Narratives of Climate Change Symposium

5-6 JULY 2018 University of Newcastle, NeW Space Campus

Greenland iceberg floating past the village of Narsaq. Photo taken by Brendan Mackey


The struggle to solve the problem of human-forced climate change - which requires us to stop using fossil fuels such as coal, oil and gas and end deforestation - has become an ever-present backdrop to political discourse, an intermittent topic in popular media, a central concern for community and social movements in the Global South and North, and a magnet for scholarly engagement.

The climate change problem is a disruptive, and potentially creative force that challenges, among other things, diverse ways of living, expectations of a good life, the dominant patterns of production and consumption, dominant frameworks of knowledge and the political, the fundamental precepts of legal systems, and the presupposition that our children’s children will inherit a world in which humans and the greater community of life can flourish.

At the same time, discourses around climate change risk invisibilising other histories of power and exploitation, such as colonialism, that have long inflicted violence upon First Nations peoples and their lifeworlds, and which underpin the reality that both the impacts and root causes of climate change are experienced disproportionally by the most vulnerable. Indeed, some climate change interventions serve to undermine rather than sustain Earth.




Our Sponsors

This symposium will be an interdisciplinary collaboration inspired by the possibility that the gap between scientific knowledge and effective political, legal and social action can be bridged by alternative forms of narrative, incorporated into and developed by artistic creations, works of fiction, social and other media, performances of all types including theatrical, activist and absurdist, visionary planning and innovative litigation such as the Children’s Trust lawsuits. In this collaboration, we envisage a partnership in which representatives from different communities and across academia work with diverse narratives, in particular the scientific narratives, to develop ways to ignite the public imagination and bring about effective action on climate change.

The collaboration acknowledges and seeks to support First Nations peoples’ ways of knowing and being, diverse forms of story-telling, and collaborations that support pluralistic, flourishing lifeworlds, both human and more-than-human.

The insidious process of cognitive dissonance renders many scholars incapable of contributing their expertise to the critical issues of our times, such as climate change. The academy continues to labour within the confines of coloniality and within a politics of knowledge which transforms subjects worthy of our moral consideration into objects and thus contributes to social alienation and political disempowerment. To paraphrase Mary Midgely, we are not aliens on a strange planet: our history and biology, which place us here, ensure that the facts of this planet have abundant meaning for us.

Download the Symposium Flyer

Dr. Elena Aydos (Chair), Newcastle Law School, University of Newcastle

Dr. Nicole Rogers (Symposium Founder), Law School, Southern Cross University

Professor Brendan Mackey (Symposium Founder), Griffith School of Environment, Director of the Climate Change Response Program, Griffith University

Dr Jason Von Meding, School of Architecture and Built Environment, University of Newcastle

Dr Brooke Collins-Gearing, School of Humanities and Social Science, University of Newcastle

Dr Sarah Wright, School of Environmental and Life Sciences, University of Newcastle

Dr. Tim Connor, Newcastle Law School, University of Newcastle

Ms Jacqueline Svenson, Newcastle Law School, University of Newcastle

Climate Justice Panel

Dr Matthew Rimmer (Chair)

Professor of Intellectual Property and Innovation Law, Faculty of Law, Queensland University of Technology, Brisbane, Queensland.

Aroha Mead

Aroha Te Pareake Mead is an independent researcher from Ngāti Awa and Ngāti Porou (Māori), Aotearoa New Zealand. She has been involved in Māori and indigenous bio-cultural heritage and conservation issues for over thirty years at local, national, Pacific regional and international levels and has published extensively in these fields.  She is currently on the Kahui Māori for the Deep South Climate Change National Science Challenge, the Karanga Aotearoa Repatriation Advisory Panel of Te Papa and member of the Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES) Expert Technical Working Group on Diverse Conceptualisation of Values of Nature and Ecosystems.

Her past work includes being Chair of the IUCN Commission on Environmental, Economic & Social Policy (CEESP) 2008-2016, Chair of the Board of the Indigenous Peoples Climate Change Assessment 2010-2017, Director & Senior Lecturer of the Māori Business Unit, Victoria University of Wellington 2000-2015, Policy Manager, Cultural Heritage & Indigenous Issues Unit, Te Puni Kokiri 1996-2004 and Foreign Policy Convenor, National Māori Congress 1991-2003. Aroha was also on the Governing Council of IUCN for sixteen years 2000-2016.

