Book Club Podcast, Festival of Urbanism

Join us for a series of fascinating conversations about some of the most interesting books about cities and urban life. Dallas Rogers interview authors, editors and readers about new literary urban fiction, speculative fiction, historical fiction and academic books on cities.

This book club is a part of the 2022 Festival of Urbanism.

WARNING: Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander listeners are warned that this series of interviews contains stories and voices of deceased persons and colonial violence. 


by Paul Daley

Dallas talks with Paul about his multi-generational saga about Australian frontier violence and cultural theft, and the myths that stand between us and history’s unpalatable truths.

Morally bereft popular historian Patrick Renmark flees London in disgrace after the accidental death of his infant son. With one card left to play, he reluctantly takes a commission to write the biography of his legendary pioneering adventurer-anthropologist grandfather.

With no enthusiasm and even less integrity, Patrick travels to Jesustown, the former mission town in remote Australia where his grandfather infamously brokered ‘peace’ between the Indigenous custodians of the area and the white constabulary. He hasn’t been back there since he was a teenager when a terrible confrontation with his grandfather made him vow never to return.

Of course nothing is as it seems or as Patrick wants it to be. Unable to lay his own son to rest, Patrick must re-examine the legacy of his renowned grandfather and face the repercussions of his actions on subsequent generations. Will what he finds bring him redemption or add to the vault of family secrets and terrible guilt he keeps uncovering?


For more than a decade Paul Daley has focused his non-fiction on the yawning gaps in the story of Australia’s national birth and identity, and on the imperative of refocusing on the Indigenous historical experience. In Jesustown, he explores poignantly and with gentle humour an Australian foundation myth that omits too much bitter truth about frontier violence against proudly resistant Indigenous people – the massacres and violent dispossession, and the hoarding of their cultural property including the shameful white theft of ancestral human remains. A two-time Walkley award-winning columnist for Guardian Australia who regularly writes on Indigenous affairs, he is also a short story writer, essayist and playwright. His most recent book is the political novel, Challenge. His non-fiction books have been shortlisted for the Prime Minister’s History Prize, the Manning Clark House Awards, the Nib and the ACT Book of the Year.

Visions of Nature

by Jarrod Hore

Dallas talks with Jarrod about Visions of Nature, which revives the work of late nineteenth-century landscape photographers who shaped the environmental attitudes of settlers in the colonies of the Tasman World and in California. Despite having little association with one another, these photographers developed remarkably similar visions of nature. They rode a wave of interest in wilderness imagery and made pictures that were hung in settler drawing rooms, perused in albums, projected in theaters, and re-created on vacations. In both the American West and the Tasman World, landscape photography fed into settler belonging and produced new ways of thinking about territory and history. During this key period of settler revolution, a generation of photographers came to associate “nature” with remoteness, antiquity, and emptiness, a perspective that disguised the realities of Indigenous presence and reinforced colonial fantasies of environmental abundance. This book lifts the work of these photographers out of their provincial contexts and repositions it within a new comparative frame.


Jarrod Hore is an environmental historian of settler colonial landscapes, nature writing, and geology, and is currently postdoctoral fellow with the New Earth Histories Research Program, University of New South Wales, Sydney. His work on wilderness photography, early environmentalism, and the Romantic tradition in the antipodes has been published in Australian Historical Studies and History Australia. His first book, Visions of Nature: How Landscape Photography Shaped Settler Colonialism is published by University of California Press. 

Making Australian History

by Anna Clark

Dallas is talking with Anna Clark about her bold and expansive history that traces the changing and contested project of Australia’s national story. You will think about this country differently after reading this book.

A few years ago Anna Clark saw a series of paintings on a sandstone cliff face in the Northern Territory. There were characteristic crosshatched images of fat barramundi and turtles, as well as sprayed handprints and several human figures with spears. Next to them was a long gun, painted with white ochre, an unmistakable image of the colonisers. Was this an Indigenous rendering of contact? A work of history?

Each piece of history has a message and context that depends on who wrote it and when. Australian history has swirled and contorted over the years: the history wars have embroiled historians, politicians and public commentators alike, while debates over historical fiction have been as divisive. History isn’t just about understanding what happened and why. It also reflects the persuasions, politics and prejudices of its authors. Each iteration of Australia’s national story reveals not only the past in question, but also the guiding concerns and perceptions of each generation of history makers.

Making Australian History is bold and inclusive: it catalogues and contextualises changing readings of the past, it examines the increasingly problematic role of historians as national storytellers, and it incorporates the stories of people.


Anna Clark is an award winning historian, author and public commentator. She has a PhD in History from the University of Melbourne and currently holds a prestigious Australian Research Council Future Fellowship at the Australian Centre for Public History at UTS. Anna is an internationally recognised scholar in Australian history, history education and the role of history in everyday life. 

She has written influential books such as The History Wars (with Stuart Macintyre), which won the NSW Premier’s Prize and Queensland Premier’s Prize for History, History’s Children (about students’ attitudes to Australian history), and Private Lives, Public History, as well as two history books for children (Convicted!—listed as a Children’s Book Council of Australia notable book—and Explored!).

Kids Panel

What do authors think about when they’re writing a book about cities for kids?

And why are books about cities and urban life important for kids?

Dallas chats with kids book illustrator James Gulliver Hancock and Alexandra Crosby and Jesse Stein from UTS about kids, books and cities. We cover a lot of ground, from what it’s like to be an author to being a reader, parent and urbanist.


