This week I was lucky enough to attend the Institute of Australian Geographers 2013 Conference. Matthew Tonts (UWA) and Roy Jones (Curtin) did an excellent job organising the event. There were about 210 presentations across three days, as well as some top notch social activities.
The paper presentations and keynote speakers traversed a range of geographical issues, some particular highlights included:
- Crossing narratives and the idea of geographic location of wealth – Iain Hay spoke about the Super Rich and their ability to have their lives (and assets) cross state boundaries to a new supra-national level, ‘Richistan’. Julian Clifton took on the other end of the spectrum, describing the stateless Malaysian Bajau people, with development programs exacerbating the marginalisation of these communities.
- Adaptation to Climate Change sessions were particularly pertinent to my research, and applicable to this crazy changing world of ours generally. The University of Melbourne is doing some really interesting work in this area – designing frameworks for local councils to measure priority areas for adaptation, examining how people’s histories influence their perspective of adaptation, climate and the ability to maintain continuities within their lives in the face of climate change. There are also some interesting studies out of the University of Wollongong on the attitudes of people to climate change and adaptation vary depending on ethnicities and age, and adaptation potential for the elderly.
- Transport Geographies provided fascinating insights into some unseen worlds – Lily Hirsch’s examination of ‘super dense crush load’ on Mumbai trains, its causes, social ramifications and planning issues (12 deaths per week!) was truly fascinating. Helen Fitt outlined some interesting results regarding the relationship between motorists and cyclists – why is it a cyclists’ responsibility to care for their own wellbeing? Why can’t they just share the roads? Thomas Birtchnell also provided an insight into post-World War II propaganda encouraging the production of goods for addition to international consumption trades – and the impact this might have on our own perspectives of the global supply chain.
- The tension between development and social justice was echoed in several parts of the conference – from Sophie Webber’s consideration of the role of the World Bank in adaptation plans, to Brian Cook’s examination of the marginalisation of communities during development projects, questioning how we can overcome these issues.
- ‘Resilience’ appeared to be a key term for the conference, cropping up all over the place and causing conflict and discussion in and of itself. More importantly, though, consideration of resilience gave rise to the initiation of a new study stream by Joanne Stevenson, looking in particular at disasters. Helen Smith gave an excellent summary of her Masters findings relating to the ability for communities to recover from floods and Christine Eriksen gave some interesting insights into the role of gender in bushfire survival.
- Even literature was given a bit of a fair go, with Jen Li providing first findings of her research into public libraries. Not to mention references to Joseph Conrad, George Orwell and Harry Potter (and not just from me).
Rachel Chapman (UWA) in particular deserves a nod for organising the Postgrad Social on the Sunday afternoon. A pleasant stroll in historic Guildford was followed by a few tipples at Lancaster Winery and Elmar’s Brewery. We had more than enough food and just enough alcohol – and the best winter Perth weather you can imagine.
In case you are interested in the research proposal I presented, here are my slides: