Medical Marijuana, the ICE Epidemic – Fact and Fiction

The next forum of the Newcastle Institute, at 6pm August 17th at Souths Newcastle, will feature local experts on two very different drugs issues that are currently ‘hot topics’.

Newcastle University’s Professor Jenny Martin is leading a national research program based at Calvary Mater Hospital looking at possible uses of Marijuana for medical purposes.  There are many stories in the media – and on the internet – claiming benefits for the terminally ill, for cancer, for epilepsy and many other conditions.  But is this just wishful thinking?  What are the facts?

Meanwhile, there seems to be a growing ICE epidemic, particularly in the Hunter region.  Is this just media hype and fear?  Just how big is the problem? Is the drug as addictive and dangerous as portrayed? The forum will hear the facts from the Medical experts who deal with the problem every day.

Separating Facts from Fiction about two big drug issues – at the Newcastle Institute.

As always, all thinking members of the general public are welcome, and there will be plenty of time for discussion.

Engaging presentation

Tonight’s presentation by Professor James Curran was a fascinating look at the past, present and possible futures for the Australian relationship with the USA.  James’ insight into a range of issues led to an excellent presentation and some thought provoking and insightful questions and answers from the audience.  Many thanks to our audience this evening and to James for his presentation.

Coming up in August, on Wednesday 17th, the Newcastle Institute will be hosting a discussion about the current trial of medical marijuana being undertaken at Newcastle University.  The program will then also look at the issue that we hear a great deal about to the point where it is often described as ‘the ice epidemic.’

More information will be sent out closer to the event via our email list, Facebook page and here on the website. If you don’t currently get email from the Newcastle Institute then please use the link at the right to add your email address.


Do we need to say No to America?

We are sure all our subscribers will be relieved to know that the next public forum of the Newcastle Institute will NOT deal with the dramas arising from the federal election.  Instead, we are looking to Australia’s future directions in our international relations.

Our next speaker is James Curran, Professor of History at Sydney University, with previous senior positions in the Department of Prime Minister and with the Lowy Institute.  He argues that while Australia must maintain the strength of our alliance with the US, we must be prepared to say ‘no’ at times for this alliance to be an effective one. There is increasing tension in the South China Sea and in Korea, and increasing importance of our relationships with China, India and Indonesia. The simple certainties of the Cold War era are long gone, with new complexities of international politics.  This will be reflected in Professor Curran’s analysis.

NOTE the next forum is on Wednesday 20th (a week later than usual due to State of Origin), and back at Souths Leagues Club at 6pm


Wednesday 20 July, 2016

Souths Leagues Club

Llewellyn Street, Merewether.


Public Forum – Federal election: Hunter Senate candidates forum

Newcastle voters will have a rare chance to have an “up close and personal” look at senate candidates for the next federal election on the evening of the 21st June  at the Newcastle City Hall.

Local, independent think tank The Newcastle Institute will be hosting a public forum featuring senators representing all four parties in the senate – Labor, Liberal/National, Greens and the Liberal Democrats. The forum will be run as an “old fashioned” public meeting, making it a unique event for NSW.

The party representatives are Senators Deborah O’Neill (Labor), Lee Rhiannon (Greens), David Leyonhjelm (Liberal Democrats), and Senate candidate Hollie Hughes (Liberal/National).

The MC for the night will be Dr Bernie Curran, one of the patrons of the Newcastle institute.

Senators will be quizzed by a broad panel representing media, business, unions, and community groups. In the week before the forum, the public will be invited to submit questions for the panel.

It is sometimes said that many voters feel that the Hunter is ignored by the political parties in elections because of its many safe seats in the Lower House but in the Senate, every vote across the state counts.

This Newcastle Institute forum is a chance for the people of the Hunter, in any seat, to show the importance of the region in the senate vote.Previous Newcastle Institute forums before State, Federal and Local Government elections have been regarded as high quality, well organised, and fair to all candidates..

The meeting is open to all citizens who are interested in obtaining the best result for Newcastle and the Hunter region in the Senate elections.

A $10 donation at the door to cover costs is appreciated. Newcastle Institute is a not for profit organisation.

What: Newcastle Institute Public Forum – Federal election: Hunter Senate candidates forum

When: June 21, 2016 at 7pm-9pm

Where: Newcastle City Hall

May at the Newcastle Institute

Did you hear that Uber  launched its ride sharing service in Newcastle only a couple of weeks ago?  This is just one of the trends in transport which make us think about the future of cars and the expectations that people may have about car ownership and, simply, getting around.  More on that later.

The last Newcastle Institute Forum on April 13th was particularly well attended, and the audience thoroughly enjoyed Professor Michael Ondaatje’s expert discussion of the US politics and elections.  For those not there, he discussed the rising influence of ‘Fear and Frustration’ in US politics (which is also notable in Australia).  He bravely predicted that Donald Trump would win either win the Republican nomination, or stand as an independent and split the Republican vote.  The Republican party has become dominated by ‘angry old white men’ and it faces a demographic challenge with the rise of the Hispanic population.  He noted that voter sentiment towards Obama’s Presidency has been improving.  He concluded that these combined influences made the Democrats likely winners.

