Free talks in the Territory

17 Jun

Canberra‘s known as being pretty cultural, with its galleries, museums (the National Museum is a ‘cultural history‘ museum after all) and political history. Something that’s also in abundance in Canberra are its variety of public lectures.

While to some, Parliament House might already be known as a gab fest, what’s lesser known is that the Senate also hosts the Occasional Lecture series. Held almost monthly, the topics covered are wide and varied, but always very topical. They’re free, with no reservation required for the weekday lunchtime event (often starting 12.30pm) and usually held in the Main Committee Room. A speaker often speaks for just on an hour, and in that time usually invites questions from the audience. If you miss out on a lecture, APH does a pretty fine job uploading the transcript as well as the audio. Recent presenters have included Mick Dodson, Jon Stanhope, Waleed Aly and Don Aitkin. The upcoming lecture is Dr Sally Young presenting, “Media Reporting of the next Federal Election: what can we expect” on Friday 29 June, from 12.15 to 1.15pm.

(Another series I haven’t attended but I’ve heard is just as good, with even more varied topics is the Australian National University‘s Public Lectures.  For weekly e-mail updates, you can sign up here.)

Something a little bit different is the regularly held book launches and talks at Manuka’s well-known Paperchain Bookstore. Events are most often free, and the bookstore makes room at the back of the shop for a long table which they stock with red and white wine and pieces of cheese which they have placed on each available cracker (all free). The seating is pretty much appalling, especially for the more popular events. (I remember there being no room for the launch of a Laurie Oakes book back in 2008, with Therese Rein, wife of the former PM, as the guest speaker).

A few Fridays ago, I attended the launch of Susanna de Vries’ book Royal Mistresses of the House of Hanover-Windsor. It was a busy event for a Friday night, with again not nearly enough seating (they offered up just a few ottomans and chairs), resulting in plenty of people standing. Ms de Vries is well known for authoring books about strong, admirable women. I suppose the same could be said for those who featured in this latest book, in a sense! She gave a talk which was just long enough  at 35 minutes – any longer and my mind would have invariably started to wander. The book is extensively researched, with detail you won’t find anywhere else, I’m sure. She cleverly discussed the subjects of her book in enough detail to keep me captivated, while also leaving me curious for more, so that I just had to buy the book. (This weekend, Phillip Adams gave an hilarious account in The Australian, and summarises what it’s about much better than I ever could!)

At the end there’s always time for book signings, and Ms de Vries was kind enough to oblige. She remarked that I (and T2, of course!) had a lovely name, and I said, half-jokingly, “Hopefully there were no royal mistresses called Tara?” She laughed and said there weren’t as she signed her name, and I was so relieved that I asked her to perhaps mark that comment in the book, too! Again, she obliged:


Inscription from Susanna de Vries

If you like books and you want to complement the reading experience, I highly recommend attending a launch at Paperchain – but, as well as RSVPing to this free event, make sure you get in early!

Date: Too numerous to mention

Attendees: Usually me, with plenty of others!

Worthwhile factors? Highly worthwhile

Want more?

Senate Occasional Lecture:

Paperchain Bookstore:

ANU Public Lectures:

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