Castlemaine Free University (CFU) is a forum for discussing contemporary issues of special interest for those living in Mount Alexander Shire and Central Victoria more generally. We are part of a movement — see Melbourne Free University (MFU). Feel free to jump to the EVENTS detailed below or read more about CFU.
We are generously supported by Northern Arts Hotel, our regular venue located at 359 Barker Street, Castlemaine.
We meet on the first Monday every month from February through to December at 7pm for 7.30–9.15pm. Our speakers don’t get any payment so sometimes we vary the time to suit their other commitments.
We open the doors at at 6.45pm. No bookings: first in, first served. We try and fit in as many people as possible but follow Covid-19 and the venue’s seating limits.
We listen to a diversity of views but general values are oriented around environmental sustainability and social justice, key principles for addressing key issues of our times.
We run money-free events except for paying for Northern Arts Hotel drinks and matter (books, CDs) our speakers offer.
We are a freely associated network that values individual and collective autonomy. There is no membership but you can get onto our emailing list or offer suggestions for speakers and topics by emailing Anitra at this site (see to the right).
Watch this space and our FB page for news on recent and up-and-coming events.
Read our response to claims that our events were ‘exclusionary’, claims made by specific unvaccinated people in January 2022 who were unable to attend indoor events due to government regulations during 2021–2022. To download the statement, click on the image Anitra Nelson 25Jan2022 What is ‘inclusion’?
3 April 2023 — Not so Rare Earths, and Toxic
WHAT? — ‘Rare earths’ are critical components in mobile phones and solar panels, essential raw materials for the hailed ‘green revolution’ to combat climate change and reduce emissions. But, there’s another side to this story. WA based company, Lynas, is a dominant actor in it — the major producer of rare earth oxides outside of China and owner of a notorious refinery in Malaysia. Harcourt has a rare earth, monazite, deposit!
WHO? —Lee Tan is a Stop Lynas campaigner and Aid/Watch Policy Coordinator, a statistician and a social researcher with decades of health, environmental and social justice campaigning experience and was, for over a decade, the Asia-Pacific Campaign Coordinator for the Australian Conservation Foundation.
13 April (note Thursday 5.45 for 6 pm) — Villagers vs Coca-Cola: The Water Miner
WHAT? — A David and Goliath story of dedicated protesters running Coca-Cola out of town. In 2000, Hindustan Coca-Cola Beverages set up a water guzzling plant — restricting villagers’ access to water, issuing toxic effluent, encroaching on villagers’ land, evading stamp duty, ignoring labour laws, paying little for its water use and harassing residents.
WHO? — Nandlal, concerned about lack of education causing poverty, inequity and social stigma, started teaching village children for free. Growing a learning centre, from 1994 with a handful of students to over 500 students from nearby districts, he became known as Nandlal Master. Meanwhile, Ranju, who had always fought against India’s caste system, married Nandlal for love, outside her caste — in the district jail where they were being held for taking part in the protest against the Coco-Cola plant near Mehndiganj village.
6 March 2023 — Beehive Design Collective: ‘True Cost of Coal’ Mural
WHAT? — World-renowned Beehive Design Collective swarmed our way with a mural showing the True Cost of Coal. to talk about mountaintop removal and damage to communities and ecosystems but also a future of alternatives, remediation and regeneration! We scrutinised their gigantic mural teeming with intricate images of plants and animals from ta biodiverse temperate forest as they shared stories of how mining impacts us all.
WHO? — The Beehive Design Collective is a wildly motivated, all-volunteer, activist arts collective ‘cross-pollinating the grassroots’ with collaborative, anti-copyright images for learning and organising. ‘We strive to provoke discussion, raise hard questions, and share hopeful stories about actions big and small we can take to build a better world.’
6 February 2023 — The Flooded Forest and Further Thoughts …
WHAT? — The Flooded Forest is a short film made by Rory McLeod and Peter Yates — reflecting on filming a documentary on the flooding of the Baarka early in 2022. It is hot. Father and son are surrounded by mosquitoes. They are not just on, but in, the river … Screening this alluring film, talking about documentary making, how we live our lives and their curious meanings, Peter will take us on a journey
WHO? — Peter Yates has lived on the northern shoulder of Mt Tarrengower for eleven years, walking its secret paths most days. He knows the Australian bush as few of settler origin do, having walked the deserts with camels, and worked with Aboriginal people in Central and Northern Australia over two decades. An anthropologist with a keen interest in the mythopoetic connection between people and land, you might already know him as the purveyor of delicious garlic at your local farmer’s market!
