16 May 2024


The way we are

with hugh mackay AO

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Presented by The Bob Hawke Prime Ministerial Centre 

Life is messy. Relationships are complex. Outcomes are uncertain.

Yet none of our differences—whether based on ethnicity, politics, religion, cultural tastes and preferences, or gender—are nearly as significant as the humanity we share.

Hugh Mackay AO, Australia's revered social psychologist, unveils a compelling portrait of the nation through the lens of a lifetime of research and thousands of insightful interviews. Discussing his latest book, The Way We Are, Hugh will be in conversation with journalist, Julia Lester.

Amid epidemics of loneliness, anxiety, and depression, and the profound impacts of poverty and technology, The Way We Are, examines the major trends shaking the very foundations of the Australian way of life.

In his book, Hugh celebrates the march towards gender equality, explains the stubborn persistence of misogyny and the anti-social consequences of social media. Hugh Mackay navigates the complex legacy of the Baby Boomers and dissects the 'fake wisdom' that often guides our thinking. From the steady decline in religious faith and practice to identifying the many gods we continue to worship, he points to the positive role that dreaming can play in our lives.

While some observations may pose a challenge, Hugh’s analysis is suffused with a profound affection for our country. Be prepared to be inspired, provoked, and engaged as The Way We Are, presents a powerful argument that will linger in your thoughts.

Join us for an evening of enlightenment - this event is not just an exploration of the present, it’s an opportunity to reflect deeply on the question: What kind of society do we want to become?

Imprints Booksellers will be selling copies of Hugh's book, The Way We Are, in the Auditorium foyer on the night of the event.

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hugh mackay ao

Hugh Mackay AO is a social psychologist and researcher, and the bestselling author of 24 books, including nine novels. His latest non-fiction book, The Way We Are, will be published in May 2024.

Hugh has had a 60-year career in social research, and was also a weekly newspaper columnist for over 25 years. He established and ran The Centre for Communication Studies in Bathurst from 1975-1990. He is currently an honorary professor in the School of Medicine and Psychology at Australian National University. Among other appointments, he has been deputy chair of the Australia Council for the Arts and an Honorary Professor at Macquarie, Charles Sturt and Wollongong universities.

He is a Fellow of the Australian Psychological Society and the Royal Society of New South Wales. In recognition of his pioneering work in social research, he has been awarded Honorary Doctorates by five Australian universities. He was appointed an Officer of the Order of Australia in 2015.

Hugh Mackay AO has previously presented at the Hawke Centre, including, The Inner Self and The Question of Love as part of the 2020 Hawke Centre Program, and The Kindness Revolution, as part of the 2021 Hawke Centre Program. 

Hugh Mackay, website

Hugh Mackay AO, Photographer: Sally Tsoutas

julia lester

Julia Lester has worked as a Radio Broadcaster and Producer, TV Current Affairs Reporter, Public Speaker, MC of events concerts and conferences, Interviewer, News Journalist, Teacher, Actor and Musician.

Her interests and areas of knowledge are broad, including politics, music, visual art, literature, ideas, religion, and philosophy. For pleasure she reads widely, performs composes and consumes music, gardens, walks and camps in the bush, travels, visits galleries, has long conversations in cafes trying to work out how the world works. She’s still trying.

Julia was born in Melbourne, grew up in Adelaide, and studied Music, Politics and Education at the University of Adelaide and the University of New England.

After a career in teaching secondary school music and drama, Julia then embraced the media. She initially worked as a journalist in commercial radio and TV.

In 1985 Julia joined the ABC where she stayed, with a few breaks, for 30 years. During that time, she worked as a Journalist and Presenter in TV and Radio across many areas: interviewer and documentary-maker with ABC Radio National, 7.30 Report reporter, live talk host on 891 ABC Adelaide, Presenter of Classic Drive with ABC Classic FM until her retirement in 2015.

Presented by
The Bob Hawke Prime Ministerial Centre



While the views presented by speakers within The Bob Hawke Prime Ministerial Centre public program are their own and are not necessarily those of either the University of South Australia, or The Bob Hawke Prime Ministerial Centre, they are presented in the interest of open debate and discussion in the community and reflect our themes of: Strengthening our Democracy - Valuing our Diversity - Building our Future. The Hawke Centre reserves the right to change their program at any time without notice.