Dr. Amy Maguire

Dr Amy Maguire is a Senior Lecturer at the University of Newcastle Law School and an active media commentator on legal and rights issues. Her fields of research are public international law and human rights, with particular focus on self-determination, Indigenous rights, climate change and human displacement, the rights of refugees and asylum seekers, and the death penalty. In 2015, Amy’s submissions and evidence before the federal parliamentary inquiry into Australia’s advocacy for the abolition of the death penalty influenced the recommendations of the inquiry Committee. Amy has received the Vice-Chancellor’s Award for Overall Early Career Research and Innovation Excellence (2016) and been selected as a finalist for The University of Newcastle Alumni Awards – Beryl Nashar Early Career Researcher Award (2017) and the Lawyer’s Weekly Women in Law Awards - Academic of the Year Award.

Dr. Jason von Meding

Dr Jason von Meding is a Senior Lecturer at the University of Newcastle, Australia and leads the Disaster and Development Research Group in the School of Architecture & Built Environment. His research focuses on the social, political, economic and environmental injustice that causes people, across global societies but particularly in the developing world, to be marginalised and forced into greater risk of being impacted by disasters. Having accumulated a decade of research experience in disaster science, Jason takes a critical approach to the field and continues to argue that disasters are socially constructed rather than natural events.

Activist Panel

Sue Higginson (Chair)

Sue was a principal solicitor at the NSW Environmental Defenders Office (EDO) from 2013 until 2017 and chief executive officer of EDO from 2015 until 2017.

Tim DeChristopher

Founder, Climate Disobedience Center

Tim DeChristopher disrupted an illegitimate Bureau of Land Management oil and gas auction in December of 2008, by posing as Bidder 70 and outbidding oil companies for parcels around Arches and Canyonlands National Parks in Utah.

For his act of civil disobedience, DeChristopher was sentenced to two years in federal prison.  Held for a total of  21 months, his imprisonment earned him an international media presence as an activist and political prisoner of the United States government.  He has used this as a platform to spread the urgency of the climate crisis and the need for bold,
confrontational action in order to create a just and healthy world. Tim used his prosecution as an opportunity to organize the climate justice organization Peaceful Uprising in Salt Lake City, and most recently founded the Climate Disobedience Center.

Aidan Ricketts

Aidan Ricketts is an experienced social and environmental activist, social change trainer, academic and published author. Aidan has over 25 years hands on experience as a campaigner and trainer and continues to provide strategic workshops, advice and training for emerging social movements and campaigns. Aidan has recently published The Activists’ Handbook: A step-by-step guide to participatory democracy which is published internationally by Zed Books, London. Aidan is currently employed as an academic at Southern Cross University School of Law and Justice, in Lismore, Australia. Aidan’s academic qualifications include undergraduate and post graduate degrees in law and a post graduate degree in education. He is currently completing a PhD examining the application of complexity theory to social movement organisation and mobilisation.

Dr. Anne Poelina

Dr Anne Poelina, Managing Director of Madjulla Incorporated, is a Nyikina Traditional Custodian from the Mardoowarra, Lower Fitzroy River in the West Kimberley region of Western Australia.

Through her wide experience from working in Indigenous health, education, language and community development for over 30 years she has developed a deep understanding of issues impacting on Indigenous Australians living in remote locations.

Her childhood growing up in Broome, Derby and out on country has given her the love and respect for land, law and culture particularly in relation to creating industries that are culturally affirming and environmentally sustainable.

Dr Poelina has studied the historical colonial context of development in the West Kimberley and how it impacts on contemporary Indigenous participation in decision making, governance, land and water reform.  Dr Poelina explores the characteristics of different models of development in relation to the impact and outcomes for Indigenous people in the West Kimberley, particularly in relation to developing green collar jobs in the culture and conservation economy.

Bringing the Climate Science Story to Life

John Reid (Chair) is an Emeritus Fellow of The Australian National University (ANU). He was a staff member at the ANU School of Art & Design from 1978–2013. During this period, he integrated a visual art practice in photography, collage and performance about human rights, the environment and cultural identity into his role as a tertiary visual arts researcher, educator, curator and graphic designer. He works as a consultant specialising in the creative engagement of visual artists in science-based communication about the environment.