James Gulliver Hancock stylishly illustrated the popular book How Cities Work 1 (How Things Work). This innovative book for younger readers is packed with city facts, loads of flaps to lift, and unfolding pages to see inside buildings and under the streets. Children aged 5+ can learn about skyscrapers, subway systems and stinky sewers. Discover where people live and peek behind closed doors to see what’s going on in houses and apartments, or why not find out about what goes on underneath the streets you walk on every day?

Dr Alexandra Crosby is an internationally recognised scholar and visual communicator with an interest in expanding design practice. Her current body of research is focused on more-than-human design and recombinant ecologies in urban environments. Here, she explores the relationships between plants and people, revealing the systems and ecologies that will be critical to overcoming the impacts of climate change on our cities. Key projects include Mapping Edges, a transdisciplinary research studio in partnership with Associate Professor Ilaria Vanni Accarigi that uses permaculture design principles to create sustainable systems within urban environments. Repair Design, a collaboration with UTS researcher Dr Jesse Adams Stein, is another major piece of work that embeds repair practices and designing for zero waste at the core of traditional design disciplines.

Dr Jesse Adams Stein is a Senior Lecturer and ARC DECRA Fellow at the UTS School of Design. She is an interdisciplinary design researcher specialising in the relationship between technology, work and material culture. Her research shifts between historical and contemporary contexts and focuses on the quieter and less fashionable aspects of design: industrial craft, manufacturing, repair, skill loss and the human experience of economic restructuring and deindustrialisation. Stein was awarded an Australian Research Council (ARC) Discovery Early Career Research Fellowship (DECRA), commenced July 2021, and is currently investigating the project “Makers, Manufacturers & Designers: Connecting Histories”, a project that brings together design histories with manufacturing, production and technical education, in the Australian context.

Inside High-Rise Housing

by Megan Nethercote

Dallas talks with Megan about high-rise legal architecture make vertical urban growth possible, but do we really understand the social implications of restructuring city land ownership in this way?

Geographer and architect Megan Nethercote enters the condo tower to explore the hidden social and territorial dynamics of private vertical communities. Informed by residents’ accounts of Australian high-rise living, this book shows how legal and physical architectures fuse in ways that jeopardize residents’ experience of home and stigmatize renters.

As cities sprawl skywards and private renting expands, this compelling geographic analysis of property identifies high-rise development’s overlooked hand in social segregation and urban fragmentation, and raises bold questions about the condominium’s prospects.


Dr Megan Nethercote is an ARC DECRA Fellow and Senior Research Fellow at the Centre for Urban Research. Within the Centre for Urban Research she co-leads the Housing Research Program and, for the Urban Futures ECP, she co-convenes the Housing@RMIT network. In 2017, Megan was awarded a Vice-Chancellor’s Research Fellowship and a Malcolm Moore Industry Research Award.

The City We Became


We’ve got a treat for you today, a conversation about speculative fiction and cities with a fantastic panel.

Our panel includes award-winning author and critic James Bradley. James is the author of books such as Wrack, The Deep Field, The Resurrectionist and Clade, the first two books of The Change Trilogy for young adults, The Silent Invasion and The Buried Ark, a book of poetry, Paper Nautilus, and The Penguin Book of the Ocean. His latest novel, Ghost Species, was published in 2020.

Matt Levinson is a built environment professional in Sydney and a voracious reader of all things urban. Matt has a lifelong passion for cities, culture and social change, and now leads corporate affairs and communication for the city’s peak advocacy and urban policy think tank, the Committee for Sydney.

Professor Nicole Gurran is an urban planner, and as you’ll learn in this conversation a keen reader of speculative fiction.

The panel opens by talking about The City We Became, a speculative fiction novel by N. K. Jemisin.

Your host is Dr Rebecca Clements.

Cities in a Sunburnt Country

This new book considers how Australians have provided water and sewerage for growing, sprawling urban centres. In this land of drought and flooding rains, we may need to rethink water use strategies, including embracing centuries of Aboriginal knowledge, seeing water as a resource to be conserved, rather than wasted or exploited.


Dr. Margaret Cook is an environmental historian who specialises in the history of ‘natural’ disasters in Australia, especially floods. The history of floods in the Brisbane River catchment was the subject of her PhD (UQ 2018) and is now a book, A River with a City Problem: A History of Brisbane Floods (UQ Press, 2019).

Lionel Frost is an associate professor in the Department of Economics, and Head of the Monash Business School (Peninsula Campus). He is author of several books and articles on Australian and US urban history and Pacific Rim history, including contributions to the Cambridge History of Australia (2013), Cambridge World History (2015), and Cambridge Economic History of Australia (2015). He is current president of the Economic History Society of Australia and New Zealand.

Dr. Ruth Morgan is an environmental historian, whose prize-winning work on the histories of water and climate has been generously funded by the Australian Research Council and the Alexander von Humboldt Foundation. She is a lead author in Working Group II of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s Sixth Assessment Report.

Martin Shanahan is Professor of Economic and Business History at the University of South Australia and Elof Hansson Visiting Professor in International Business and Trade at Gothenburg University, Sweden. A recipient of the Butlin Prize in Economic History, he has also written on wealth and income distribution, international cartels, and water markets.


Ms Claire Smith, Department of Management, Monash Business School

More interviews coming soon


City Road and The Henry Halloran Trust partnered to bring you this Festival of Urbanism podcast series.


Dallas Rogers, University of Sydney

Podcast Series and Audio Production

Dallas Rogers and Mikayla Scolaro at City Road Podcast.

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