Audience at Sydney Ideas event

2018 events

Talks, panels, conversations and more
Sydney's most diverse range of talks and ideas, covering arts, politics, science, health and lots more.

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The program

Human rights: what lies ahead for the next 70 years?

  • Our expert panel showcases some of the most innovative and original human rights work being done in Australia today, and facilitates a lively conversation about what we all need to do to forge vibrant forms of human rights action for the next 70 years. Listen to the podcast.

From good international citizen to pariah?

  • Join us to reflect on Australia's human rights record, with a keynote address from Gillian Triggs, as well as responses from Tanya Plibersek and Elizabeth Evatt in this event, co-presented with the Evatt Foundation. Listen to the podcast.

Soil security: running down a dream

  • Join us as we commemorate United Nations World Soil Day with a discussion about how we can ensure that our soils provide food, biodiversity and healthy ecosystems well into the future. Listen to the podcast.

White Fragility

  • Join the New York Times best-selling author Robin DiAngelo as she considers why it is so hard for white people to talk about racism. Listen to the podcast.

Eddie Woo's Wonderful World of Maths

  • Australian Local Hero of the Year and proud University of Sydney graduate Eddie Woo returns to campus to show us the spellbinding world of maths that surrounds us. Listen to the podcast.

Let's talk about blame and shame in obesity

  • Our expert panel of Professor Stephen Simpson, Emily Maguire, Louise Stone and Catherine Pelle sets the record straight on the causes of obesity, and explains why the finger of blame should not be pointed at the individual. There is no podcast for this event.

Do universities need to reinvent themselves?

  • Professor Don Nutbeam chairs an esteemed panel of university professors, private sector representatives and former politicians for an important debate - what should universities be? Listen to the podcast

Expanding the circle of regard for truth

  • Join us for the launch of the Sydney Social Sciences and Humanities Advanced Research Centre (SSSHARC). Our expert panel will discuss the role of humanities in addressing the 'post truth' crisis. Listen to the podcast.

Why are soldiers taking their own lives?

  • In 2015 more Australian military personnel and veterans took their lives than were killed in Afghanistan during 13 years of war. Our expert panel brings together medical experts and social scientists to discuss the growing problem of military suicide - why is it happening and how should it be addressed politically? Listen to the podcast.

Death justice: activism and advocacy following contested death

  • How can activism and advocacy overcome obstacles to transparency following deaths in contested and controversial circumstances? 

Screening the world

  • Join our discussion with Australian film icon David Stratton as we explore the role of international film events in 21st century Australia. Listen to the podcast.

Satire is a new global saviour for news, seriously

  • Nigerian social media star and satirist Adeola Fayehun, The Chaser's Julian Morrow and Professor Umberto Ansaldo unpack the place, power and potential of political satire. Listen to the podcast.

Meet a living legend: Bruce Beresford

  • Award-winning director and University of Sydney alumnus Bruce Beresford discusses his 50-year, Oscar-nominated journey in cinema with Dr Bruce Isaacs. Listen to the podcast.

Why climate change law is a hot debate

  • Hear from Professor Liz Fisher (University of Oxford), as she makes the case for why 'hot' situations such as climate change needs 'hot' law, if Australia is to catch up with the rest of the world on governing and tackling climate change effectively. Listen to the podcast.

Is there anything wrong with medicinal cannabis?

  • An expert panel addresses the challenges faced by patients, researchers, doctors and regulators in Australia and around the world. Listen to the podcast.

Why island nations' isolation on the climate change threat must end

  • Climate change is a serious problem for Pacific Island nations, who often battle flooding, coastal erosion and rising sea levels on their own. How can industrialised nations like Australia assist them? Listen to the podcast.

Visionary realities: documentary cinema in 20th century China

  • This talk uses documentary cinema to investigate the intertwined histories of media technology, social practice and political contention in China's 20th century. There is no podcast for this event. 

Hope on the horizon for Indigenous youth mental health

  • Join us as a panel of community heroes discuss their approaches to tackling youth mental health challenges in the 21st century. Listen to the podcast.

The Birth of State in Greater Mesopotamia

  • Professor Marcella Frangipane shares important new insights into the birth of early state societies in the greater Mesopotamian world. Listen to the podcast.

Sydney Asian Art Series: Boxes Fit for Kings

  • Gilded glass bottles blown in India, porcelain flasks produced in Japan. This lecture follows these intriguing items from their diverse places of manufacture to their points of distribution and demonstrates their strategic power as bestowals. There is no podcast for this event.

