Newcastle Institute

Latest thinking in sustainable technologies and coal alternatives

Father of solar paint, Paul Dastoor and futurist Garry Ellem will present the latest thinking in sustainable technologies and coal alternatives at local think-tank The Newcastle Institute’s next public forum on Wednesday 9 July.

Professor Dastoor believes the greatest issue the world is facing is energy production.

“How do we solve this issue? We capture the sun’s energy through solar paint and turn our homes, cars and appliances into solar power stations,” said Professor Dastoor.

Professor Dastoor’s solar paint technology deals with carbon-based electronic materials that are soluble in a variety of liquids. This makes them able to be dissolved into solutions, which can be printed, painted or sprayed onto different surfaces whilst still being able to conduct electrical charges.

Expert panellists:

  • Professor Paul Dastoor, director of the Centre for Organic Electronics at the University of Newcastle in Australia. Professor Dastoor’s Solar Paint featured in the grand final of the 2011 season of the ‘New Inventors’.
  • Gary Ellem, Future Industries Program Manager at the Tom Farrell Institute, University of Newcastle. In this role Dr Ellem has initiated the Carbon Valley 2050 think tank which has gone on to develop the Hunter Valley Electric Vehicle Festival and the Diamonds from Coal initiative. Dr Ellem.

A public discussion, inviting audience participation to explore these themes will follow the presentations.  

This forum has not been established to drive a particular position or outcome, but to facilitate informed and constructive discussion. The Newcastle Institute aims to advance the community’s interests by developing shared understanding of these complex issues, and of the various opinions and interests involved in this controversial area.


VENUE:Souths League Club, Llewellyn Street, Merewether.

DATE: Wednesday 9thJuly 2014

TIME: 7.00 till 8.30pm  

ADMISSION: $5 Donation

Cycling – a transport solution for Newcastle

Cycling offers many benefits. It’s fun, creates a better environment, reduces congestion, saves money and improves health.

  • 40% of trips in Newcastle are less than 2km.
  • 80% are less than 10km.

Our geography and climate are good for cycling.

Commuter cycling has boomed in major cities around the world. Can it become a viable transport option for our city?

Our next Newcastle Institute public forum will present perspectives on the future of cycling in Newcastle:

  • State and local government representatives will outlines the role cycling will play in transport planning and urban renewal and
  • Representatives from the cycling community will present a bold new plan for a network of safe cycle paths that could move cycling from a pastime for enthusiasts to a mass transport solution.

Speakers include:

Kevin Webster, Network & Safety Manager, Hunter Roads & Maritime Services

• State and local cycling initiatives.

Tim Askew, City Centre Program Manager, City of Newcastle

• Cycling Strategy and city centre renewal.

Bernard Hockings, Newcastle Cycleways

• the CycleSafe regional network – a $50m transport infrastructure proposal.

All interested people are welcome. There will be some time for questions and discussion.

WHAT: Newcastle Institute June Forum
WHERE:  We’ll be back at Souths Leagues Club, in Llewellyn Street, Merewether for this event.
WHEN: Wednesday, 11th June, 2014
We’re very grateful for the $5 donation at the door.

Redeveloping Newcastle:- Why? What? How?

Newcastleshot_40_97ed_largeThe multiple redevelopment projects underway or being planned for Newcastle are creating a great deal of public interest and discussion, with plenty of strong opinions. The next public forum of local think-tank The Newcastle Institute will bring four different perspectives on the Newcastle’s ongoing redevelopment.

  • Bob Dupont, Newcastle-based Valuer and Office-bearer in the Property Council of Australia, shall give his perspective on the economic drivers and constraints affecting the current developments. 
  • Corrinne Fisher, from the Better Planning Network, shall outline her group’s concerns about current planning processes in NSW, and suggest how these could be improved. 
  • Mark Fenwick, Architect with DWP Suters, will discuss the challenges of planning and redevelopment in heritage precincts.
  • Tom Baker, a recent PhD graduate from the University of Newcastle, will discuss his research into the attitudes, life choices and neighbourhood interactions of apartment residents in Newcastle.

 There will then be public discussion exploring all these themes. 

This forum has not been established to drive a particular position or outcome, but to facilitate informed and constructive discussion.  The Newcastle Institute aims to advance the community’s interests by developing shared understanding of these complex issues, and of the various opinions and interests involved in this controversial area.

VENUE: Newcastle City Hall, Hunter Room
DATE: Wednesday 14th May 2014
TIME: 7.00 till 8.30pm ADMISSION: $5 Donation

Medicare Locals – and the Future of Healthcare

Wednesday April 9th 2014  7pm 

The Regal Theatre, Birmingham Gardens

The next public forum of local think-tank The Newcastle Institute will give the public the opportunity to meet the new CEO of Hunter Medicare Local, Carol Bennett, and learn about future plans for primary healthcare services in the Hunter. 