5 December 2022 — No Room at the Inn: Housing in Mount Alexander Shire
WHAT? — Come and hear about the local My Home Network (MHN). MNH includes community and government organisations, and community members with diverse expertise and lived experience of homelessness and housing crisis who are all working together to ensure that everyone in our Shire has affordable, secure, safe, sustainable and appropriate housing, as a basic human right.
WHO? — Coordinator Carolyn Neilson will introduce both the network and other members who will speak to the various aspects of MHN’s integrated work. Hear about advocacy for Tiny Houses on Wheels to become more accessible as long-term affordable housing. MHN is encouraging use of currently vacant dwellings, including shop-top vacant dwellings, for future affordable rentals. MHN is developing a local Home Share model. Beyond local action, members advocate for improved housing funding, policy and legislation — including crisis, transitional and social housing — across local, State and Federal governments.
7 November 2022 — Mount Alexander: Connecting Country, Friends of the Box-Ironbark Forests and Landcare
WHAT? — Friends of the Box–Ironbark Forests (Mt Alexander Region) is a community organisation advocating sound ecological and Indigenous management practices to conserve vegetation and associated wildlife on private and public land. See their prolific publications — www.fobif.org.au/ Likewise Connecting Country is a community organisation educating, monitoring and actively restoring landscapes and habitat for local plants and animals across Mt Alexander, including through Landcare. Over 200 landholders and community groups have been restoring more than 10,000 hectares in the past 15 years — www.connectingcountry.org.au/
WHO? — Newstead resident and ecologist Asha Bannon is a FoBIF committee member, was a Landcare Facilitator and is a volunteer with Connecting Country. She is particularly interested in wildlife conservation and community engagement. Guildford resident Hadley Cole recently joined Connecting Country as Landcare Facilitator for the Mt Alexander region having worked in various environmental management and conservation roles with government and non-government organisations. Inaugural member of Golden Point Landcare, Marie Jones has spent years on the Natural Resource Management Committee of the North Central Catchment Management Authority, and on both Connecting Country’s Management Committee and the FoBIF Committee since their inception.
3 October 2022 —Singing a Polaroid and transforming Lyrics to Light: A Photographic Approach to Writing Songs
WHAT? — ‘On Polaroid’ is James Marples recently released EP of alt-country music, inspired by portrait photography. His talk will focus on overlaps between the ‘song’ form and the Polaroid photographic medium — songs inspired by Polaroid’s ‘instant’, intimate and nostalgic qualities. His talk features live performances of some of the songs and recordings from the EP. And he will screen its accompanying haunting music video, which was filmed at Autoplex in Castlemaine (dir. Simon Trevorrow).
WHO? — James Marples is an artist, songwriter and composer whose songs explore love and psychodrama. His music and deep baritone voice has drawn comparisons with Howe Gelb, Bill Callahan and Richard Hawley. In London, he joined the Blind Dog Studios collective, and performed with gothic chanteuse Anna Calvi and her percussionist Mally Harpaz to hone his orchestral Americana sound. Songwriter-in-residence at Kings College, London, his EP ‘Go Quietly’, received extensive BBC radio play in 2018–2019. Returning to Australia, the City of Melbourne funded his EP ‘On Polaroid’. See https://www.jamesmarples.com/
5 September 2022 — Planet Local — A Quiet Revolution
WHAT? Local Futures recently released their 50-minute film Planet Local — A Quiet Revolution on World Localisation Day. The international film features grassroots activists alongside well-known figures such as Noam Chomsky, Vandana Shiva, and Helena Norberg-Hodge to offer inspiration, clarity and a call to action in a dark world. From restoring topsoil to sharing traditional knowledge and opposing free trade treaties, they propose a path forward for humanity.
WHO? The film is presented by Carolyn Neilson, Ilka White, John Terry and Nikki Marshall of Localising Leanganook whose members continue the spirit of the 2015 Castlemaine Local Lives Global Matters — A Conference for Future’s Sake. That conference offered space to share ideas and stories of active sites of resistance, to both imagine and renew relationships between humanity and nature in rural central Victoria, and to connect with stories of activism in other parts of the world. For more than 40 years, Local Futures has raised awareness of the power of going local to restore ecological and human well-being for decades, with a mantra of Rethink, away from globalisation to glocalisation; Renew — local economies and communities, cultural and biological diversity; and Resist.
6 June 2022 — Sound and Climate with Kyla Brettle
WHAT? How have the defining events of our time — the digital revolution and the climate crisis — impacted the production, consumption and voice of creative soundwork and audio storytelling? Kyla Brettle draws on her twenty-year career producing sound-rich, non-fiction radio features to explore this question, touching on the unique attributes of the audio medium and the diverse audio culture of our shire. With a background in filmmaking, music, literature and cultural studies, Kyla will play soundscapes and show extracts from other work.
