Tom McKenna Lecture and 1917 Exhibition

Photo: Meg Hansen Photography


Tom McKenna Lecture

Date:         Tuesday 28th November 2017
Time:         5.45 pm – 6.00 pm
Location:  Allan Scott Auditorium, University of South Australia, City WEST Campus

The Tom McKenna Lecture is a significant annual lecture organised by the Planning Institute of Australia (SA). It is a public lecture which, in its name, commemorates Tom McKenna, Head of the Planning program at the SA Institute of Technology (now UniSA) in the 1970s. This year PIA has joined with SOAC to include the lecture as part of the SOAC program. The 2017 Tom McKenna lecture is also generously sponsored by Jensen Plus.

2017 is the 100th anniversary of the 1917 First Australian Town Planning and Housing Conference and Exhibition which took place in Adelaide. To mark this anniversary, the 2017 Tom McKenna lecture will be delivered by Professor Robert Freestone, one of Australia’s leading planning historians. A brief synopsis and profile of Professor Robert Freestone are provided below:


This year marks the centenary of the First Australian Town Planning and Housing Conference and Exhibition held in Adelaide. Organiser Charles Reade was in no doubt that this was a landmark engagement with a “novel” subject matter “to which civilisation turns with increasing hope and purpose”. He felt that “with the flight of time” it would “be numbered among historic gatherings which have left a definite impress upon the urban life of a continent”. This address revisits that proposition in exploring the organisation, logistics and legacy of the 1917 conference. This was no idle talkfest but a major initiative to elevate planning as a new national commitment in “getting things done and putting ideas into action”, to quote a characterisation by the late Stuart Hart in the first Tom McKenna Memorial Lecture in 1978.

The personal and interstate politics in the staging of the conference must be seen within the context of both a fledgling Federation and an emergent planning movement, but its preoccupations with governance, transportation, housing, open space, urban design and healthy cities still speak to us across a century.

The Australian Town Planning Conference and Exhibition 17-24 October 1917: In Retrospect

The lecture and subsequent discussion will run for an hour or so. Thereafter, participants will be invited to view an exhibition of materials from the 1917 Conference and Exhibition in the adjacent Kaurna Building. The event will conclude at 8.15 pm.

N.B. The parallel sessions on Tue 28 November will end promptly at 5.15pm and delegates will then be asked to start walking immediately west along North Terrace to the City West Campus. The walk should take about 20 minutes. 

This event is free but registration is required.

Professor Robert Freestone

Robert Freestone is Professor of Planning at the University of New South Wales. He is a Fellow of the Planning Institute of Australia, the Institute of Australian Geographers, and the Academy of the Social Sciences in Australia. He is past president of the International Planning History Society and is currently chair of the editorial board of the international journal Planning Perspectives.

His research interests span historical and contemporary issues. His major authored and edited publications include Place and Placelessness Revisited (2016), Exhibitions and the Development of Modern Planning Culture (2014), The Planning Imagination: Peter Hall and the Study of Urban and Regional Planning (2014), Urban Nation: Australia’s Planning Heritage (2010), Designing Australia’s Cities: Culture, Commerce and the City Beautiful 1900-1930 (2007), Urban Planning in a Changing World (2000), and Model Communities: The garden city movement in Australia (1989). His latest book co-edited with Stephen Hamnett is Planning Metropolitan Australia (2018).