“We need to talk less about health systems, and more about health”, Ms Bennett says.  “How can we begin to fulfil the fundamental belief that underpins everything we do at Hunter Medicare Local – how can we ensure that, everyone living in the Hunter has the opportunity to lead a healthy and fulfilling life?” 

Carol says “I will talk about some health programs and services.  But more importantly, I will discuss how we can change the community experience of health and health care to better respond to our needs as consumers, rather than responding to the needs of those who profit from the health system.”

‘Medicare Locals’ were established nationally three years ago as part of the by Federal Government’s Primary Healthcare Reforms. After three years, there remains widespread confusion and misunderstanding of their role

Hunter Medicare Local coordinates primary healthcare across the Hunter and Manning Region. The success of GP after hours, mental health programs, and collaboration with the Local Health District has led to recognition of Hunter Medicare Local as one of the leading primary healthcare organisations in the country. 

Prior to her current role, Carol was CEO of the Consumers Health Forum of Australia (CHF) – the peak national organisation for health consumers in Australia.   Carol has worked at the executive level in health organisations for more than 15 years.  She is credited with achieving a number of national health policy changes across Australia.  Her move to Newcastle has been seen as a strong endorsement of the success of Hunter Medicare Local.

The obesity epidemic – Why is it happening and what can we do about it ?

First event for 2014 – new venue in the reopened Regal Cinema

Download a flyer for this event

The obesity epidemic – Why is it happening and what can we do about it?

There is an Obesity epidemic around the world. But what to do about it? Is it because of sloth, lack of self-discipline and laziness? Will food labelling make a difference? Should ‘junk-food’ advertising be restricted? Do we need community initiatives, such as the current ‘Hunter Health Kick’, or ‘Australia’s Biggest Loser’ for a community? Is modern medicine the cause or a solution? Should we change the way we design our cities? These are the questions that will be addressed in the Newcastle Institute’s first public forum for 2014, with four prominent citizens addressing these questions.

Chad Watson – Editor at the Newcastle Herald, will discuss his own experience with obesity and the Newcastle Herald’s response to the Hunter Health Kick
Costa Karihaloo – Bariatric surgeon, will discuss how bariatric surgery does address obesity, but why it is not the answer to the obesity epidemic.

Professor Clare Collins – International nutrition expert at the University of Newcastle, will discuss her work in empowering a new generation with the skills and knowledge needed to make healthy food choices. Part of her world-leading research is based on the knowledge that people crave information and feedback about their own eating habits. Professor Collins developed the  Healthy Eating Quiz – a brief web-based set of questions asking participants how often they eat a variety of healthy foods that are aligned with the Dietary Guidelines for Australians. She also recently launched a novel web app that shows how much of your favourite foods you have earned based on how far you have walked.
Professor Phil Morgan – Physical activity and nutrition expert at the University of Newcastle, will discuss his work in addressing obesity and promoting healthy lifestyles. The world-first Healthy Dads, Healthy Kids program is one example of the obesity prevention initiatives Professor Morgan has designed that has been proven to help fathers manage their weight, engage children to eat more healthily, be more active and improve the overall quality of life of families.

7.00pm Wednesday 12 March, 2014

Regal Cinema – Birmingham Gardens

4 Moore Street, Birmingham Gardens NSW 2287


Getting set for 2014 – the start of a new series for the Newcastle Institute

Look out for more details in the next week or so about our opening event for 2014.

To kick off the year that little bit differently; we’re moving!

You may have seen the recent celebrations for the re-opening of the Regal at Birmingham Gardens. You’ll now get a chance to see what a great job has been done and to re-acquaint yourself with a Newcastle icon.  And, for those people who live right across the greater Newcastle area, this should provide even more access.

Our first event will be held on Wednesday 12th March at 7pm.

Look out for more details soon.  We look forward to your participation in our events this year!

Understanding Shari’ah Law – and its future in Australia

For our final event of 2013, Dr Luqman Zakariyah,  from the International Islamic University of Malaysia will be discussing Understanding Shari’ah Law – and its future in Australia
Since 9/11 there has been much misunderstanding about Islam throughout the ‘Western’ world, including in Australia and Newcastle.  Much of this has centred on perceptions of Shari’ah Law.  These negative ideas have at times been increased by the misuse of Shari’ah by some groups in Islamic societies.  Extremist groups and regimes have exploited the general ignorance of Shari’ah, and used it as an excuse to promote injustice and cruelty, especially to women.  This is one of the many aspects of Islam around which education is needed.

A Public Forum on November 13th will hear from an internationally recognised expert on Shari’ah Law, Dr Luqman Zakariyah. Originally from Nigeria, Dr Zakariyah has previously worked and taught in multiple universities including Oxford, Aberdeen, Medina, and at Harvard Law School.

