What? Religious Freedom: Do we need more protection?

Australia is a multicultural and multi-faith society. In recognition of this, there is a multitude of laws which protect Australians against discrimination based on religion. These laws, across jurisdictions, allow Australians to practice the religion of their choice. The 2018 Religious Freedom Review, chaired by former attorney-general Philip Ruddock did not find religious freedom in “imminent peril” but acknowledged the need for constant vigilance to maintain these freedoms.

Despite this, the current federal government has recently released a draft religious discrimination bill which makes it unlawful to discriminate against Australians on the basis of their religion. This draft bill has been developed in the context of the 2017 marriage equality debate and the more recent controversy over rugby player Israel Folau’s social media posts which lead to his contract being terminated.

At the October Newcastle Institute event, Father Rod Bower, from the Anglican Church, Gosford will be discussing whether more protection for religious freedom is needed. The Venerable Rod Bower is an Anglican priest, and Archdeacon for Justice Ministries and Chaplaincy in the Diocese of Newcastle. He is an ambassador for the Refugee Council of Australia and serves on the board of the Samaritans Foundation.

You can see a copy of then video stream of the event below.


Father Bower is a passionate advocate for a number of social justice and human rights issues, including marriage equality. He believes that our treatment of Asylum Seekers, the lack of action on climate change and the failure to adequately recognize First Nations people damages our communal soul. He is committed to building social and cultural capital and contributing to the evolution of an Australia where there is respect, peace and harmony. He will discuss the issues around religious freedom and challenge the need for strengthening these laws.

Open to the Public – All welcome – Members have complimentary access – We request a $10 donation from other attendees to assist with our costs.


Wednesday October 9th
Souths Leagues Club
Llewellyn st

What is the state of Regional Media?

The last two decades have seen massive changes in all forms of mass media. These changes have been particularly felt in regional areas where resources for media have contracted. The days of locally owned radio and television stations covering local news and community events are becoming a distant memory, and much original reportage is left to newspapers that face their own economic headwinds and corporate takeovers.

In this area, the Newcastle Herald has recently been sold by the Nine Network to become part of Australian Community Media – now Australia’s largest independent newspaper publisher. With this and other changes in the local media landscape, there is uncertainty as to how the impact will be felt by the local community.

The challenges facing regional media are being discussed at the September Newcastle Institute event taking place at Souths next Wednesday, 11th September.

Watch a replay of the livestream


  • Editorial Director of Australian Community Media Rod Quinn, a former editor of the Newcastle Herald, is visiting Newcastle for the forum.  He will give his perspective on the recent changes, particularly with regard to the future of the Newcastle Herald.
  • University of Newcastle academic Paul Scott from the School of Creative Industries will look at how the media landscape has changed, particularly due to the rise of the internet, loss of advertising revenue, and growth of social media as an ‘information’ source.

Local media facilitates social interaction within a community, and is part of a community’s identity. Oversight of local government and maintenance of democracy at the ‘grass roots’ level depends on local media. The importance of diversity and strong investigative powers in local media to a healthy democracy cannot be underestimated. The forum provides a unique opportunity to discuss the importance of local media.

Newcastle Institute members receive complimentary access to all of our events.  All other people are very welcome and we simply request a donation at the door.

There is no online registration available for this month’s event

Confusion, Contradictions and Consequences

Dr Richard Denniss, a former Novocastrian who is now Chief Economist as The Australia Institute, will highlight the confusion and contradictions surrounding the debate about coal in Australia and the consequences of that confusion for protecting and creating jobs in the Hunter.

See the Facebook video stream of this event below :

Dr Richard Denniss is the Chief Economist and former Executive Director of The Australia Institute. He is a prominent Australian economist, author and public policy commentator, and a former Associate Professor in the Crawford School of Public Policy at the Australian National University in Canberra. Richard was described by Mark Kenny in the SMH as “a constant thorn in the side of politicians on both sides due to his habit of skewering dodgy economic justifications for policy”. In October 2018, The AFR listed Richard and Ben Oquist of The Australia Institute as equal 10thplace in their ‘Covert Power’ list of the most powerful people in Australia.

In 2017, Richard was awarded a National Leadership Award for Alumni from the University of Newcastle.

The event will commence at 6pm and conclude at 7.30pm. Everybody is welcome and members have complimentary rights to attend.  For other attendees, we request a $10 donation at the door to assist us with our ongoing costs of presenting events.

July event: What? Music – Why does it matter?

What an engaging event:

Thanks to Paul and David for such an educative experience, and thanks to all of our attendees.

See the video of the event here

Music is an integral part of our lives. From very early ages we are exposed to music with rhythms and rhymes as an important part of childhood development. Music elicits emotional responses, fosters creativity and helps in our understanding of the world and our place in it. There is also evidence of the health and social benefits of music at all stages of life. 

Despite the benefits and beauty of music, there are questions whether as a society we value music in all its forms. If it is valued are we maximising the benefits of music for individuals and for the broader community through supportive and effective education programs for children in schools and diverse musical opportunities for society.

Discussing these important questions next Wednesday 10th July 2019 at a forum presented by the Newcastle Institute will be Dr David Banney and Mr Paul Bevan.

David and Paul worked together on ABC Newcastle presenting Banney’s Baton Banter, a fascinating discussion examining music in all its forms. David is conductor, a composer, and a music educator as well as practising locally as doctor. In addition to his role as a former ABC presenter, Paul has had a lifelong commitment to musicand in particular singing. He also played a crucial role in the establishment of the Hunter Orchestra.

