Ideas and Society video recordings and podcasts

Listen to or watch our past Ideas and Society conversations.


La Trobe University’s Ideas and Society Program has convened an outstanding panel--to analyse the nature of the current housing crisis in Australia and to try to answer the most basic of all political questions: What Is To Be Done?

For the past decade, mainstream Australian defence policy and its underlying assumptions have been challenged, with both courage and originality, by Professor Hugh White, one of Australia’s pre-eminent defence thinkers. In this Ideas and Society event he will be in conversation about an alternative defence policy with two of Australia’s most respected younger defence analysts, Associate Professor Bec Strating of La Trobe Asia and Sam Roggeveen of the Lowy Institute. For those concerned about Australia’s future, this is an event not to be missed.

Within a matter of months the Australian people will be asked to decide at referendum whether the First Peoples of Australia will be recognised in the Constitution through the establishment of a new institution, an indigenous Voice to Parliament.

It is often said that the humanity of a society is best judged by the ways in which it treats its most vulnerable members.

According to the Convenor of the Ideas and Society Program, Professor Robert Manne: “Our Program is honoured and delighted that our panel on the question of disability and Australia will include one of the Disability Royal Commissioners, Rhonda Galbally, the author of “Lifeboat”, the superb new Quarterly Essay, Micheline Lee, and the Director of Policy and Advocacy for the Disability Network Advocacy Australia, El Gibbs. And we are very grateful that La Trobe University’s Christine Bigby has agreed to lead the discussion and that the La Trobe Vice-Chancellor, John Dewar, has agreed to introduce it.”

IDEAS & SOCIETY - Disability and Australian Society

In Australia, there is much public discussion about US-China relations, prospects of conflict involving Taiwan and implications for Australia’s security. It is only rarely, however, that these conversations involve Taiwanese voices.

La Trobe University is honoured to host an exclusive panel discussion in which Foreign Minister of Taiwan Joseph Wu and Associate Professor Rebecca Strating of La Trobe Asia will discuss Taiwan’s perspectives on key regional security issues and concerns to a global audience.

Why is Taiwan’s security important to the world?

Is Beijing willing to start a war to solidify their claims over Taiwan?

Would the United States and its allies be prepared to go to war if China acts aggressively towards Taiwan?

Should Canberra encourage and aid Washington to attempt to maintain its supremacy in Asia?

How can Taiwan’s democracy best be supported?

What support would Taiwan like to see from the global community?

Registrations for this forum which will afford members of the audience the opportunity to ask Joseph Wu questions of their own are now open and free of charge. Do not miss out on this unique event.

Participating Chair: Dr Rebecca Strating, Executive Director, La Trobe Asia, La Trobe University

Speaker: Jaushieh Joseph Wu, Foreign Minister of Taiwan

IDEAS & SOCIETY - The View from Taiwan

Covid-19 is no longer making many headlines but its impact is very far from over.

According to a recent study, in 2022 Covid was responsible for 10,000 deaths in Australia and was a factor in 3,000 more. Indeed, Covid-19 was "the third most prevalent cause of death in 2022, after heart disease and dementia and above stroke and lung cancer".  There were already 5,000 Covid deaths by September of this year.

According to the Convenor of the Ideas and Society Program, Professor Robert Manne AO: "At a time when the Albanese government has announced an inquiry into the lessons learned during the pandemic, we have decided to convene our third event on Covid and its consequences.

"For this discussion, La Trobe University is extremely well-credentialled.

"Recently a groundbreaking international study showing a genetic component in susceptibility to Covid was published in the prestigious academic science journal, Nature. One of its lead authors was Professor Stephanie Gras, a researcher at La Trobe's Institute for Molecular Science. She will be a member of our panel.

"Another panel member will be La Trobe's Dr Sarah Annesley, who is conducting a study into Long-Covid, an often extremely debilitating condition that, astonishingly enough, affects some ten per cent of those infected by the virus.

"As Covid seems certain to be with us for many years to come, an understanding of Long-Covid is of vital importance for the future health of all societies.

"The third member of the panel will be Professor Michael Toole of the Burnet Institute. Anyone who watched our first two Covid events will be aware of Mike's ability to present a wide-ranging and lucid overview of the effects of Covid-19 on the health of our community, and careful advice on how Covid can be best contained.

"Once again, La Trobe University's Associate Professor Deb Gleeson has generously agreed to moderate the discussion.

"This will be the last Ideas and Society event introduced by our Vice-Chancellor, Professor John Dewar AO, before he concludes his tenure at La Trobe. For the past decade he has offered the Program greatest support. I am exceptionally grateful to him."

