Becoming Beautiful: Anarchist Geography and Hope Beyond Hope

When?       6.30pm – 8.30pm, Wednesday 6th July, 2016

Where?      People’s Park, 157 Boundary Street, West End


Cathy Howlett: Cathy is a Senior Lecturer in the Griffith School of Environment and currently inhabits a space at the Gold Coast Campus. Her research focuses on the political economy of mineral and energy development on Indigenous lands. Her passion is understanding how dominant political and economic ideologies (aka neoliberalism) can constrain our abilities to both think, and act, empathetically and altruistically. She is particularly interested in how dominant ideologies such as neoliberalism impact upon Indigenous peoples. She is currently contributing to a Norwegian research project that addresses these questions in the Artic geographical context. She is committed to engaged and ethical research with Indigenous peoples and is the Indigenous research specialist on the Commonwealth Scientific International Research Organization (CSIRO) Social Science Research Ethics Committee.

Simon Springer:  Simon is an Associate Professor in the Department of Geography at the University of Victoria, Canada. His research agenda explores the political, social, and geographical exclusions that neoliberalization has engendered, particularly in post-transitional Cambodia, where he emphasizes the spatialities of violence and power. He cultivates a cutting edge theoretical approach to his scholarship by foregrounding both poststructuralist critique and a radical revival of anarchist philosophy. Simon’s authored books include The Anarchist Roots of Geography: Toward Spatial Emancipation (University of Minnesota Press, 2016), The Discourse of Neoliberalism: An Anatomy of a Powerful Idea (Rowman & Littlefield, 2016), Violent Neoliberalism: Development, Discourse and Dispossession in Cambodia (Palgrave Macmillan, 2015), and Cambodia’s Neoliberal Order: Violence, Authoritarianism, and the Contestation of Public Space (Routledge, 2010). He is co-editor of the ‘Anarchism, Geography and the Spirit of Revolt’ trilogy, which includes The Radicalization of Pedagogy, Theories of Resistance, and The Practice of Freedom (all Rowman & Littlefield, 2016). Simon also serves as Managing Editor of ACME: An International E-Journal for Critical Geographies and is a co-editor for the Transforming Capitalism book series published by Rowman & Littlefield.



Let us become beautiful ourselves, and let our life be beautiful!
– Élisée Reclus

Anarchism is a beautiful enabler. As a political praxis it allows us to embrace our capacity for living now and doing for ourselves in this moment what we would otherwise leave to authority. Strength is to be found not in what is dreamed possible but as an illumination of the powerful beauty we collectively represent. Anarchism insists upon the development of new relationships with our world and, crucially, with each other. Recognizing such connection implies a relational geography as an aesthetic realization that we all matter, that we are all part of the beauty of immanence. Within this recognition of our capacity for the beautiful comes the seed of something new, nourished by the possibilities of our desire for a better world. A relational geography is consequently a way to try to make sense of a world that is infinitely complex and in an ever-changing process of becoming. Geography’s recent reengagement with anarchism brings us closer to the possibility of shaking off the chains that fetter us to statist, capitalist, racist, sexist, and imperialist ideas by maintaining that our greatest resource is our bonds to one another. In anarchist geographer Élisée Reclus’s notion of ‘universal geography’ we see an early iteration of such a politics of possibility, which looks to connection, or relationality, as its impetus. For Reclus, all people should share the Earth as siblings by expanding our circle of empathy and reorganizing the landscapes of power though strengthened bonds of solidarity. So rather than simply always becoming, for anarchists, geography is about becoming beautiful.

As usual – ALL WELCOME! Completely free!

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POSTPONED!! “Decolonising the City”

Hey folks,

Please note that tonight’s scheduled talk “Dispersed: Decolonising the City” has been POSTPONED until further notice.

Next week’s talk by Simon Springer and Catherine Howlett will go ahead as planned.

Please spread the word!

Warm wishes,

BFU crew

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Hey BFUers!

It’s time to get your blankets packed, a thermos of tea brewed and your thoughtful frowns at the ready…the BFU winter program is here!

Join us every Wednesday evening for the next six weeks of winter for thoughtful discussions, heated conversations and critical thought.  We’ll be meeting each Wednesday at People’s Park in West End (157 Boundary Street) from 6.30pm – 8.30pm.  No better way to warm up your winter than with critical theory and cups of tea in an inner-city park.  Blankets and provocative ideas free.


!!!POSTPONED!!!! 6.30pm – 8.30pm, Wednesday 29th June – “Dispersed: Decolonising the City”

6.30pm – 8.30pm, Wednesday 6th July – “Becoming Beautiful: Anarchist Geographies and a politics of beauty”

6.30pm – 8.30pm, Wednesday 13th July – “Gendered landscapes: Feminism in the City”

6.30pm – 8.30pm, Wednesday 20th July – “The right to whose cities? Unpacking the global context of the Right to the City movements”

6.30pm – 8.30pm, Wednesday 27th July – “Food Sovereignty: Urban agriculture and inner-city landscapes”

***TBC: Saturday 30th July, late afternoon – Cloudland Collective present “Collaborative meeting on “Green Bans” + Film “Rocking the Foundations” & [exciting] speakers panel – Boundary Hotel.

6.30pm – 8.30pm, Wednesday 3rd August – “Understanding the Commons: possibilities, opportunities and limits”


For more details on the speakers and topics, check this page one week prior to each lecture.  You can also follow us  on facebook at:

Or you can join our mailing list by emailing brisbanefreeuniversity at gmail dot com.



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DISPERSED: Decolonising the City

When?   6.30pm – 8pm, Thursday 21st July, 2016

Where?   People’s Park, Boundary Street, West End

What?     Presentations and panel discussion

Join us on Thursday evening for the second of our Winter Program series on the critical socio-political context of the Right to the City and urban activism.

This session will explore questions of colonisation and the right to the city, asking what a “decolonised” city might look like, and what “decolonising” the city entails.

We are honoured to be joined by the following incredible thinkers:

Gordon Chalmers

Gordon Chalmers (BA, JD) is an academic currently based at QUT. His PhD thesis attempts to deconstruct the legal identity of the “Aboriginal Race of Australia” in Australian law, allowing for the possibility of both re-conceptualising and -addressing Indigenous efforts to once again normalize Aboriginal ontologies in Australia.

Melissa Lukashenko
Melissa Lucashenko is an acclaimed Australian writer of Goorie (Aboriginal) and European heritage. She was born in Brisbane, and has been widely published as a novelist, essayist and short story writer. Her books have won or been shortlisted for many major awards. She has also written about the experiences of criminalised women alongside the ground-breaking organisation she helped establish in Brisbane, Sisters Inside.

All welcome! Free!

We acknowledge the rightful owners of the lands on which we meet. Sovereignty never ceded.

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BFU presents: More than Concrete and Steel

When?  6.30pm, Tuesday 31st May, 2016

Where? The Bearded Lady, Boundary Street, West End

A historian, an indigenous activist and an urban designer walk into a bar, to talk about community organising in South Brisbane….

“More than Concrete and Steel” is the first in a series of talks organised by Brisbane Free University for the Right to the City Campaign. The series will aim to explore the meaning of the “right to the city” by contextualising it within anti-colonial, feminist, anti-capitalist and anarchist movements. This set of 6 talks will span a diverse range of topics that intersect with and give meaning to the idea of the right to the city, exploring everything from decolonisation and the urban environment to feminist theories of the public realm; anarchist spatial politics and the aesthetics of urban resistance.

This first session will set the scene for our critical examinations of the “right to the city” by looking at some histories of urban activism in South Brisbane.  The idea that as inhabitants of Brisbane we deserve the right to have a say in how the city evolves has long been part of political organising on the West End peninsular.  Tonight we meet to ask, “who has the right to the city? Who is excluded from our city? How can we resist and change this?”  

Join us in the heart of West End to learn about, remember and discuss 4101’s history of creative resistance and spirited dissent.


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BFU presents: Working Hard or Hardly Working? Theories and practices of work


Working hard, or hardly working?

When? 2pm on Saturday 14th May

Where? Carpark under Westpac Bank, 89-91 Boundary Street

What? Discussion and workshop

Our lives are dominated by working – whether there is too much of it or too little. Yet despite this there is little space in society to talk about work beyond politicians telling us that this or that policy, mine or property development will create ‘jobs’ and thus is excellent and how working is good for us (even if most of us want a holiday).

BFU therefore presents the first in a series of talks investigating theories and practices of work; our experiences and expectations, our hopes for the future, and the identities and ideologies that emerge around our workplaces.


More people in Australia are working more than ever before. Yet wages are growing at historically low rates and large sections of the population are employed in precarious conditions. The jobs we are doing are changing too – with more of us working in services, health and education. The news has been full of stories of large and substantial corporate chains systematically paying workers without citizenship far below minimal awards and the Federal government has been carrying out an on going campaign to break the construction unions. However union membership and industrial action are at an all time low.

And does work just mean wage-labour? What about the unpaid work in the home, the labour of studying, the expansion of internships or beta-testing computer games? How does the work we get paid for and the work we do for free all fit together?

