Newcastle Institute

Candidates’ Forums

The Newcastle Institute will again partner with other organisations to present two more of our well regarded Candidates’ forums which aim to give a broader insight into the policies, priorities and ideas of the various candidates for the by-elections coming up on October 25th.

The Charlestown By-Election Event will be on Wednesday 15th of October at the Charlestown Bowling Club.  

The Newcastle Event will be at Souths Leagues Club on October 16th.

Both events will open to the public at 5pm to commence at 5.30, to finish at 7pm.
The events are being hosted by the Newcastle Institute, The Hunter Business Chamber, and The Newcastle Herald and we’re happy to announce that there will also be live streaming of the event via the Herald website. 
The events will be hosted by Newcastle Institute Patron, Dr Bernie Curran, as Master of Ceremonies.

Each candidate will be invited to present a short ‘policy speech’ or ‘pitch’ in favour of their election, and then each candidate will have an individualised ‘interview’.

There will then be a chance for a final ‘summing up’ by the candidates, whose order of call will be randomised by a draw on the night. 
The Public are invited to participate by submitting questions through the Herald and Newcastle Institute websites.  

Questions will be considered by an advisory panel prior to the events.  The panel will select or formulate questions to be put to each candidate individually.  These questions will be given to the interviewer on the night. 

To see questions which have already been submitted, click the word ‘comments’ at the base of this post.



What could you do for the Hunter with a billion dollars?

The state government has said it will spend hundreds of millions on urban renewal in Newcastle. But are they spending it on the right projects?

With by-elections coming up and a state election seven months away, it’s time to give the politicians food for thought.

The Newcastle Institute, in conjunction with the Newcastle Herald, want your ideas.

spendideasWrite a 200 word ‘pitch’ describing your vision for spending a billion dollars to make the Hunter a better place to live, work and play.

Send it to the Newcastle Institute competition email address:

The best five ideas will be invited to be presented at a Newcastle Institute forum on September 10. They will also be featured in the Herald. A prize of $500 will go to the best entry.

If you’ve got great ideas, share them. Get your entry in today.
Submissions must be received by midday September 5.

For more details about the competition, please download our Newcastle Institute – Competition Guidelines

Williamtown Now and in the Future


Williamtown – the civilian airport and the military complex – is one of the biggest industries in the Newcastle region.

The ‘Base’ is already one of the nation’s most important military complexes, while the civil airport is critical economic and social infrastructure and a major transport hub. Both civil and military sides are growing. Despite this, there is little knowledge in the general community of just what is happening now, or of the planned major developments in the next few years.

The next public forum of the Newcastle Institute is an opportunity to learn more about the future of Williamtown, and how it will affect our region. Our two speakers will cover both ‘sides’ (civilian and military), and will take part in a panel discussion to answer questions from the public.

Ian Dick, Defence Project Director with Hunternet, has played a key role in bringing developments such as the JSF project to the Hunter.Ian will detail the current military presence including Air Combat Group, Air Surveillance Group, Defence Materiel Units and Defence Support Reform Group, as well as support contractors. The coming of the Joint Strike Fighter will bring many changes with increased infrastructure and developments on and off the Base.

David Nye, Manager Aviation Business Development for Newcastle Airport, will discuss the civilian side of the airport, especially key aspects of the imminent redevelopment of the Terminal.

These developments raise many questions. Can the civil and military airports coexist? Will (or should) Williamtown become an international airport? Is ownership by local Councils viable? What will be the future noise impacts? Should planning and zoning be in place to allow a second runway? Is the Joint Strike Fighter already obsolete?

Future developments at Williamtown will bring opportunities, growth and both good and bad impacts on our region.   The Newcastle Institute forum will be an opportunity to learn more about what is really happening, now and in our future.  


VENUE: Souths Leagues Club, Llwellyn St Merewether

DATE: Wednesday 13th August 2014

TIME: 7.00 till 8.30pm   ADMISSION: $5 Donation

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!