Building Food Utopias: Voice, Power and Agency

  • A panel, featuring international expert Eric Holt-Gimenez, explore how social movements across the globe are transforming systems for food and farming sustainability. Listen to the podcast.

Is art more truthful than science?

  • Australian dramatist Alana Valentine, cosmologist Geraint Lewis, poet Tricia Dearborn and physicist Zdenka Kuncic explore some home truths as they face off for a lively debate about the authenticity of art and science. There is no podcast for this event.

Reading and writing slowly in a digital age

  • Data and opinion often takes priority over soulful reading and writing in the digital age, but what are the costs of this need for speed and what benefits can we gain from it? Listen to the podcast.

Fighting Truth Decay: how to navigate health in a post-truth world

  • Science, including health research, has been particularly susceptible to "Truth Decay" – the increasing reliance on opinion over fact. Join leading academics Lisa Bero, Stephen Simpson and Catriona Bonfiglioli to unravel the role of Truth Decay on the obesity epidemic. Listen to the podcast.

How Australia can save democracy for the world

  • Is living free of cynicism and contempt the key to success? In this inaugural Sydney Policy Lab lecture, Marc Stears argues that it is possible for democracy to thrive but only if people act to save it. Listen to the podcast.

Planet versus profit: striking a balance

  • What is the role of Australia in sustaining our region's seas, skies and soil? A panel of experts examine the role and responsibilities in balancing environmental sustainability and economic growth in Southeast Asia.

Why the Large Hadron Collider is a game changer

  • Theoretical physicist Peter Skands takes us on a tour of the experiments performed at the Large Hadron Collider. Listen to the podcast.

Professional obligations in an age of climate change

  • Are our ethical codes and standards doing enough to slow down climate change? This panel will consider these and other profound questions facing all professionals in the age of global warming. Listen to the podcast

Stem cell therapy: the good, the bad, and the ugly

  • An expert panel examines the evidence of stem cell research, a hot field in medical science that holds as much promise as it is prone to scandal and fraud. Listen to the podcast.

Differing views: valuing disagreement

  • What does it mean to “disagree well” within academia? This is second event in our 'Cultural Conversations' series, which explores the importance of disagreeing well. Listen to the podcast.

Brexit, ethnic populism and the end of the British empire as we know it

  • For the 2018 J.M. Ward Memorial Lecture, Professor Bill Schwarz will discuss the fallout from Brexit and the evolution of a new English nation. Listen to the podcast.

Journalism's new bottom line: Impact

  • The second in our series with the Walkley Foundation, this event will be an examination of the brave new world in public interest journalism, where the bottom line is less about dollars and more about impact. Listen to the podcast.

Voices from the ashes

  • An esteemed panel will discuss how the testimony of Holocaust survivors is used today and the problems, questions and opportunities it presents to people grappling with the legacy of the Holocaust. Listen to the podcast.

Inclusion by design

  • Our panel explore how we can develop a view of people and place that is inclusive, universally designed and that gives people with disability access. Listen to the podcast.

Taking the long view on out-of-home care

  • This expert panel, featuring Emeritus Professor Harriet Ward, will explore the contribution of longitudinal research to understanding the impact on vulnerable children and families. Listen to the podcast.

Sydney research goes full scale for Shakespeare: the Popup Globe

  • The Popup Globe, currently under construction for its upcoming season of Shakespeare performances in the Entertainment Quarter at Moore Park, is closely based on landmark research done at the University of Sydney. Listen to the podcast. 

Being collected: insights into repatriation

  • Assistant Curator, Indigenous Heritage, Matt Poll, brings together Aboriginal people working in community, museum and government sectors to reflect on their experiences. Listen to the podcast.

Sydney Asian Art Series: The Shogun's Silver Telescope

  • In 1611, the East India Company in London planned a voyage to Japan, bringing with them a telescope and oil paintings. This talk will investigate the reasons for the Company's interest in Japan, for the selection of unexpected items, and for their impact in Japan. There is no podcast for this event.

Do we need a right to psychological privacy?

  • In the wake of the Cambridge Analytica scandal, we ask the question – do we need a new right not to be "known" by the data on our digital footprint? There is no podcast for this event.

The end of time: the future history of the universe

  • Join us for a cosmic journey through space and time, through galactic collisions and hyperactive black holes, and onto the death of the last star. Listen to the podcast.

The future of building

  • Leading national and international experts discuss and propose the necessary shift in the way we think about building to meet the challenges of the 21st century. Listen to the podcast.

The promise (and threat) of algorithms 

  • Professor Frank Pasquale, an expert on the law of artificial intelligence, algorithms and machine learning, proposes solution to questions over some aspects of algorithmic ordering of information. Listen to the podcast.

