: Republican Reset: The lessons of history and the way ahead
Time: 6:00pm
Venue: Wesley Music Centre, Barton
Cost: Free

In this annual lecture of the Australian Republican Movement, Associate Professor James Curran of the Department of History at the University of Sydney will discuss how the national conversation about a constitutional republic in Australia can be revitalised by harnessing a shared sense of community along with a new and more inclusive narrative of the nation. Prof Curran regularly appears on Radio National where he presents on forgotten aspects of Australian history. Here’s a recent segment:

Sunday 25 November
Title: Book launch – Flying the Southern Cross
Time: 2:30 – 4:30pm
Venue: National Library
Cost: Free, registration required

Australian aviators were at the forefront of pioneering aircraft travel an example of which is the first trans-Pacific flight made by Charles Kingsford Smith and Charles Ulm in 1928 in the ‘Southern Cross’ - an aircraft constructed largely of timber and fabric. They made the trip from Oakland, California, to Brisbane in nine days using primitive navigational aids and after facing electrical storms, torrential rain, equipment breakdowns, fuel shortages and the constant fear of engine failure. Using logbook entries, the airmen’s memoirs, contemporary newspaper accounts and official documents, supplemented by a range of historic photographs, historian Michael Molkentin provides an account of the epoch-making flight and its aftermath.


Monday 26 November
Title: Fifty Shades of Brown – 2012 Reconciliation Lecture
Time: 6:00 – 7:00pm
Venue: National Film and Sound Archive
Cost: Free, registration required

Alison Page - designer, cultural planner and member of the Expert Panel on Constitutional Recognition of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples – will deliver the 2012 ANU Reconciliation Lecture. Ms Page is a firm believer that vibrant aboriginal cultures and the values that go along with them are not only important to aboriginal people but that they are also vital to the national reconciliation process and to our understanding of Australia’s national identity. You can see an expression of this approach in the work of the Saltwater-Freshwater Arts Alliance of which Ms Page is the Executive Officer.

Tuesday 27 November
Title: Australia 1942 – In the Shadow of War
Time: 4:30 – 6:00pm
Venue: Parliament House
Cost: Free, registration required

For Australians, 1942 is the year when the Second World War became more than a faraway event in Europe and North Africa. Singapore fell to the Japanese in February that year with many Australians killed, evacuated or taken prisoner. Darwin was bombed not long after. Prime Minister Curtin decided to bring Australian divisions back from North Africa to Australia, much to the annoyance of Churchill. Later that year there was the Kokoda track campaign and the battle of Milne Bay in New Guinea.

The new book “Australia 1942”, edited by Peter Dean, brings together Japanese and Australian historians to offer their perspectives on these and other events. Australia’s Foreign Minister Senator Bob Carr will launch the book at Parliament House.

Wednesday 28 November
Title: Australia in war and peace, 1914-19
Time: 4:30pm
Venue: National Archives, Queen Victoria Terrace, Parkes
Cost: Free, booking required

Dr Jatinder Mann will introduce the main features and the extensive work involved in a joint project between the Menzies Centre for Australian Studies, King's College London, and the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade of Australia that will culminate in the publication of Documents on Australian Foreign Policy on War and Peace 1914–19.

Dr Mann is from the Menzies Centre where, apart from military history, his interests include colonial history and comparative experiences in multicultural policy.

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

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