WHO? Winner of international awards at New York Festivals and the Third Coast International Audio Festival (the ’Sundance of radio’), Kyla’s work has been broadcast in eight countries and presented in special forums. Axel Burns describes her audio work as ‘an outstanding example of what innovative, collaborative production methods can create’ (The Conversation). A practice-led researcher, Kyla has written for the RadioDoc Review and presented at the NonFictionNow conference — supported by ABC Radio National’s features and creative audio units and by the Media Program, RMIT University, where she lectured.
2 May 2022 — With Legendary poet TT.O. (Pi O)
WHAT? A short journey through the life and work of epic poet and anarchist Pi.O. whose working life was spent as a draughtsman in the Victorian land titles office. Known as ‘a legendary figure in the Australian poetry scene’, ‘the chronicler of Melbourne and its culture and migrations’, and ‘a pioneer of performance poetry in Australia’ (Giramondo), his Epic trilogy is 24 Hours (1996), Fitzroy: The Biography (2015), and Heide (2019) a 560-page poem comprised of 300 poems) which won the prestigious 2020 Judith Wright Calanthe Award.
WHO? Writer Pi.O. is editor of magazines such as
Unusual Work, which features creative writing and graphic art, and a publisher, namely Collective Effort Press. Born in Greece, his life has been spent in and around Fitzroy. His prolific work includes Panash (1978), The Fitzroy Poems (1989) and Big Numbers: New and Selected Poems (2008).
4 April 2022 — Cuba Then and Now: The End of the Revolution?
WHAT? — As recent protests broke out in July in Cuban cities and towns, US media and others pronounced, yet again, the death of the Cuban Revolution. With decades of experience and research in Cuba, David Deutschmann and Deborah Shnookal explained the origins and significance of these protests and Cuba’s revolutionary project. They discussed prospects for renewal of ‘normalisation’ talks under Obama, cancelled under Trump, and now in the hands of Biden.
WHO? — David Deutschmann and Deborah Schnookal co-founded Ocean Press, and international publisher of books from and about Latin America. David was an adviser for Steven Soderbergh’s two-part bio-pic Che (2009), has regularly travelled to Cuba for 36 years and, among other publications, is editor and the Che Guevara Reader (2005) and Fidel Castro Reader (2017). Similarly, Deborah is an editor and writer, most recently revising her history doctorate as Operation Pedro pan and the Exodus of Cuba’s Children (2020, University Press of Florida).
7 March 2022 — A World Without Money?
WHAT? — Why might we want a future without money and, if so, how might it operate? Author Anitra Nelson will offer a brief overview of this newly released book and sketch out how a more socially equitable and ecologically world might operate liberated from money. There will a limited number of copies with misprinted headers available free. Anitra will also give out a coupon code for discounted corrected copies to buy online.
WHO? — Anitra is an activist-scholar affiliated with Melbourne Sustainable Society Institute (MSSI) at University of Melbourne. Many of her academic activities coincide with her political activism and philosophical passions, e.g. Castlemaine Free University. A decade ago a collection that Anitra co-edited with the late Frans Timmerman Life Without Money: Building Fair and Sustainable Economies was released by the publisher of Beyond Money. Meanwhile she has written or edited six other books, including Small is Necessary: Shared Living on a Shared Planet (2018).
22 January 2022 — Launching The Politics of Permaculture and Young People and the Far Right
Saturday 22 January — Central Victorian launches of two topical books by sociologists, Terry Leahy and Pam Nilan.
2–3pm Cam Walker (Friends of the Earth) will launch Terry Leahy’s The Politics of Permaculture (illustrated by Brenna Quinlan).
3–4pm Shane Homan, (Director of Research in the School of Media, Film and Journalism at Monash University and co-editor Popular Music History) will launch Pam Nilan’s Young People and the Far Right.
Come along and hear what the authors have to say, have them sign you a personal copy (for purchase) and have a drink at the bar!
Download flyer here.
6 December 2021 — Creatively Embodying the Balance
WHAT? — Entitlement and trauma are sabotaging the planet. This talk looks at the import of the body and arts in healing trauma. Many new psycho-sensory trauma therapies have developed through dance and theatre arts. So, what is the role of creativity in healing? And what impact could this have on our future? Karen Corbett sings and performs excerpts from her plays to enhance our understanding of the role of embodiment and creativity in healing.