Jellyfish behaving badly?

  • They dazzle us, terrify us, nourish us and fascinate us. They can seem utterly otherworldly, and yet they’re among the more ancient species to inhabit Earth. And, because of rising ocean temperatures, they are moving. Listen to the podcast.

The future of cancer: can we find a cure?

  • Hear from a panel of experts responding to the question: How will cellular therapy, immunotherapy, personalised medicine, and the use of big data impact cancer treatments? Listen to the podcast.

The shameful history of Armenian genocide

  • Professor Taner Akcam reflects on the history of Armenian genocide and other nations' refusals to accept responsibility for the atrocity, more than a century later. Listen to the podcast.

Bla(c)kness in Australia

  • Celebrate the launch of the special issue of the magazine Transition on "Bla(c)kness in Australia", bringing together the voices and artwork of diverse Bla(c)k writers, artists, poets, and scholars in Australia. Listen to the podcast.

Tibet: Life on the Frontlines of Climate Change

  • Hear about the role of nomads in protecting Tibet's environment, and the importance of traditional knowledge and practices in responding to climate change. Listen to the podcast.

War and the modern world

  • Canadian historian Professor Margaret MacMillan draws out the paradoxes of war and peace since the end of WWI. Listen to the podcast.

The find of the century for archaeology?

  • In the 2018 Tom Austen Brown lecture, Dr Mark Collard, an evolutionary anthropologist, argues that comparative ethnology – comparing and contrasting the features of large samples of human societies – should be a key archaeological tool. Listen to the podcast.

Art and neuroplasticity: are they linked?

  • A Sydney Ideas event for Innovation Week 2018, bringing together medical researchers focusing around both ends of the demographic spectrum - youth mental health and dementia and art practitioners to consider these question and more. Listen to the podcast.

Is storytelling bad for science?

  • A Sydney Ideas event for Innovation Week 2018, exploring the possibility that storytelling is exactly what science needs, with a view to answering the question: Is storytelling bad for science? Listen to the podcast.

How can investigative journalism projects change the world?

  • This event will bring together journalists, reporters and editors to discuss the power of investigative journalism, and how good journalism can change the world. Listen to the podcast.

Language and Indigenous Community Well-being

  • From Australia, to Pakistan, to the Phillipines, this talk will examine the ways in which language plays a role in Indigenous community wellbeing. There is no podcast for this event.

The past and future of international thinking

  • A discussion on international thinking, through the lens of politics, law and history, and an examination of how the rise in nationalist sentiment affects international collaboration and institutions. Listen to the podcast.

Cultural Conversations: A cultural backlash?

  • Our new series of events explores the importance of disagreeing well. In the first forum in the series, an expert panel will discuss the rise of the cultural backlash in public life and the challenges that ensue. Listen to the podcast.

What can philosophy do?

  • Professor Amie Thomasson leads a discussion of the state of philosophy today, and asks the question: what can philosophy still do that is useful and relevant? Listen to the podcast.

Gaza: Settler-colonialism and War

  • Assistant Professor and human rights attorney Noura Erakat to explore the nature of post-nationalistism in the Palestinian struggle for freedom. There is no podcast for this event.

What does it take to achieve choice and control for people with disabilities?

  • Two distinguished speakers, Professor Tom Shakespeare and Sue Salthouse, address issues surrounding the National Disability Insurance Scheme and what it takes to achieve control and choice for people living with disabilities. Listen to the podcast.

Making the new energy system fair

  • Co-presented with the Sydney Environment Institute, this is a discussion of how we can build a new energy system that is fair to all, and what a progressive energy system might look like. Listen to the podcast.

Dogs helping people: In families, hospitals, colleges, and at work

  • Some studies show dog owners are happier. Could having a dog indeed help combat depression? Could bringing dogs to work help employees and businesses? Could therapy dogs speed up patient’s recovery? Listen to the podcast.


  • Case studies with a university student, a computer hacker, and a former drug dealer demonstrate different radicalisation experiences and suggest that radicalisation is not something done to people, but something produced by active participants. Listen to the podcast.

Peace on the Peninsula?

  • This roundtable discussion brings together experts from the University of Sydney and the Lowy Institute to explore the origins and implications of Kim’s recent diplomatic activism from North Korean, US, and Chinese perspectives. Listen to the podcast.

Genome editing: rewriting the code for life

  • This panel discussion was the first in a series of Sydney Ideas events discussing the new possibilities of genome manipulation. The fundamental science and applications of genome editing were discussed at this event. Listen to the podcast.

