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UC Aitkin Lecture: Citizens of the Land

Suzanne Lazaroo

The University of Canberra’s upcoming UC Aitkin Lecture will see independent senator for the ACT David Pocock take the lectern to explore what it means to be ‘Citizens of the Land’.

“The extraordinary decline in Australia’s landscape health and biodiversity over the last 200 years leaves us at a crossroads. We can continue down this path with disastrous effects on the people and places we love, or we can reimagine our relationship with land and change course,” Senator Pocock said.

“How would we treat land if we believed this is truly home? How do we develop a land ethic built on First Nations knowledge and science? How do we reimagine and protect our future before the luck of The Lucky Country ‘runs out’?”

With a Master's in Sustainable Agriculture, Senator Pocock is a passionate advocate for the environment. In 2021, he led The Cool Down campaign that saw over 470 Australian athletes from 40+ sports call on the Australian Government to lift its ambition on climate change; he was also involved in community conservation work in Zimbabwe prior to being elected to the Senate in mid-2022.

This year will mark the first iteration of the UC Aitkin Lecture. It will be held at the National Gallery of Australia’s James Fairfax Theatre on Monday 30 October.

Formerly known as the Don Aitkin Lecture – and named after the late Emeritus Professor Don Aitkin, the University’s longest-serving Vice-Chancellor and President – the annual series began in 2005.

The lecture brings together scholars, artists, critics and thinkers to explore ideas and spark respectful debate and discussion.

“There is an ongoing need for informed and thoughtful discourse and exchange of ideas – underscored by the moments of pivotal change and crisis we have seen in very recent history, the impact of which continues to ripple across the country and the globe,” said Professor Paddy Nixon, the University’s Vice-Chancellor.

“As Canberra’s University, we strongly believe in creating opportunities to empower our community to engage in such discussion and exchange of ideas, and to drive meaningful change and nation-building – the UC Aitkin Lecture is a signifier of this commitment and a celebration of Don’s legacy of forward thinking, collaboration and education.

“I look forward to hearing David speak on a topic so contemporary and urgent, which affects the way we move forward as a country.”

The belief that meaningful discourse is a cornerstone of nation-building echoes Professor Aitkin’s original hopes for what the lecture series could be.

“I hope the annual lecture endures, and I hope too that it attracts lecturers who have something to say that makes the audience sit up, take notice and act in a way that might not have occurred had they not gone to the Lecture,” he said, in his inaugural 2005 address.

The UC Aitkin Lecture ‘Citizens of the Land’ is on Monday 30 October, 5.45-8pm at the National Gallery of Australia. Registrations close on Friday 27 October 2023. Register here.