WHO? — Karen Corbett is a highly awarded writer, performer and theatre director, winning the German Medal of Ulm for one-woman show Orphanage of the Animals — in this image performing a dog, ‘World’s fucked, you’re an idiot if you reckon it’s not’ and the Murray Sutherland Prize for Outstanding Achievement and Contribution to Theatre for one-woman show To The Outside World, co-authoring the play on Sylvia Plath’s life, The Girl Who Wanted to Be God, nominated for two Premiere’s Awards. On a brief break as a trauma therapist, she is performing in unHOWsed, a theatre project she co-devised on older women’s homelessness.
14 November 2021 — The Loudest Island in the World: From First Nations to Reggae
A special Sunday afternoon event 2–6pm, with breaks!
WHAT? — Once again, Ralph Newmark on the history of music in Cuba. Experience and understand political, economic, cultural, and social change in the region. Enjoy ‘history through music’ and participate in the Q&A
WHO? — Honorary Fellow, University of Melbourne (Spanish and Latin American Studies, School of Languages and Linguistics) Dr Ralph Newmark is an historian, past Director Institute of Latin American Studies, La Trobe University(ILAS, 2008–2020), a media regular, discussing Latin American affairs, and presenter of a 3CR radio program on the history and music of Latin America and the Caribbean.
1 November 2021 — Impact Producing with Alex Kelly
WHAT? — What is the role of arts, culture, film and storytelling in the climate emergency?
In contrast to politics, art doesn’t try to readjust or fix the machine. Instead, it does something more subversive and troubling: it shows the possibility of another world. Zapatista Subcomandante Insurgente Galeano
How can Impact Producing be used to drive real world change alongside creative projects?
WHO? — Alex Kelly is an artist, filmmaker, producer and activist based on Dja Dja Warrung land, ‘Australia’. Working across film, theatre, communications strategy and troublemaking, Alex purposefully connects the disciplines of art and social change. Producer of award-winning documentaries Island of the Hungry Ghosts and In My Blood it Runs, creative producer on Ngapartji Ngapartji, and Global Impact & Distribution Producer on Avi Lewis and Naomi Klein’s This Changes Everything.
5 July 2021 — Everyday Photos and Social Change
WHAT? Where and how do images and social change intersect? Michelle Dunn talks about her photography (and film making) practice and the ways we interpret and take photos in our everyday life.
WHO? Michelle Dunn is a professional photographer and filmmaker and social change advocate, find out more here
7 June 2021 — Central Highlands Mutual Aid Mapping project
WHAT? Hear about the Central Highlands Mutual Aid Mapping project, a work-in-progress showing all kinds of local production and support services you can access. Think local markets, enterprises, associations and cooperatives showing us the possibilities of collectively sustaining ourselves. Engage with the panel on how you might participate in developing the map and use it in everyday life.
WHO? Brasilian academic and consultant Mirella Gavidia, who grows food and regenerates Dja Dja Wurrung country; Ellen Madigan, who grows, caters, researches and advises on food; Karl Fitzgerald, instigator of the Central Victoria Mutual Aid Mapping project and Director of Advocacy, Prosper Australia; Ian Lillington, permaculture practitioner, teacher and writer.
3 May 2021 — Tango, Samba, Salsa & Society: A History of Latin America through Music and Food
WHAT? — Hear and engage with Dr Ralph Newmark on the history of music and food in Latin America as a way to understand political, cultural, economic and social change in the region. Come and enjoy ‘history through music and food’ and participate in the Q&A.
In this talk Ralph explores the political, economic, social and cultural themes in Latin American history. Tango is employed to analyse Argentina, Samba to understand Brazil, and Son/Salsa to examine Cuba. The history of Latin Americans in the United States and its foreign policy in Latin America are investigated along with the most important challenges of the 21st century: globalisation, neo-liberalism, persistent poverty, conflict, racism, sexism and environmental degradation.
WHO? — Dr Ralph Newmark is an historian, past Director of the Institute of Latin American Studies at La Trobe University in Melbourne (ILAS, 2008–2020) and a media regular, discussing Latin American affairs, he presents a 3CR radio program on the history and music of Latin America and the Caribbean.
1 March 2021 — CFU LAUNCH EVENT — Community Voice
WHAT? — Nikki Marshall, Patrick Jones and Councillor Jen Bray on Community Voice, which started in 2020 to promote participatory democracy in Hepburn Springs Shire talked about their experiences, visions and achievements. An idea for Mount Alexander Shire? Come along and participate in Q&A.
WHO? — Among a plethora of other activities, Nikki Marshall edits the monthly Localising Leanganook newsletter, Patrick Jones and his family are pioneering ‘neo-peasant’ lifestyles locally, and Jen Bray has just become one of the two new councillors for Birch ward in Hepburn Springs.
Download flyer, with more details, here