The Syrian Conflict: How it affects economics, health and education

  • Zaki Mehchy, a co-founder and researcher of the Syrian Center for Policy Research, will present the latest findings on the socioeconomic impact of the conflict in Syria including its impact on GDP, employment, poverty, and education. Listen to the podcast.

The State of the Universe: Professor Brian Schmidt

  • Nobel Laureate Professor Brian Schmidt looks at the Universe's vital statistics and what we do (and don't) know about the past, present and future. Listen to the podcast.

Why we need to think about inequality and climate change together

  • This panel brought together speakers who make the case for the necessity of seeing climate change and inequality as entwined challenges. Listen to the podcast.

Introduced Species

  • Academic, composer, conductor and an orchestra came together to explore the crisis of the trash vortex in our oceans through sound. There is no podcast for this event.

Indigenous Sustainability, Practices and Processes

  • David King, a Gundungurra Aboriginal elder, will share his insights on Australian Aboriginal Sustainability practices and processes, touching particularly on the prevalence of food wastage. Listen to the podcast.

Transcultural Attractions: Photographs of an Indian Dancer

  • Professor Ajay Sinha builds an illustrated story of mutual fascination and transcultural exchanges between an Indian dancer, Ram Gopal, and an American photographer, Carl Van Vechten, in New York City. There is no podcast for this event.

Food as Medicine

  • Are we eating ourselves sick? Join our panel of speakers to ask: could food really help us ward off diseases like diabetes, dementia, cancer and dental or cardiovascular disease? Listen to the podcast.

An Ancient and Dynamic History

  • This event, co-presented with the Department of Archaeology, brought together two archaeologists to discuss the status of Aboriginal archaeology, as well as where we should go from here into the future. Listen to the podcast.

Global and Diverse Leadership

  • Professor Jean Lau Chin from Adelphi University in New York will examine what successful 21st century leadership should look like in our increasingly diverse and global society. Listen to the podcast.

The Landscape of Poetry: Mark Tredinnick in conversation with Robyn Ewing

  • Mark will be discussing the landscape in and of contemporary poetry, the role of the lyric in a time of spiritual and ecological crisis, and the importance of writing across the disciplines and embedding creativity in education at all points of life and learning. Listen to the podcast.

Ocean's forms: process, structure, and imagination at sea

  • This forum gathered insights from philosophy, marine geoscience, art, and literature to explore how different ways of knowing the sea have informed one another, and how they might inform one another in the future. Listen to the podcast.

Spatial inequality and Australian cities in a warming world

  • There are many dimensions to spatial inequality in Australia. This forum probed the uneven distribution of the country’s economic and environmental resources, with a particular focus on cities. There is no podcast for this event.

Unpacking Privilege

  • This event invited four panellists to explore what it means to 'unpack privilege' from different perspectives, in order to open up a conversation and bring the issues involved to the forefront of everyone's workplace and personal agendas. 

Reflective Practice as Learning from Experience: Implications for Pre-service Teacher Education Programs.

  • Professor Tom Russell argues that the perennial theory-practice gap is a gap between two very different ways of coming to know. There is no podcast for this event.

Is the health sector key to a low-carbon world?

  • Dr David Pencheon and the panel will discuss how the Australian healthcare system is one of the leading contributors to climate change, and explore how the health and care sectors can work together to address environmental, social and economic sustainability in a holistic manner. Listen to the podcast.


Sydney Asian Art Series: Until you see the original again

  • The Chinese painter known to Europeans as “Lam Qua” was one of the most well-documented artisans working in the port of Guangzhou in the early 19th century. While very little historical Chinese records have been found to clarify Lam Qua’s biography, he left a fascinating corpus of paintings—including both originals and copies—for us to examine. Listen to the podcast.

The False Friends of Democracy

  • Nadia Urbinati, one of Italy's most distinguished scholars, will analyse the main forces that are nowadays tearing apart more than a few democracies around the world, including, technocrats wedded to expert procedures; demagogues who make glib appeals to 'the people', and media platformsbent on turning politics into a sensational spectator sport and citizens into fans of opposing teams. Listen to the podcast.

Digital Rights and Governance in Asia: The State of the Arts

  • Digital technology is widely viewed as pivotal to social, cultural, economic, and political transformations - especially across the great diversity of Asian countries, cultures, and settings. This talk explores the dynamic area of digital rights and governance in Asia – the issues, challenges and opportunities for nations and the region. Listen to the podcast.

Beyond Trafficking and Modern Slavery

  • Listen to our panel of experts discuss trafficking's past and present and delve into the 2017 Australian Federal committee's report that called for a wide sweeping suite of new laws to target modern slavery and human trafficking. Listen to the podcast.