This panel is online. It will be held on November 29 from 5.00 pm to 6.30 pm.

For all interested in the medical, social and individual consequences of Covid, this discussion promises fresh perspectives and genuine illumination.

Host: Associate Professor Deb Gleeson, Department of Public Health, La Trobe University


Professor Stephanie Gras, National Health and Medical Research Council Senior Fellow

Professor Michael Toole AM, Associate Principal Research Fellow, Burnet Institute

Dr Sarah Annesley, Tracey Banivanua Mar Senior Research Fellow, Molecular and Cell Biology Laboratory, La Trobe University

IDEAS & SOCIETY - Covid and its Consequences: What Have We Learned?


La Trobe University’s Ideas and Society Program is delighted that we will be joined by an outstanding panel to discuss the meaning of the May 2022 election.

Join Australia's most influential, original and forward-looking economist, Ross Garnaut, and our most eminent climate activist, scientist and author, Tim Flannery, in a conversation concerning the future not only of Australia but also of humankind.

La Trobe University’s Ideas and Society Program is extremely pleased to be able to invite you to an online discussion between former Prime Minister, Paul Keating, and James Curran, a Professor of History at the University of Sydney and author of Australia's China Odyssey, on a question fundamental to the future of Australia--our relations with China and, thus, the United States.


The Ideas and Society Program at La Trobe University was very pleased to present two outstanding Australians to discuss the questions surrounding trade unions. Bill Kelty, as Secretary of the ACTU, was a key player during the Hawke and Keating years and one of the fathers of compulsory superannuation. Jennifer Westacott has been an outstanding public servant and is now an energetic and respected Chief Executive of the Business Council of Australia. It is an interesting fact about our country that both came from unprivileged family backgrounds but rose to the top of their professions through hard work, university education and, of course, talent.

The discussion was introduced by La Trobe University’s Vice-Chancellor, Professor John Dewar and moderated by political scientist Andrea Carson.

Watch the Recording

Listen to the podcast

Climate change is a generational problem. Older Australians took up the struggle. The lives of younger Australians will be shaped by the impact of climate change. The Ideas and Society Program has brought together, for this reason, frontline fighters across the generations to reflect on recent experience and debate future strategy. The former leader of the Greens, Bob Brown, is the revered father of the Australian environmental movement. Dr David Ritter is the leader in Australia and the Pacific of the pioneering world-wide environmental movement, Greenpeace. Dr Amanda Cahill, a Queensland grassroots analyst and activist, is the founder and chief executive of The Next Economy. And Maiysha Moin is a leader in Victoria of one of the most hopeful recent climate change developments, the school strike movement that is taking action on September 20.

This debate will be introduced by La Trobe University's Vice President (Strategy and Development), Natalie MacDonald, and moderated by La Trobe University’s Director of the Centre for the Study of the Inland, Professor Katie Holmes.

Watch the Recording

Listen to the podcast

In part as a consequence of her experience as President of the Australian Human Rights Commission, Professor Gillian Triggs, the renowned international lawyer and author most recently of Speaking Up, is a passionate advocate for an Australian Human Rights Charter. Professor Greg Craven, the Vice-Chancellor and President of the Australian Catholic University, disagrees equally passionately.

This event was moderated by Dr Madelaine Chiam, a scholar from La Trobe University’s Law School and introduced by La Trobe's Vice-Chancellor, Professor John Dewar.

Watch the livestream

Listen to the podcast

Since 2013 virtually no asylum seeker boats have reached Australia. In the six years since 2013, some of those sent to offshore detention have returned to the countries from which they fled; others have been settled in the US; still others have been brought to Australia temporarily for medical reasons. Nine hundred remain on Nauru or Manus Island. Reports tell us that after six years without hope their spirits have been broken.

Two of Australia’s most respected social justice fighters, Julian Burnside QC and Father Frank Brennan SJ have been following Australia’s asylum seeker policy for decades. On many questions connected to asylum seekers who come by boat their viewpoints differ.

Manus Island detainee and the great Kurdish writer, Behrouz Boochani, author of No Friend But the Mountains, also joined us via Skype to discuss his six year ordeal on Manus Island.

This event was moderated by Dr Madelaine Chiam, a scholar from La Trobe University’s Law School.

Watch the livestream

Listen to the podcast

The feminist movement has fundamentally re-fashioned our world. As the #MeToo movement and the backlash against it continues, it is timely to think about what kind of feminism we need. There are different voices within feminism, and different answers to the question of what still must be done to deepen and complete the feminist revolution.

Discussing these issues is a panel of three experts, featuring Clementine Ford , author of Fight Like a Girl and Boys Will Be Boys, Teela Reid , a Wiradjuri and Wailwan woman, practising lawyer and a powerful advocate for the rights of Aboriginal women, and Dr Petra Bueskens, author of Modern Mothers and Women's Dual Identities. This event was moderated by La Trobe University’s, Dr Clare Wright , author of the Stella Prize-winning, The Forgotten Rebels of Eureka.

Watch the debate

Listen to the podcast

Has racism entered the political mainstream? Or, is its influence found only among the far-right extremist groups and lone wolves?

This discussion follows the horrific terrorist attack at two mosques in the New Zealand city of Christchurch, on the 15th of March, 2019.

The Christchurch shootings revealed that even one well-armed racist can wreak havoc in any country, anywhere.

Although almost everyone in Australian politics and the media condemns racism, disagreement exists on the question of whether racism in Australia is widespread and structural, or found exclusively on the far-right extremist fringe.

Discussing these issues is a panel of four experts, featuring Professor Tim Soutphommasane, who is a political theorist and former race discrimination officer at the Australian Human Rights Commission, and Tom Switzer, the director of the conservative think-tank, the Centre for Independent Studies, and former well-respected opinion editor at The Australian.

You’ll also hear from La Trobe University alumna Tasneem Chopra, who is a cross cultural consultant on issues of cultural competence, and Associate Professor Chelsea Bond ,a distinguished academic, who has worked in Indigenous health promotion, culture, identity and community development.

View the livestream

Listen to the podcast

Almost no question is of greater significance for Australia’s future than the emergence of China as an economic and military great power. Does the rise of China pose a threat to the security of Australia? If so, a threat of what kind?

The two most important voices in this debate are Hugh White and Clive Hamilton. Hugh White, is Emeritus Professor of Strategic Studies at The Australian National University and has been an intelligence analyst, a journalist, a senior staffer to Defence Minister, Kim Beasley and Prime Minister, Bob Hawke and the first director of Australian Strategic Policy Institute. Clive Hamilton is Professor of Public Ethics at Charles Sturt University and was the founder and for fourteen years the Executive Director of The Australia Institute.

For those with an interest in Australia’s future, the Hugh White–Clive Hamilton China debate is of highest interest and fundamental importance, not to be missed.

Watch the livestream

Listen to the podcast


The “third wave” of the great but still incomplete feminist revolution began half a century ago. Last year a new frontier erupted spontaneously. Global wide and driven by social media, the #MeToo movement targeted the predatory sexual behaviour of men, especially but not only the rich and famous, towards which the cultures of Western nations had for so long turned a blind eye. At the same time, some feminists turned their attention to another equally pressing but all too often overlooked question—the precarious situation of older, single women. Among non-indigenous Australians, it is this group that sits uncomfortably at the very bottom of the socio-economic ladder.

Jane Caro, an award winning Australian columnist and feminist, joins in conversation with Anne Manne, one of Australia's most penetrating cultural critics, exploring the unfinished feminist revolution.

Watch the livestream

La Trobe alumnus, Tim Flannery, a distinguished mammologist and palaeontologist but also a world-renowned writer, is the natural scientist who has been leading the struggle in Australia for many years, presently as the head of the Climate Council. Robyn Eckersley, a professor at the University of Melbourne, is probably the most significant political scientist in Australia who has been thinking creatively about solutions to the “super-wicked” problem of climate change.

As part of its “A Better Australia?” series, La Trobe University’s Ideas and Society Program has brought them together to consider from their different disciplinary perspectives the kind of problem climate change poses and how solutions to it might be found. The questions they will be considering include: What does the international community need to do now if the threat posed by climate change is to be averted? What are the principal roadblocks in the way? What has been Australia’s contribution to the global struggle so far? Why has that contribution appeared to so many Australians to have been so shamefully inadequate?

The basic science of climate change has been settled for very many years. The political solution seems as far away as ever. Watch the conversation below.

Bendigo Writers Festival is a premier event on the Victorian cultural calendar, attracting local and international authors of standing across a wide range of fiction and non-fiction genres. As a key partner and sponsor, La Trobe University makes a strategic, programming and educational contribution to the festival.

Robert Manne’s writing has been reinvigorated and his love of life intensified, despite his sharpened understanding that we are all living on “borrowed time”. Robert talks with Jeff Sparrow about the importance of personal and social values.