Prof. Nathan Bindoff, Professor of Physical Oceanography at the University of Tasmania in Institute of Marine and Antarctic Studies, head of Oceans and Crysophere Centre, and associate Director of IMAS.

Nathan is physical oceanographer, specializing in ocean climate and the earth’s climate system, with a focus on understanding the causes of change in the oceans. He was the coordinating lead author for the ocean chapter in the Inter-Governmental Panel on Climate Change Fourth Assessment Report and Fifth Assessment reports. Nathan and colleagues documented some of the first evidence for changes in the oceans in the Indian, North Pacific, South Pacific and Southern Ocean’s and the first evidence of changes in the Earths hydrological cycle from ocean salinity. His most recent work is on documenting the decline in oxygen content of the oceans and dynamics of the Southern Ocean.

He also leads a program on climate futures and is impacts of climate change on Australian climate, in particular, on extreme temperatures, rainfall, runoff, agriculture and ecosystems.

He has published more than 115 peer reviewed papers and more than 44 reports.

Prof. Lesley Hughes, Pro Vice-Chancellor (Research Integrity and Development), Distinguished Professor of Biology

Lesley Hughes is a Distinguished Professor of Biology and Pro Vice-Chancellor Research at Macquarie University and a Councillor with the Climate Council of Australia. She is an ecologist whose research has focused on the impacts of climate change on species and ecosystems.

Dr. Esther Achieng Onyango

Dr. Esther Achieng Onyango is an Early Career Researcher with interests in using systems thinking and trans-disciplinary approaches in climate change risk assessments, development of climate change adaptation strategies and translation of climate change and health research into policy. Her Doctoral dissertation, which was highly commended was an integrated assessment of climate change and malaria risk, which involved a biophysical risk profile, community knowledge and information needs assessment and use of Bayesian Belief network models to integrate information and suggest suitable adaptation options.

Storytelling Panel

Professor Christopher Wright, The University of Sydney (Chair)

Christopher Wright is Professor of Organisational Studies at the University of Sydney Business School where he teaches and researches organisational change, management innovation, sustainability and critical understandings of capitalism and political economy. He has published extensively on the history of management, management consultancy, the labour process and the changing nature of human resource management.

His current research explores organizational and societal responses to climate change, with a particular focus on how managers and business organizations interpret and respond to the climate crisis. He has published on this topic in relation to issues of corporate environmentalism, corporate citizenship, organizational justification and compromise, risk, identity and future imaginings. His research on climate change and business is internationally recognised and he has developed research collaborations with leading international climate scientists and global environmental organisations. He is a key researcher at the Sydney Environment Institute, where he heads up a group examining corporate climate transition.

His research has appeared in a broad range of leading journals including: The Academy of Management JournalOrganization StudiesJournal of Management StudiesResearch PolicyEnvironment & Planning AHuman RelationsOrganization and the British Journal of Sociology. As well as chapters in edited collections, he is the author of several monographs including The Management of Labour: A History of Australian Employers (Oxford University Press, 1995), Management as Consultancy: Neo-bureaucracy and the Consultant Manager (Cambridge University Press, 2015) and most recently: Climate Change, Capitalism and Corporations: Processes of Creative Self-destruction (Cambridge University Press, 2015).

Sally Abbott

Sally Abbott is a former journalist and a PR Director who lives in Central Victoria with her partner. She was the inaugural winner of The Richell Prize for Emerging Writers in 2015. CLOSING DOWN is her first novel.

Shelley Birse, screenwriter

Dr. Jason de Santolo

Jason De Santolo (Garrwa and Barunggam) is a researcher, creative producer & father committed to forging a sustainable world for future generations through through transformative research strategies, storytelling & practices of renewal. Born in Larrakia homelands - Darwin, he moved to Aoteaoroa/NZ at an early age, growing up to eventually study treaty & international environmental law. His unique research practice integrates video, creative practice & renewal strategies through a Garrwa driven decolonising research paradigm. In 2014 he received a UTS Research Excellence Scholarship to undertake a creative doctorate that explored the renewal of song traditions through his passion for filmmaking & collective aspirations for self determination & sustainable autonomy. ​