Cultural diversity in leadership: where does Australia sit in 2018? 

  • Race Discrimination Commissioner Dr Tim Soutphommasane and University of Sydney Vice-Chancellor Dr Michael Spence AC discuss the launch of new research on cultural diversity and Australian leadership. Listen to the podcast.



2018 Michael Hintze Lecture: Global Security Cultures

  • Why do politicians think that war is the answer to terror when wars in Iraq, Afghanistan, Syria and Mali have made things worse? Why do contemporary conflicts never end? Listen to the podcast.

Artists have never been more important

  • William L. Fox, Director of the Centre for Art + Environment at the Nevada Museum of Art in Reno, Nevada, whose extensive practice as a curator, writer and commentator crosses the arts and sciences, addresses the claim that in this moment of planetary environmental crisis, artists have never been more important. Listen to the podcast.

Inverse problems and Harry Potter's cloak

  • Can we make objects invisible? Professor Gunther Uhlmann explores inverse problems, and the progress scientists are making to achieve invisibility. Listen to the podcast.

The Rise of Authoritarianism

  • Authoritarian populists have disrupted politics in many societies, as seen in the U.S. and the UK. This event sees two leading scholars discuss their new books and the power of populist authoritarianism. Listen to the podcast.

Australia’s response to asylum seekers and refugees: Implications and challenges.

  • This lecture, as part of the Education and Social Work Dean's Lecture Series, expplored Australia's response to the global refugee crisis. There is no podcast for this event.

Interlocutors in the archive: Aboriginal women and the collection of anthropological data

  • Ngarigu woman Professor Jakelin Troy discusses intimate details of the lives, language and knowledge of the Aboriginal women she has discovered among the anthropological archives. Listen to the podcast.

Outrage: The Psychic Life of Trump's America

  • Outrage. Is it an affect? An agency? A meme? Professor Robyn Wiegman attempts to decide whether outrage offers political instruction or if it's an instrument of democratic destruction. Listen to the podcast.

Expanding cities: how urban planning can help improve our health

  • Lucy Turnbull AO, Commissioner for Greater Sydney joins our panel of experts in urban planning and public health policy to discuss the latest research, and health impacts of Sydney's changing city structure. There is no podcast for this event.

Fearless: empowering women around the world

  • This International Women’s Day panel brought together six exceptional female academics whose work truly embodies the 2018 UN Women’s theme: Leave no woman behind. There is no podcast for this event.

Working the past: Aboriginal Australia and psychiatry

  • How do we come to grips with the past, and how do we do so in just ways? What can apology and other forms of recognition achieve? What can we learn from other projects of apology and recognition? Listen to the podcast.

Same-sex marriage and the state: global perspectives

  • Having just recently co-edited Palgrave’s book, Global Perspectives on Same Sex Marriage: A Neo Institutional Approach, Bronwyn Winter is coming together with Maxime Forest to discuss the different factors impacting on state adoption or refusal of same-sex marriage laws. Listen to the podcast.

Urban farming: feeding the future

  • Canadian writer and urban geographer, Dr Lenore Newman joins some of the passionate people working on the frontline of urban agriculture to discuss how farms can be integrated into the urban economic and ecological system. Listen to the podcast.

Cities and Citizenship

  • Five of the world’s top scholars speak on the question of why citizen activism is an essential ingredient for reviving democratic practice, at a time when civic voices appear under threat. There is no podcast for this event.

Strange physics: drones, artificial intelligence and quantum computers

  • Our panel of experts discuss strange physics, world politics and the future of humanity. This event will soon be available as a podcast. Listen to the podcast

Engaged anthropology, collaborative research and the Atikamekw First Nation

  • Professor Sylvie Poirier reflects on her trajectory of engagement and collaborative research with the Atikamekw First Nation (north-central Quebec, Canada). Listen to the podcast.

Learning as design and performative action: symbolic technologies and challenges for education in digital societies

  • The University of Gothenburg's Professor Roger Saljo argues learning as we know it is currently changing in nature to a focus on learning as design in the Education and Social Work Dean’s Lecture Series. Listen to the podcast.

Is there a cure for ageing?

  • Although we're living longer, advancing age is a major risk factor for serious diseases, including cancer and dementia. Listen to the podcast.

Translating culture and talking with translators

  • In this podcast, our panel of distinguished scholars explores the significance of translation, its impact on encounters between people, and its contribution to social cohesion, especially in multicultural and multi-faith societies like Australia. Listen to the podcast.