Watch the livestream

In this episode from our Ideas and Society program we hear from a former Prime Minister, and the most senior public servant who worked with him, as they discuss the challenges and rewards of political life and public policy.

Eight years after he was deposed as Prime Minister, Kevin Rudd speaks with Terry Moran the then-Secretary of the powerful Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet.

It is the first time both leaders publicly discuss their challenges in government, and reflect on the obstacles to bold policy reform from the complementary - but contrasting - perspectives of mandarin and politician.

Watch the livestream

Listen to the podcast

Noel Pearson, who some regard as our nation’s most original thinker, and Megan Davis, a distinguished younger Indigenous leader who will outline prospects for long-delayed Indigenous constitutional recognition.

Noel Pearson is a lawyer, Indigenous leader, public intellectual and a 30 year advocate of the benefits of education, self-help and the engagement of Indigenous Australians in a global economy.

Professor Megan Davis is an academic, constitutional lawyer and author. She is Pro Vice-Chancellor (Indigenous) at the University of New South Wales and an expert member of the United Nations Human Rights Council's Expert Mechanism on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.

This conversation took place close to the one year anniversary of the 2017 First Nations National Constitutional Convention, which led to the creation of the 'Uluru Statement From the Heart'.

Watch the livestream

Listen to the podcast

In this episode from our Ideas and Society program, two giants of human rights, Gillian Triggs and Julian Burnside, discuss human rights in Australia as part of the 2018 'A Better Australia?' series.

Gillian Triggs is a distinguished international lawyer and former president of Australia’s Human Rights and Equal Opportunity Commission. Gillian is currently the Chair of Justice Connect, an organisation which provides free legal help to people locked out of the justice system.

You will also hear from Julian Burnside, a Melbourne based Barrister and a well-known advocate for asylum seekers. He is former president of Liberty Victoria, and the recipient of several awards including the Sydney Peace Prize and the Order of Australia.

Watch the livestream

Listen to the podcast

In this episode from our Ideas and Society program, Australia’s Minister for Foreign Affairs and Deputy Leader of the Federal Liberal Party, Julie Bishop. She’ll speak on the challenges, nuances and goals of diplomacy in the Asia-Pacific region and her commitment to the international rule of law.

Following her address, there’s a panel discussion with award-winning journalist and La Trobe University Vice-Chancellor’s Fellow Tony Walker, also the Director of the Bachelor of International Relations and the Lecturer in Politics, Media and Philosophy at La Trobe Dr Bec Strating and the Head of La Trobe Asia and the School of Humanities and Sciences Professor Nick Bisley.

View the livestream

Listen to the podcast

In this episode from our Ideas and Society program, a discussion on why Australia has been failing to fulfill its regional and global humanitarian obligations; part of the 2018 'A Better Australia' series.

We feature Tim Costello, Head of World Vision Australia, as he discusses the aid sector in 2018 and explores some of the humanitarian challenges facing the Asia pacific region.

Mr Costello is joined by Executive Director of the Brotherhood of Saint Lawrence, Conny Lenneberg.

The discussion is facilitated by respected ABC radio broadcaster Jon Faine.

Watch the livestream

Listen to the podcast


In this episode from our Ideas and Society program our panellists take you back to the Russian Revolution.

Speaking on the centenary of one of the most significant moments in history is Professor Sheila Fitzpatrick, one of the world’s leading historians of the Soviet Union, and based at the University of Sydney.

Leading the discussion is Mark Edele – one of Professor Fitzpatrick’s most distinguished former students and now Hansen Chair in History at the University of Melbourne.

Together they reflect on the Soviet experience and the momentous global impact of the events of 1917.

Watch the livestream

Listen to the podcast

In this episode from our Ideas and Society program, Former Prime Minister Paul Keating discusses where Australia stands in its relationship with China, within the post Trump and Brexit era. Mr Keating has long argued for greater independence in Australian foreign policy and for more focus on the country’s immediate neighbours to the north.

You will also hear from Professor Allan Gyngell, an Adjunct Professor in the Crawford School of Public Policy at the ANU. Professor Gyngell has published and spoken extensively on Australian foreign policy, Asian regional relations, and the development of global and regional institutions.

The conversation is facilitated by La Trobe University International Relations expert, Professor Nick Bisley.

Watch the livestream

Listen to the podcast

In this episode from our Ideas and Society program, we explore recent events in Western politics and question whether they establish a type of anti-establishment populism. We’ll look at the election of Donald Trump, the Brexit vote, the rise of right-wing regimes in Hungary and Poland, and in Australia the re-birth of the One Nation Party.


