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November 23, 2017

On Being (in) South Australia

A city is supposed to be the physical manifestation of a community's intent, and in the streets of Adelaide we can see that some things have gotten lost in translation.

  • Words: Trish Hansen
  • Trish is the President, Australian Institute of Urban Studies, South Australia

It’s always struck me as peculiar that we humans have evolved the intellect necessary to begin to understand our beginnings, ponder our purpose and predict various aspects of our future, yet not the moral maturity or shared ethical compass to sustain ourselves in this wondrous place.


Being South Australia is hosted by the Australian Institute of Urban Studies SA, a not-for-profit that exists to provoke discussion and debate about urban life in Adelaide and South Australia.

Being South Australia is a half day forum, including lunch with drinks. It will take place Friday,  December 1 from 12noon – 4pm in the Crystal Room at the Stamford Plaza.

This forum aims to bring together some of the best minds in public policy, business, academia, and the community for discussions on the key issues facing Adelaide and South Australia.

The Lord Mayor and a representative of the Premier will provide a brief opening address, which will be followed by a series of panel discussions, regarding our economy, our environment, our urban infrastructure, our people and other matters regarding urban life in Adelaide and South Australia.

Find more details and ticket information here.

While pondering our purpose is not exclusively human (just remember the amazing escape of Inky the New Zealand octopus), it does appear to be characteristically human. We often define ourselves by the capacity to transcend innate instinct, to deliberate and make conscious choices. And, we’ve been at it for years, perhaps millennia – at least since Socrates claimed that the unexamined life is not worth living.

Given our attachment to purposeful action and thought, cities are an interesting proposition – sort of the physical embodiment of the choices we as a society make.

Surely, cities exist to serve their people, to enable citizens to flourish – to stay well, heal when ill or injured, learn and live culturally rich and meaningful lives, then die with dignity and grace.

We wouldn’t want anything less.

If cities and towns are created by people for people, what in the design of our urban lives has allowed for languishing? It seems we have deliberately curated an economy that demands the destruction of the ancient natural environments that enable our existence, that creates social injustice, inequality, displacement and homelessness, and does not even provide everyone with place in which to live their life well.

That seems silly.

But this place we call South Australia is ours. It reflects us.

Collectively we are the stewards, the curators, the conductors and architects – so, how might we live the best possible life and sustain ourselves in this remarkable state? How might we design our economy to equitably serve us and the planet, both now and into the future? How might we curate the conditions conducive to ‘the good life’ – enabling prosperity for all of us and for our environment?

It’s these ‘big picture’ ponderings that lie at the heart of Being South Australia – a half day forum where we can begin to consciously look at the bones of this state, to question the conditions and structures from which Adelaide and South Australia arises.

At the event we will examine the mindsets, goals, power, governance, policies, systems, legislation regulations, incentives, punishments, constraints, and information flows of this place and ask – is this what we wanted?

And if the answer is no, we intend to start conversations that plots a path toward a truer expression of our purpose.

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