The Sydney Institute was formally opened on 23 August 1989 at its 41 Phillip Street premises by New South Wales Premier Nick Greiner with supporting remarks from Bob Carr (the then NSW Opposition leader).
The Sydney Institute is a privately funded not-for-profit current affairs forum encouraging debate and discussion. The Institute is genuinely pluralist and a wide and diverse range of views are heard at its forums.
The Institute conducts about 60 policy forums a year (held usually between 6 pm and 7 pm) on a wide range of issues – including economics, politics, international affairs, literature, history, film, social policy – along with a well attended annual dinner/lecture. Past speakers at the dinner have included George Miller, Shirley Hazzard, Peter Cosgrove, Simone Young, Andy Thomas, Peter Doherty, Patricia Hewitt, William Shawcross, Kate Jennings, Richard Tognetti, Clive James, Tom Friedman, Kevin Rudd, Quentin Bryce, Simon Schama, Julia Gillard, Melvyn Bragg, Amanda Foreman and Tony Abbott.
Gerard Henderson is the Institute’s Executive Director. He also writes a column in The Weekend Australian and appears regularly on the Insiders program. Each Friday, Gerard Henderson’s Media Watch Dog Blog is uploaded on the Institute’s website.
Anne Henderson is the Institute’s Deputy Director who appears regularly on The Drum – her most recent book is Menzies at War (UNSW Press).
All speeches given at the Institute are published in The Sydney Papers Online which has a wide and influential circulation list – including business, media, university, college and school libraries. The Institute also publishes The Sydney Institute Quarterly incorporating “Gerard Henderson’s Media Watch” (which commenced publication in April 1988 and was first into the field of media watching in Australia).
The Sydney Institute receives support from the Australian business community – but has no agenda beyond supporting debate and discussion. Nicholas Johnson is the Institute’s chairman, Lynn Ralph is deputy chairman and Craig Shapiro is treasurer – and the Institute’s board comprises Simon Edwards, Joe Gersh, Carolyn Kay, Amy Menere, Paul Murnane, Katherine O’Regan. Carol Schwartz, Jacquelynne Willcox and Michael Zorbas. Supporters of the Institute extend well beyond the business community and include academics, public servants, editors, journalists, commentators, writers and members of the professions – as well as other Australians who recognise the importance of debate and discussion.