  • Judith Brett, Emeritus Professor of Politics at La Trobe and author of several books on the history of the liberal-conservative tradition in Australia.
  • Katharine Murphy, a senior journalist with The Guardian, known as a perceptive and respected observer of local political culture.
  • Guy Rundle, reporter at large for online news site Crikey.

Watch the livestream

Listen to the podcast

China’s emergence as a power of the first rank has changed the Asian region and the world. It has reordered established patterns of trade and investment, unsettled a long standing balance of power in Asia and brought old historical antagonisms to the surface.

As President Xi Jinping consolidates his power, China increasingly presents a confident and at times assertive face to the wider world. What does China want from its region? What is its vision for Asia and how much change would this represent? What options exist for Australia to influence how the People’s Republic comports itself on the wider global stage?


  • Kevin Rudd: Mr Rudd served as Australia’s 26th Prime Minister (2007-2010, 2013) and as Foreign Minister (2010- 2012).
  • Linda Jakobson, CEO and Founding Director of China Matters
  • Nick Bisley, Executive Director of La Trobe Asia and Professor of International Relations

Recorded on 26 October 2017 at the Sofitel Grand Ballroom

Watch the livestream

Listen to the podcast

Kevin Rudd on China's rise and a new world order transcript [DOC 124KB]

In this episode from our Ideas and Society program, our panel covers the issues surrounding care and the increasing importance of care as the Australian population ages and people with disability live longer.

This discussion took place as part of the Bendigo Writers’ Festival. You’ll hear from:

  • Rachel Robertson, a writer and Senior Lecturer at Curtain University. She is the mother of a disabled child. 'Reaching 1000' – her memoir about caring for her autistic son – was shortlisted for the National Biography Award.
  • Anne Mann, a journalist and social philosopher with works published in The Australian, The Age and The Monthly. As well as caring for her mother, Anne also cares for her husband and fellow panellist Robert Manne.
  • Robert Manne, an Emeritus Professor and Vice-Chancellor’s Fellow at La Trobe University. He was the Professor of Politics at La Trobe for many years and is the founder of the Ideas and Society program. Robert had a laryngectomy in 2016 and will speak about his experience as a giver and receiver of care.

Watch the livestream

Listen to the podcast


Among the most significant consequences of China’s dramatic growth in wealth and power is the way it is unsettling Asia's balance of power. How should the world respond to an increasingly powerful, wealthy and ambitious China? Should Washington try to retain the status quo in Asia, should it contest China's bid for influence or retreat, ceding the region as a whole to this authoritarian behemoth? How the US responds to China will be among the most important decisions it makes and will have consequences across the world.

Hear community leaders debate what has been called "the Hugh White thesis".

Michelle Grattan has been reporting on Australian politics for the past forty years. There is no one whose knowledge of this period is more profound or whose judgment concerning the major events is more reliable. In this Ideas and Society Program event, Emeritus Professor Robert Manne, who has been writing on the broad themes of the Australian political culture for almost as long as Michelle, will be asking her some of the largest questions:

  • Who has led the most impressive government in the years between Whitlam and Turnbull?
  • What have been the most important changes in Australia's political culture during this period?
  • Is Australian democracy more or less vibrant than it was forty years ago?
  • How well adapted is our political system to deal with the economic, social and environmental challenges we will face into the future?

An exclusive conversation between two great Australian political commentators: La Trobe's Professor Robert Manne, and The Project's Waleed Aly.

Together, the speakers explore how the Muslim community in Australia is faring and how Muslim groups in Australia regard Islamist extremism and 'terror attacks'. Professor Manne will ask Waleed Aly to reveal his thoughts about the rise of ISIS and Islamist extremism and how it might be combatted where it has taken a stronghold. This event is being held in conjunction with the La Trobe Ideas and Society Program.

Ideas and Society is La Trobe's leading intellectual debate series, which bring together prominent speakers to discuss current issues facing our community.

Following the release of US documentary The Hunting Ground, which cast a spotlight on the horrifying prevalence of sex assaults on university campuses, La Trobe hosted a panel of experts on 11 May 2016 to discuss how tertiary institutions can work to combat the problem.

Three prominent and respected voices will come together for a discussion on sexual violence in universities and, more broadly, across Australian society.

Helen Garner and Anne Manne have written on some of the darkest aspects of the human experience - murder, violence against children, and the contemporary culture of narcissism. In conversation with Ramona Koval, they discuss why they are drawn to these topics and their different ways of writing about them