Dr Zakariyah believes that education and understanding is especially important at a time when Islam’s reputation has been sullied by misinterpretation and stereotyping of Shari’ah.  The potential for Shari’ah to play any kind of acceptable role in Muslim communities living in non-Muslim worlds such as Australia depends on Shari’ah recovering its original meaning and applying this to the modern world.   His Talk will be followed by a response from Mehmet Ozalp, Director of ISRA.

Bishop Peter Stuart, of the Anglican Diocese of Newcastle, has commended the Newcastle Institute, and the Religion in Political Life Research Group at Newcastle University, for organising this event to promote respectful listening and deeper understanding in our community.   

Where:   Newcastle City Hall, Hunter Room

When:    Wednesday, 13 November 2013 at 7pm

Contact: Sheena Martin, 0408733386


Download a flyer for this 


The Art Gallery Fiasco:- What have we learnt?

A major expansion of Newcastle’s Art Gallery has been a dream of supporters of the Gallery for years.  Until recently, it seemed that this would finally be achieved, with plans in place, fourteen million dollars of Federal and State funds on the table, and building work under way.  Now the building work is on hold, the funds gone, and questions are being asked:- Why? and What happens now?

Newcastle Institute 02 on Vimeo.

Vic Levi, one of the panellists for the evening has kindly provided a copy of his notes which you can download here

The next forum of the Newcastle Institute will focus on the lessons of this fiasco.  How can the city avoid such failures of decision-making and resultant waste?  Why did the community lose interest?  Is a large major gallery what the city wants or needs anyway?  Are sports facilities or road repairs a better priority? If there are going to be public funds to support for the arts, should they be spent in different ways?   And are there lessons for any type of community group wanting to gain funding and support for their projects? 

These questions will be addressed by a panel representing a variety of perspectives:- Denise Frost from the Art Gallery Foundation;  Vic Levi, Chairman of Hunter Academy of Sport;  Chris Ford, Communications Consultant & Art Patron; Martin McKenzie of Octapod, representing young, alternate and emerging artists; and Gillean Shaw, Art Curator at Newcastle University. Bernie Curran will take the role of facilitator in a Q&A style panel/public discussion.

There are a wide variety of opinions in the community about the Art Gallery, but the city needs to put the fiasco behind it, and make better plans for the future.

NOTE:- Since posting the original notice, we have realised that we have made an error.  We were incorrect to state ‘$14 million of Federal and State funds (were) on the table’.  The Federal Government had made a budgeted commitment of $7million. (These funds were later shifted to Lake Macquarie when the Art Gallery project stalled).  The State Government had at times suggested matching funds would be available, but these funds were never committed as such.  They were never ‘on the table’.   

 This forum is open to the general public.  Admission is a $5 donation and can be paid at the door. Bookings not required.

What?      The Art Gallery Fiasco:-  What have we learnt?

Who?       Newcastle Institute Monthly Forum

When?     Wednesday October 9th 7.00pm       

Where?    Newcastle City Hall (Hunter Room) Please note that wheelchair access is available by lift from the Wheeler Place entrance.

Martin Luther King Jr: The Man, the Dream, the Reality

As we narrow our gaze to our political condition in the lead up to a federal election, we also mark fifty years since Martin Luther King called for policy change for a better America in his “I Have a Dream” speech. US race relations and US presidential politics expert Dr Michael Ondaatje will examine King’s legacy at the Newcastle Institute Forum next week.

Who was the real Martin Luther King? What was his dream? And has it been achieved? In answering these questions, this lecture will offer an imaginative and original assessment of the man, his speech and contemporary US racial politics.

MichaelOndaatje_5JuneA best-selling author, award winning teacher, esteemed researcher and regular national and international media commentator, Dr Ondaatje is a Senior Lecturer in American History at the University of Newcastle and a Research Associate at the United States Studies Centre at the University of Sydney. His 2010 book, Black Conservative Intellectuals in Modern America, was a Top 20 bestseller in American History. Closer to home, his writing has appeared in newspapers such as the Sydney Morning Herald and the Age.

“Fifty years on, both dreamer and dream are widely celebrated in the United States. King is held up as a symbol of political heroism from a bygone era, and there are inevitable references to President Barack Obama and how he represents the fulfilment of his vision. Yet King’s true legacy is more complex than this. By reducing his career to a single expression, “I Have a Dream”, Americans trivialise the substance of his message and distort the meaning of his life. King might have had a dream, but he was not a dreamer,” said Dr Ondaatje.

Martin Luther King’s “I Have a Dream” speech was one of the greatest oratorical achievements in American history and one of the emotional high points of the civil rights movement of the 1950s and 1960s. From the steps of the Lincoln Memorial, King envisioned a new America where people would “not be judged by the colour of their skin but by the content of their character”.

The public forum will be held at 7.00pm on Wednesday 11 September, 2013 in the Hunter Room, Level 2 at Newcastle City Hall. Admission is a $5 donation and can be paid at the door. Bookings not required.