First impressions – IAG/NZGS Conference Melbourne 2014

Post by Susannah Clement.

This way to the IAG/NZGS...

This way to the IAG/NZGS…

The rush of last minute packing, cancelled flights, terminal changes and jettisoning your overweight belongings at check-in could be construed as a ‘bad’ start to ones conference experience. But in hindsight, the ‘running through the airport’ story can be brought up in those awkward networking conversations on the first day. You know the ones – I had many at the IAG/NZGS Postgrad day. They go something like this…




Someone I don’t know catches my eye, and they introduce themselves. ‘Hi’, I’m blah blah from somewhere’, we shake hands.

Me: My name’s Susannah I’m from Wollongong…

Blah blah: Ohhh nice!/ Where’s that? (The second response is usually from a New Zealander)

Me: It’s just south of Sydney.

Blah blah:  What’s your thing/area of study/PhD on?

Me: Ummm well it’s sort of like urban walking, but in Wollongong, and it’s also about walking with children, you know, like how they experience stuff…

Their eyes glaze over, I have bungled my ‘elevator pitch’, forgetting everything I’ve been reading, thinking and talking about for the last six months of my life. I’m a fraud, these people are geniuses.

Blah blah: Oh, ok.

Me: What’s your area?

Blah blah: Oh I’m looking at …

It’s something entirely different to my area. Something I have read about, or learnt about in my undergrad degree but can’t think of any intelligent thing to say… what’s their name again? Quick ask another question and sneak a look at their name tag.

Me: Have you been to Melbourne before?/Where are you staying?/When did you get here?

Blah blah answers and asks me a similar question in response. Yes! Now I can dazzle them with my witty story about running through the airport!

I should note that IAG/NZGS2014 was not perpetually awkward banter. It was a really inspiring week.

From the first Q&A session of the Postgrad day through to the closing keynote by Ruth Fincher, ‘making a case for geography’, my head was filled with critical thoughts and my belly was full of cake. Highlights for me included Jamie Peck’s keynote on ‘cities beyond compare’, Wendy Shaw’s call for ‘menopause geographies’, gender and embodiment in Cairns (Holly Giblin), Lia Bryant’s methodological use of ‘memory work’, co-walking with dogs (Lesley Instone), challenging the idea of conservation in National Parks (Catherine Ayres) and walking neighbourhoods hosted by children (Louise Phillips). Particularly engaging as well as proudly ‘flying the AUSCCER flag’ was Anna de Jong, presenting her work on queer identities and the trip to Mardi Gras, and Noel Castree’s keynote on geography and global change research.

Good morning Melbourne!

Good morning Melbourne!

I thoroughly enjoyed my first conference and I leave Melbourne with a new sense of belonging in a global community of geographers, many new ideas, an increased twitter following, two new pairs of shoes and a head cold. Bring on Canberra 2015!

Susannah Clement is a PhD Candidate with the Australian Centre for Cultural Environmental Research at The University of Wollongong. Her current research looks at experience and relationship between parents and children when walking in urban spaces. You can follow Susannah on Twitter @SusannahClement.

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