Newcastle Institute

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First event for 2015 – NSW Election Forum

In the lead-up to the NSW State Election, the Newcastle Institute, will again be conducting a public forum featuring candidates from the major parties contesting the election. These high-quality events have become a respected tradition in Newcastle in the last decade.

LCnswIn a change from previous events by the Newcastle Institute, this time the focus will be on the Upper House – the Legislative Council.

The Upper House is elected by everyone in the State, and allows the big and small parties to compete for the 21 seats on offer, just like the Senate in Federal Elections. Less than 4% of the total vote is enough to get a seat. In the Upper House Every Vote Counts – even in ‘safe’ Lower House seats.

This event will emphasise to all the parties that the Hunter cannot be ignored. This is a region of influence, importance, and innovation in public politics.

The five active parties in the Legislative Council have agreed to participate. The Liberal/National; Labor; Greens; Christian Democrats; and Shooters & Fishers Parties will each choose their representative.

Each party representative will give a short policy speech, and then be questioned by a panel, and by each other. The panel will include journalists from the Newcastle Herald and ABC Newcastle, and a younger member of the community. As with previous events, Dr Bernie Curran shall be Master of Ceremonies.

Political meetings in Australia have become stage-managed and scripted – and boring. The Newcastle Institute’s events now unusual in Australian politics. This meeting will bring together politicians from across the spectrum in a genuine face-to-face contest. We see this as demonstrating yet again that Newcastle is a city of innovation in many facets of public life.

The Event is open to any member of the general public, subject only to requirements for appropriate behaviour during the meeting. As a totally voluntary group, we ask for a $5 donation to assist us to fund our events; venue hire etc.

We look forward to seeing you at Souths from 6pm on Wednesday 18th March, 2015


Click the icon above to add a comment or ask a question.

Ideas for spending lots of money

People who were able to attend our September event would have heard about some of the great ideas that people had for spending a billion dollars in Newcastle.

notesIf you’d like to see what some more of the ideas submitted were, and read a report of the competition you can download a copy of the report by clicking the money to the left.

Lord Mayoral Candidates’ Forum

The Newcastle Institute, in partnership with the Newcastle Herald, will be conducting a public forum for the candidates for Newcastle Lord Mayoral by-election on November 12th at South’s Leagues Club.

The broad theme will be “My vision for the future of Newcastle”.

As you may know, we recently held two similar events for the Charlestown and Newcastle State By-elections.  It’s anticipated that the format will be much the same (i.e. each candidate will get time to make a short ‘policy speech’, and will be interviewed individually, with questions individualised by an independent panel who will be guided by (but not limited to) the questions submitted through the Herald and Newcastle Institute websites (  The ultimate decision on questions to be put to the candidates remains up to the panel alone.  They have been instructed and agreed to be equally fair to all candidates.

We look forward to seeing you there.
Lord Mayoral Candidates’ Forum
6pm 12th November, 2014
Souths Leagues Club

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