Historically work has also been central to struggles to improve our conditions and transform our lives, a site of social confrontation and change – does it still play that role?

Join us for a discussion on where work is at, how we are experiencing it and what kinds of strategies we can develop to advance our collective interests.

Some framing questions to chew over before Saturday (if you have time…):

1)      What is your work-day like?

2)      How does paid work impact on other area of your life – housework, time and            relations with family, ability to participate in a community etc/

3)      What kinds of conflicts exist in your work-place?

4)      How does management work to ensure discipline in your work-place

5)      What are you relations with other work-mates like? How do you help each                 other?

6)      Is there a union presence in your work-place? What is the nature of this                    presence?

7)      Do you work unpaid overtime never/occasionally/sometimes/frequently?                  What range of times?  Do you have to/feel you have to/want to?


PS: From 10am on Saturday in West End there’s a community rally for housing affordability that many of us will be attending.  

The details are here:


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Brisbane Free University presents: A short history of the Oranienplatz Refugee Strike Squat, Berlin.

The Oranienplatz Refugee Strike Squat is a refugee-led community struggle of many guises and dimensions mobilising against the conditions of Residenzpflicht currently imposed on refugees seeking asylum within the German state. Starting in 2012, the strike was initiated by refugees housed in the lagers (refugee accommodation) all over Germany who could no longer tolerate the substandard living conditions, the racism, the precarity and the control over their everyday lives imposed from a state whose wealth has– both today and historically–been accumulated off the backs of migrant exploitation and imperalist war.

These refugees marched on a square in the suburb of Kreuzberg, Berlin to take action on these conditions and deliver their demands to the Berlin Burgermeister and the SPD government. They also lived and organised within a secondary base in a squatted school in Ohaulerstrasse, Kreuzberg which became the center of a massive eviction movement by the German state in 2014 but an equally massive resistance of both refugees and their German/international supporters.

A supporter involved in this struggle will explain their story, the strike camp and both it’s occupation and eviction. Afterwards there will be time for discussion about its Australian application, and what it means for the freedom of movement struggle more broadly. Come and hear about this amazing struggle!

Kein mensch ist illegal // No one is illegal!

When: Wednesday 23rd March, 2016
Where: Venue still TBC, West End

All welcome! Free entry!


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Queer Health in Queensland

Brisbane Free University is delighted to present a panel discussion: Queer Health in Queensland. In this conversation we hope to share knowledge of needs and services, and the gaps between the two.

Where: Carpark under the Westpac Bank, 89-91 Boundary St, West End.

When: Wednesday 18th November, 2015, 6:30pm – 8:30pm.

There will be ample discussion time. If anyone has questions or points that you would like raised anonymously, please email them to

Our speakers for the evening:

Laura McLeod
Originally hailing from the streets of Brisbane, Laura Mcleod is a provisionally registered Clinical Psychologist studying at James Cook University, Cairns. Her previous research has focused on the complex topic of communicating sexual consent, causing no end of interesting banter/awkward coughing at polite dinner parties. Current her research is focused on the helpful and unhelpful experiences of transgender and non-binary clients seeking psychological support in rural and remote areas of Queensland. Previous research indicates that there is a growing number of people seeking support for non-binary gender identification and a lack of supportive practice in the psychological community.

Brett Mooney
Brett says: I am Murray Islander from the Torres Straits, I have live here in Brisbane for 12 years, 10 of which I have spent working for the 2Spirits Program. 2Spirits delivers SexualHealth Promotion to Gay Men, Bisexual Men, and Sister Girls throughout the state of Queensland. In my spare time I enjoy maintaining my culture and collecting or creating opportunistic moments.

Miranda Sparks
Miranda Sparks is a radio presenter, web author, comedian, poet, playwright and entertainer from the outer suburbs of Brisbane. She is a passionate transgender activist and will engage in conversation at every opportunity presented.

As always, Brisbane Free University is completely free and open to all.

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How shall we live then? Discussions on density and community in the future of Brisbane

When?      6.30pm, Thursday 29th October, 2015

Where?     Boundary Street, West End

“How Shall We Live Then?” is a panel discussion bringing together perspectives from architecture, sociology and social theory to think about the best ways to live in Brisbane as the city becomes more dense.
The session will explore some of the pressures that cities face and why there is a push for more dense living in cities, and what the risks and benefits of that might be.

All of the speakers come (in some way) from the field of architecture, so the focus will be on different ways that architectural design responds to those pressures, as well as some of the regulations that are being discussed around apartment living in Australia at the moment.

As always, the focus is on robust and inclusive discussion: most of us have experiences of living in cities, we all have stuff to share!