Day 1: Thursday 5 July 2018

  • 8:45am Registration
  • 9am Opening & Welcome to Country
  • 9:15 Plenary Session: Climate Justice Panel
  • 10:45am Coffee Break
  • 11am Parallel sessions: Narratives of Climate Justice
  • 12:30pm Lunch
  • 1:30pm Plenary Session: Activist Panel
  • 3pm Coffee Break
  • 3:30 – 5pm Parallel sessions: Narratives of Activism and Climate Change

Day 2: Friday 6 July 2018

  • 9am Welcome to Country
  • 9:15am Plenary Session: Science Panel
  • 10:45am Coffee Break
  • 11am Parallel sessions: Narratives of Climate Science
  • 12:30pm Lunch
  • 1:30pm Plenary Session: Storytelling Panel
  • 3pm Coffee Break
  • 3:30 – 5pm Parallel sessions: Storytelling and Climate Change

The CALL FOR PAPERS for the Narratives of Climate Change Symposium has been extended. Proposals for abstracts, papers, art and performances can be submitted until March 31st 2018.

In addition to standard scholarly presentations, panel discussions and break-out groups, we also envisage artistic responses and performances of all kind, including dance, music and multimedia, presented in the context of explaining and accepting that we cannot distance ourselves from the causes and effects of climate change. Our concept of identity is fluid in the face of climate change. As Timothy Morton has written, the detective is also the culprit. We are the unreliable narrator of our own climate change dystopian nightmare. We are also the victims; the ivory tower cannot protect us from the rising tide of climate change impacts.

We invite participants to interpret the topics of the Symposium in the broadest sense. Topics may include but are not limited to:

  • Narratives of Climate Justice
  • Narratives of Activism and Climate Change
  • Narratives of Climate Science
  • Storytelling and Climate Change

How to Submit your Abstract

Format & Style:
File type:
Submit in Microsoft Word.
Word count: Should not exceed 400 words.
Font and formatting: Times New Roman 11pt; double spacing.
Content: For scholarly presentations, do not include figures, tables, footnotes, endnotes or other references. For artistic responses and performances, please describe the nature and content with as much detail as possible.

Submit your abstract to the following email:

We look forward to receiving your Abstract and, if you have any questions please contact us.

We look forward to welcoming you to Newcastle for the Narratives of Climate Change Symposium, July 5-6, 2018.

Registration fees are:

Early Bird Registration

Until Friday 25 May 2018


Standard Registration

From 26 May 2018 until Friday 15 June 2018


Late Registration

From 16 June 2018 until 29th June 2018


Student Rate

Until Friday 15 June 2018


*All fees are in A.U. Dollars. Registration closes June 29th, 2018.


Newcastle is located on the east coast of NSW, a short two-hour drive north of Sydney. Newcastle Airport is a 25-minute drive from the CBD of Newcastle and offers regular services to major cities including Melbourne, Sydney, Brisbane and the Gold Coast.


Newcastle Airport is the fastest growing regional airport in Australia and offers direct daily flights to and from major cities including Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane, The Gold Coast and Ballina. These cities provide a hub through to other destinations around Australia and the world.

Five airlines service Newcastle Airport (15 kilometres north of Newcastle). Jetstar flies from Brisbane, the Gold Coast and Melbourne, Virgin Australia flies from Brisbane and Melbourne, QantasLink flies from Brisbane, Rex Airlines flies from Sydney and Fly Pelican flies from Canberra, Sydney, Ballina / Byron Bay, Dubbo and Coffs Harbour. Port Stephens Coaches runs buses between the airport and the bus terminal next in Newcastle. Hunter Valley Buses runs buses from the airport to East Maitland via Raymond Terrace. The Newcastle Airport Information Services Desk can arrange door-to-door transfers. Please phone 02 4928 9822, or email


Sit back and relax by riding the rails to Hamilton or Broadmeadow Stations, with connecting shuttle buses to central Newcastle and beaches until the light rail is installed (watch this space).

Catch one of the regular Newcastle and Central Coast services departing from Sydney’s Central Station, Strathfield, Eastwood, Epping or Hornsby to continue north to Broadmeadow or Hamilton (

TrainLink's inter-city services connect Brisbane to Broadmeadow via the regional cities of Casino, Grafton, Wauchope and Taree, before continuing to Sydney. Broadmeadow is a major railway hub: north-western services from Armidale, Tamworth, Moree and Narrabri also arrive here.