The next Newcastle Institute forum on May 11th will feature Kyle Loades, CEO of the NRMA, and Garry Ellem of Newcastle University’s Tom Farrell Institute for the Environment.  The topic will be ‘The future of cars’ and includes discussion of the massive changes looming in the way we use and own cars and other transport systems.  Uber; Go-get hire; Car-pooling services; Autonomous vehicles; Self-driving cars; new mass transit systems, and the influence of all these factors on the development of our cities.

Wednesday 11th May 6pm at Souths Leagues Club, Llwellyn street, Merewether.    Everybody is welcome at our events.  We simply request a small donation to cover or costs.

Future meetings:

8th June – Cyber Security and state-sponsored cyber crime

April 13th: The US Presidential Election

Our April event should be a fascinating look at the political landscape in the USA. Michael Ondaatje, nationally recognised expert and media commentator on US politics will analyse what is going on in the US election;  not just Trump and Clinton, but Cruz and Sanders.  Michael will also examine the significance for US politics in the longer run; and how it may affect Australia.

michael ondaatjeA former academic at the University of Newcastle, Associate Professor Michael Ondaatje is now the National Head of Arts with the Faculty of Arts at the Australian Catholic University.  Michael Ondaatje has always been a popular speaker at the Newcastle Institute and we look forward to this one with much anticipation.

The event will run from 6pm at Souths Leagues Club in Llewellyn Street Merewether.  Pre-booking is not required and we simply  request a small donation on entry to cover our costs.

2016 Event series kicks off next Wednesday

Fear is to terror as hope is to the lottery

How likely are we to experience a terrorist attack in Australia? What is the capacity of Islamist terrorists in the West? Does counter-terrorism expenditure mirror the threat posed?

Global terrorism expert and University of Newcastle Professor, Mark Stewart will address these provocative questions in the Newcastle Institute’s first public forum for 2016.

In the lead up to the event, Professor Mark Stewart has today had an opinion piece published in the Newcastle Herald:

Global myth of the terrorist mastermind.
You can read the piece at

Also presenting at the event next Wednesday is Dr Robert Imre, a Senior Lecturer from the University of Newcastle.  Dr Imre has also published work related to terrorism and you can get a feel for what he is likely to speak about by reading a piece from The Conversation in 2014:

Terrorists can be defeated by fighting fear with co-operation

All are welcome at our events and this one will kick off at 6pm next Wednesday March 9th at Souths Leagues Club, Llewellyn St, Merewether.

Fear is to terror as hope is to the lottery

We welcome you to the 2016 program of events for the Newcastle Institute.  There are some very engaging topics in the planning phase and we think you’ll find our opening presentation very topical. We look forward to seeing you at our events!

Fear is to terror as hope is to the lottery

How likely are we to experience a terrorist attack in Australia? What is the capacity of Islamist terrorists in the West? Does counter-terrorism expenditure mirror the threat posed?

Global terrorism expert and University of Newcastle Professor, Mark Stewart will address these provocative questions in the Newcastle Institute’s first public forum for 2016.

“The United States currently spends $115 billion annually on domestic homeland security measures, and Australia in the region of $1-2 billion annually. These are significant expenditures that rarely are subject to cost-benefit or risk analysis,” said Professor Stewart.

“Some counterterrorism measures may not even be needed, since, in general, the capacities of Islamist extremists seeking, aspiring, or vaguely thinking about terrorism in the West seem, whether based in Australia or abroad, to be unimpressive, and any threat they present appears to be quite limited.”

“The tragic attacks in Paris in November 2015 shows that the terrorist threat is real. However, there is a natural tendency to over-react to such events, and to massively inflate the capabilities of the perpetrators,” said Professor Stewart.

“The annual fatality risks from terrorism in Australia is one in 8 million from 1970 through 2015 (which includes the Bali attacks). For the same period in the United States they are one in 4 million per year.”

“Applying conventional risk acceptance criteria, then, under current conditions terrorism presents a threat to human life in the Western world that is, in general, acceptable. Yet despite this low risk and the extraordinary amount of resources put towards combating terrorism, the public still worry and the government still spends billions,” said Professor Stewart.

Forum Details

Date: Wednesday, 9 March

Time: 6.00pm

Location: Souths Leagues Club, 46 Llewellyn St, Merewether

Entry: $5 donation

About Professor Stewart

ProfessorStewartProfessor Mark Stewart is Professor of Civil Engineering and Director of the Centre for Infrastructure Performance and Reliability at The University of Newcastle.

He is the author of Chasing Ghosts: The Policing of Terrorism (Oxford University Press, 2016), as well as two other books – Terror, Security, and Money: Balancing the Risks, Benefits, and Costs of Homeland Security (Oxford University Press, 2011) and more than 400 technical papers and reports.

He has 30 years of experience in probabilistic risk and vulnerability assessment of infrastructure and security systems. Professor Stewart’s research focuses on developing probabilistic risk-modelling techniques for infrastructure subject to military and terrorist explosive blasts, and cost-benefit assessments of aviation security, policing, and protection of airports, buildings, and bridges.