The speakers:

Dr Kelly Greenop teaches design, architectural social science and research in the School of Architecture and conducts research within Aboriginal Environments Research Centre (AERC) and ATCH, Architecture Theory Criticism History research centre, at The University of Queensland. Her research has focused on work with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people in urban Brisbane, documenting their place experiences and attachment, and the importance of housing, family and country for urban Indigenous people. Kelly has recently published on the place branding of Brisbane as a ‘new world city’ by local authorities, and how local people’s histories and visions for place need to become more prominent in deciding the future of Brisbane’s inner areas.

Amy Learmonth is a graduate architect and designer. She has an interest in public architecture, urban planning, and housing. She recently graduated from the Master of Architecture at UQ with several prestigious accolades, including the QIA Memorial Medallion. Her design research to date includes investigations of alternative housing futures for Brisbane. She has also undertaken research around culturally-appropriate social housing and Queensland’s social housing policy. She has tutored at the UQ School of Architecture around social housing design. Amy currently works at Cox Rayner Architects and Planners. She has lived, studied and practiced architecture in Brisbane, London and Dublin. Her studies in Brisbane and Dublin have also led her to undertake design and research studios with prominent architectural educators in Portugal, Japan, Berlin and Finland. Amy also works with a number of emerging arts collectives in Brisbane, and has collaborated on the design and build of numerous large-scale artworks for various festivals and events around Australia.

Dr. Sébastien Darchen is a Lecturer in Planning at the School of Geography Planning and Environmental Management (University of Queensland, Brisbane). Previously, he was an Assistant Professor at the Faculty of Environmental Studies (York University) in Toronto and is still affiliated to this Faculty (as an adjunct professor). He holds a PhD in Urban Studies (INRS-UCS, Montreal) and was a postdoctoral fellow at the Canada Chair of the Socio-Organizational Challenges of the Knowledge Economy (Montreal). He is a faculty member of the City Institute (York University, Toronto). Dr. Darchen’s main research focus is on the governance of urban regeneration using Australian, American (e.g., Los Angeles) and French cities (e.g., Lyon and Paris) as case studies. He coordinates Plan-Making (PLAN3000) at UQ which blends urban planning and feasibility and also Sustainable Communities (PLAN7121). His current research focuses on identifying pathways to lead to the sustainable densification of inner-city suburbs in Brisbane.

Dr Silvia Micheli (PhD, IUAV, Venice) is UQ Postdoctoral Research Fellow at The School of Architecture, The University of Queensland. Silvia holds wide expertise in post-war, postmodern and contemporary Italian architecture and the city, accumulated while teaching and researching at the Polytechnic of Milan between 2003 and 2012. Silvia has actively promoted the debate on contemporary architecture through the publication of books, edited books and journal articles. Silvia is a registered architect in Italy, where she has been practicing since 2004.

As always, our sessions are completely free and open to everyone.

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BFU Presents: WHOSE AUSTRALIA? The Indigenous Constitutional Recognition Debate

Please join us for a discussion of the reasons for and against both (a) constitutional recognition of First peoples, and (b) the establishment of Indigenous sovereignty.

When: Tuesday July 14th, 6.30 – 8.30 pm

Where: Carpark under the Westpac Bank, 89-91 Boundary St, West End.

Our panelists:

Mark Yettica-Paulson

An Indigenous man from southeast Queensland and northeast NSW regions, Mark is a facilitator and presenter with wide-ranging experience in business, government, education and not-for-profit organisations. In 2009 he was recognised by The Australian as one of the top 100 emerging leaders in Australia and in 2011 he won ABC TV’s Strictly Speaking competition with a speech about having pride in our history and reclaiming a national identity for Australia’s Indigenous people. Currently Mark is the founding Director of The Yettica Group, which specialises in transformational conversation facilitation, social leadership and indigenous engagement. (Bio taken from Social Leadership Australia)

Gordon Chalmers

Gordon Chalmers (BA, JD) is an Associate Lecturer in the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Studies Unit at UQ. He has also worked in the government sector on Indigenous land tenure matters. Currently completing his PhD, Gordon is attempting to deconstruct the legal identity of the “Aboriginal Race of Australia” in Australian law, allowing for the possibility of both re-conceptualising and -addressing Indigenous efforts to once again normalize Aboriginal ontologies in Australia.

Darcy Burgin

Darcy is currently writing a Masters thesis in philosophy at UQ on the function of the human body in the constitution of experience. He has a keen interest in the necessary preconditions for the flourishing of an authentically democratic community and their being brought about in Australia. He will speak to the possibility and significance of a shared Australian narrative.

As always, all free / all welcome. Ample discussion time to follow panelists’ presentations.

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