In addition to discussing why music matters, David and Paul will provide an encore of their banter. This offers devotees of this former ABC Newcastle program with the opportunity to once again listen to these musical experts deliver a fascinating insight into music and its elements. This is a unique opportunity for followers of Banney’s Baton Banter, and others with a commitment, interest and love of music to understand why music must matter.

The event will commence at 6pm and conclude at 7.30pm. Everybody is welcome and registration is possible by clicking the link at the right.

Newcastle as a restorative city.


Our June forum at the Newcastle Institute will be looking at Restorative Justice

What is a Restorative city? What is Restorative Justice?

The Restorative City movement grew out of restorative justice initiatives, which seeks to transform the cultural and social fabric of a city to focus on building strong and healthy relationships in finding a constructive solution to crime, rather than relying on the justice system to apply a punitive approach.

Here is the video stream of the presentation.

Professor Tania Soudin– Dean of Newcastle Law School, Uni of Newcastle
Professor John Anderson, Dr Nicola Ross–Uni of Newcastle
Superintendent Daniel Sullivan- Lake Macquarie Police Local Area Commander
Magistrate Nell Skinner– Broadmeadow Children’s Court
Kerrie Thompson– CEO VOCAL

The forum starts at 6pm and will be taking place at Souths Leagues Club in Llewellyn Street Merewether.

Some contemporary comment from The Weekend Australian

Everybody is welcome and there will be time for questions and interaction.

Please use the link on the right to register. Members should select the member option to access their complimentary entry.

One Health for a Challenged World

For our May event, taking place on Wednesday May 8, we have a special treat.

Professor Peter Doherty is a leading Australian Scientist, former Australian of the Year, won the Nobel Prize for his immunology research, and has (so far) written six books explaining cutting-edge  science for the general public.  He will be visiting Newcastle to speak at a Newcastle Institute public forum on the challenges of healthcare around the globe.

Watch the Facebook stream of this very edifying and very relevant presentation only ten days out from a Federal election.

Originally from Queensland, Professor Doherty now heads up a research institute at Melbourne University.  While continuing his immunology research, he has broader concerns about healthcare and science in Australia and around the world.  This includes issues such as evidence-based reality, childhood vaccination, global hunger and anthropogenic climate change.

Professor Doherty’s visit to Newcastle comes at a time of increasing international action to improve global health – the ‘One Health World’ challenge – driven by the WHO,the Global Fund and the Gates Foundation, among others. Professor Doherty has been one of the leaders of this initiative internationally.  His perspective on this challenge, and what it means to Australia’s future, will be of interest to anyone interested in the healthcare and our future security in an increasingly interconnected world.

It is a rare privilege to hear and meet a Nobel Laureate, but especially one who has stepped onto the world stage more broadly.  The forum starts at 6pm and will be taking place at Souths Leagues Club in Llewellyn Street Merewether.

Please use the link at the right to register for this event.  Everybody is welcome and there will be time for questions and interaction.

The history, economics and politics of water

Confronting photos of thousands of dead fish in the Darling River have raised our awareness of the need for healthy rivers and a sustainable water management policy framework.

  • What is happening?
  • Why?
  • What should we be doing?

Lin Crase , Professor of Economics at the University of South Australia will speak with us about the history, economics and politics of water, especially in the Murray Darling Basin.

Lin is considered one of the world experts on water and has worked on projects in SE Asia, Japan and Europe as well as here in Australia.

Video stream from the evening’s event is below.



First event for 2019 – Learnings from the North

Last Wednesday at Souths saw a thought provoking beginning to the year’s program for the Newcastle Institute – a key message and question for all of us is to recall the power that can be garnered in positive policy making by seeking answers and opinions from questions like: “What sort of society do we want ours to be?”

It progresses from there, then, that corporations, countries, schools and industries, start ups, groups generally, can reflect on the question of: “If our *corporation* was a person, what would we want others to say about it and relate to it?”

There’s a copy of the Facebook stream of the event below.


2019 at the Newcastle Institute

Welcome to the Newcastle Institute for 2019.  It has been great to see so many of our inaugural members for 2018 renewing their memberships for 2019.  Our committee and our program convenor for 2019, Robert Logan, have been working to prepare an interesting and diverse program for this year, with our first event scheduled for Wednesday March 13 at Souths.

You can see details of our first four events by clicking the 2019 Program link in the top menu bar.

Members enjoy free entry to all events with casual attendance available by registering using the link on the right or attending on the night.  To cover our venue hire costs and other expenses for hosting presenters etc, we request a $10 donation at the door.

Everybody is welcome at our events, which generally take place on the second Wednesday of each month from March to November inclusively.

The Newcastle Institute has decided that we will not host a candidates’ forum for either the State of Federal elections coming up this year.

New members are welcome, and you can use the link at the right to access our membership management system and subscribe online.

We look forward to welcoming you to our events.

Last event for 2018 – Michael Ondaatje – Following the US situation

Come along to the last Newcastle Institute event for 2018 on Wed 7th November at 6.00pm.  Our speaker is Michael Ondaatje.

Michael Ondaatje has been a popular speaker at previous Newcastle Institute events. He is a regular commentator on US politics in the Australian and international media. Academically, he is National Head of Arts at the Australian Catholic University, a prize-winning researcher and teacher, and a recipient of the Max Crawford Medal. Recently he was selected by the United States government for an International Leadership professional exchange program.

If you’d like to see our livestream from Wednesday’s presentation please see the video below:

Michael’s presentation at the Newcastle Institute on Wednesday 7th November 2018 will coincide with the US mid-term elections.  There should be much to reflect on and consider for the future of the Trump presidency.

As always, the evening will include plenty of time for questions and discussion.