Newcastle Institute

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


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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.


New futures for work in Newcastle

Newcastle Institute New Futures for work in Newcastle on Vimeo.

We are continually being told that the internet will change our lives.  There’s no doubt that our language has already changed.  But what has this meant for the ‘world of work?’  And what does it mean for the future of Newcastle as a working city? 
At the next Newcastle Institute forum on Wednesday 14th August, we look at possible answers to these questions.  We will hear how two local ventures are putting Newcastle on the global map, with new ways to create future businesses and nurture great ideas.
Slingshot is a high-tech startup accelerator focused on developing entrepreneurs who are fully prepared for the new world of internet-based business.  Trent Bagnall from Slingshot believes that“Newcastle provides the perfect location for young dynamic creative business people to thrive.”
Slingshot has built a tailored 12-week accelerator program to help aspiring entrepreneurs take their ideas and build them into a scalable global company as quickly and effectively as possible.
With the first program winding up, Trent will be able to provide some great insights into the value that a program like this might add to the positioning of Newcastle as an ideal location for the nurturing of fresh ideas and businesses.
Against a backdrop or creative hubs and shared workspaces, other groups are working within Newcastle to enhance our global reputation as a place where great things are possible.
In October, Newcastle will be the host for the inaugural DiG Festival. 
The DiG Festival and Conference is loosely based on the extremely successful South By South West (SXSW) festivals in Austin, Texas which are run over 3 weeks and cover Film, Music and Interactivity. Over the years SXSW has helped Austin become recognised as a leading technology centre with a vibrant artistic culture. SXSW now contributes over $100 million to the Austin economy annually.
The DiG Festival and Conference, with themes around Design, Interactivity and Green Tech, will act as a catalyst for attracting a new generation of business and investment to the Hunter focussed on clean, green and innovative business.  Craig Wilson, one of the organisers, will share some of the thinking and background to the DiG Festival,
In an environment where opportunities like Slingshot exist, and where anyone with access to connectivity can build a powerful online presence, there are messages for people seeking new ways of doing business or gaining fulfilling work.  .
Whether you are a parent or grandparent, a person with a ‘killer idea’ or simply someone keen to understand the shifts taking place within the ‘world of work,’ this event should provide some fascinating and worthwhile insights.
Please note that, for this event, we’re moving to a new venue.  The event will be hosted at the WEA demonstration space at the rear of their building in Laman Street Cooks Hill.  (Eastern block of the former Cooks Hill High School buildings) The entry is via the gates at the Western end of the WEA building and the demonstration space is located at the Eastern end of the inner courtyard – see map for details.

AUGUST MONTHLY FORUM  - Wednesday, August 14th, 2013. 7pm
New futures for work in Newcastle
Open to the general public;  Donation $5



Federal Candidates’ Forum – 10th July

Video of the ‘pitches’ from the candidates can be seen on the Newcastle Herald website here.

At the forthcoming Federal Election there will be keen interest in the outcome of the seats of Newcastle and Shortland.  Changing demographics, resignation of existing members, and recent results in State and Local Government elections mean that seats that have traditionally been ‘safe’ may be becoming marginal. 

alplibThe Newcastle Institute has previously hosted candidates’ forums before State and Lord Mayoral Elections.  Now, the Institute is joining with the Newcastle Herald to host a forum featuring the four major candidates for two local Federal seats that are in the spotlight for the next election:

Sharon Claydon and Jaimie Abbott in the seat of Newcastle, plus

Jill Hall MP and John Church in the seat of Shortland.

The evening will commence with a short review of the political changes affecting the two seats by Professor Jim Jose, politics expert at Newcastle University. 

Local Journalist Felicity Biggins will then conduct ‘get to know you’ interviews with the candidates, looking at their ‘back story’ – their life before politics, their family, their personal interests, their values:- getting to know the candidates as ‘people’. 

The candidates will then be invited to make a short speech as to why they are standing for election and what they hope to achieve. 

Herald journalist Jason Gordon will then take the chair.  submitQThe candidates will asked to answer questions from the public submitted (in advance) through the Newcastle Institute website, or through the Herald. 

Building on this, each candidate will have a ‘one-on-one’ interview with Jason, where he will probe further into the candidate’s answers.  He will be tough but fair to all the candidates.

Finally, the candidates will be asked to ‘wrap up’ with a final pitch for your vote.

This will be a unique event in Australia, with major candidates engaging face-to-face with the audience in a bipartisan forum.  The Newcastle Institute respects the great commitment to democracy that all candidates are making by standing for public office.  This respect for the candidates, and for Australia’s great democratic heritage, will underpin this event. 

VENUE:  Newcastle City Hall       DATE: Wednesday 10th July 2013  
TIME: 7.00 till 9.00pm   ADMISSION: Free ($5 Donation requested)


FURTHER DETAILS:  or The Newcastle Herald

The National Disability Insurance Scheme – How will it work?

ndis_logo_textWith bipartisan support, the Australian Parliament has recently passed the legislation enabling the National Disability Insurance Scheme.  Some regard this as the most important change in social services in Australia since the introduction of universal health insurance.

The NSW pilot program for the NDIS (now Disability Care Australia) is being rolled out in the Newcastle Local Government Area, commencing on July 1.    

But how will it work?
The next public forum of The Newcastle Institute, will focus on the changes that are planned, and those that are needed, with the introduction of the new system for universal disability care in Australia.  Three different perspectives will be provided. 
Rob Watkins, State Manager of the NDIS, will outline the organisational arrangements that are being put in place for the pilot program in Newcastle. 
But will this address the needs of the disabled?  
Scott Holtz, State Manager of National Disability Services, will discuss the perspective of non-government disability service providers.
Mark Grierson will speak on behalf of Disability Advocacy, an organisation providing advocacy for people with any kind of disability. 
There will then be an opportunity for discussion of whether the current plans for the future of Disability Care in Australia are realistic, appropriate, and sustainable beyond the initial excitement of the laws being passed.   
This will be an exciting chance for the public to learn about how the new Disability Scheme for Australia will be piloted in Newcastle.
Meeting is open to the public:  Wheelchair access via Wheeler Place entrance

Event takes place next Wednesday, 12th June, at 7.30pm in the Hunter Room at City Hall.

Entry by donation of $5