GRC 2009: Sustainable Cities

The 2009 U21 Graduate Research Conference, hosted jointly by the University of Melbourne and the University of Queensland has been a great success. Fifty-three graduate students from fourteen U21 universities across twelve countries attended the conference. All delegates presented at the conference and most also presented a poster and contributed a short paper to the proceedings.

The quality of the presentations was overwhelmingly excellent, as was the accompanying questions and debate. The interactions between the delegates across disciplines and cultural backgrounds were highlighted as a key feature of the conference in the evaluation.

The size of the conference enabled all delegates to develop personal relationships while still providing a diverse and interesting experience. The social progamme also encouraged networking between the students. The delegates had the opportunity to hear from eleven guest speakers on the topic of sustainable cities (also highlighted positively in the evaluation). These speakers included academics from a wide variety of disciplines and domains, and practitioners working for local government authorities.

This was complemented by a field trip to Melbourne’s CBD where many of the issues presented by the guest speakers were observed by the delegates. The student presentations were themed to complement the guest speakers. The approach of sharing the conference between two cities was also a success. Melbourne and Brisbane were able to provide contrasting cultural and academic (and climatic!) experiences for the delegates, many of whom had not been to Australia before.

While it must be acknowledged that several delegates expressed concern about the sustainability of flying everyone 2000km during the conference, the fact most delegates were travelling much further to Australia lessened the impact of this. The conference concluded with a formal dinner in the stunning Customs House on the Brisbane River, where the delegation was addressed by the Vice-Chancellor of the University of Queensland.