Newcastle is a two-hour drive north of Sydney. Need wheels? Find car rental companies at the airport and throughout the city. Some of the options include EuropcarHertzBudget Car and Truck Rental or Newcastle Car or Truck Rental.


Head to Newcastle on a long-distance bus - Greyhound services leave from Sydney's Central Station, Brisbane's Coach Terminal and Melbourne's Travel Centre. Newcastle's local bus network radiates from the Coach Interchange, behind Railway Station , Wharf Rd. Major bus interchanges are found at the University of Newcastle, Wallsend, Glendale, Warners Bay, Belmont, Charlestown Square, Westfield Kotara and Broadmeadow Station. Trips taken within a designated area of Newcastle's CBD are free on State Transit-operated bus services. Opal cards are used on Newcastle's local buses replacing the time-based tickets that are unique to the city. For more information visit

The coastal city of Newcastle is the heart of Australia’s famous Hunter Region. Newcastle is Australia’s seventh largest and second oldest city. Newcastle was recently identified by National Geographic Traveller Magazine as an emerging global smart city excelling in the challenges of the twenty first century. Newcastle has been recognised by Tourism Australia as Australia’s Coolest Coastal Town and by Lonely Planet as a Top Ten Global City. Newcastle has been four times named a world-class festival and events city by the International Festivals and Events Association.

Newcastle is surrounded by eight spectacular beaches and is home to a vibrant university culture, thriving arts scene and an emerging innovation ecosystem. Located only 160 kilometres north of Sydney, Newcastle is easily accessible by car or train from Sydney, or through direct flights to Newcastle Airport from Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane and the Gold Coast. For more information check out Visit Newcastle.

Newcastle offers a wide variety of accommodation options ranging from 4.5 star self-contained hotel options to budget rooms in backpacker hostels or pubs.

Below is a list of recommended accommodation options located within close proximity to NeW Space City Precinct Campus.

Rydges Newcastle

Located directly on the historic Newcastle harbour front, Rydges (formerly Crowne Plaza) Newcastle boasts a range of well-appointed guest rooms with spectacular views.  It is within easy access to beaches, parks, Honeysuckle restaurants and is a 5 minute walk to the conference at NeW Space.

Amenities include:

* Free Wi-Fi
* Valet Parking
* Outdoor pool
* Air-conditioned
* Laundry service

Address: Cnr Merewether St & Wharf Rd, Newcastle NSW 2300

Phone: +61 2 4907 5062


Noahs on the Beach

Overlooking Newcastle Beach, this relaxed hotel is a 6-minute walk from Fort Scratchley museum and a 20-minute walk NeW Space.

Amenities include:
* Free parking
* Outdoor pool
* Air-conditioned
* Room service

Address: Shortland Esplanade & Zaara St, Newcastle East NSW 2300

Phone: + 61 2 4929 5181


Chifley Apartments

The Chifley Apartments Newcastle provides self-catering style hotel accommodation. The rooms have a fully equipped kitchen, washing machine, and free WiFi. Situated in the Honeysuckle Precinct, popular harbourside restaurants and bars are located right across the street and New Space is only a 5 minute walk away.

Amenities include:
* Free Wi-Fi
* Outdoor pool
* Air-conditioned
* Business centre 
* Kid-friendly

Address: 7/14 Honeysuckle Dr, Newcastle NSW 2300

Phone: +61 2  4910 4910


Novotel Newcastle

Located alongside one of Australia’s best surfing beaches Novotel Newcastle Beach offers a spa pool, a steam room, a fully equipped gymnasium and secure covered parking. Guests also enjoy an onsite bar and restaurant. Alternatively, you can visit local restaurants, bars and cafes, within 10 minutes' walk away. The Novotel is located 15-20 minute walk from the conference location, NeW Space.

* Paid Wi-Fi
* Paid Parking
* Outdoor pool
* Air-conditioned
* Laundry Service
* Room Service

Address: 5 King St, Newcastle NSW 2300

Phone: +61 2 4032 3700


Quest Newcastle

Quest Newcastle is just 300 metres from the Waterfront and provides self-contained apartments with laundry facilities and a full kitchen and a private balcony. Quest Newcastle Apartments are an 8-minute walk from the conference.

* Free Wi-Fi
* Indoor pool
* Air-conditioned
* Restaurant

Address: 575 Hunter St, Newcastle West NSW 2302

Phone: +61 2 4928 8000