The continuing education program offers special interest and educational courses with a difference focusing on art, archaeology, culture, history, science, literature and writing, music and life skills.

Tue 15 Oct 2019 - Tue 05 Nov 2019

18:00 - 20:00

4 Sessions
15 spots remaining.

Wander back in time, as far back as 3000 BC, to the dawn of civilisation - Mesopotamia. Nestled between two great rivers, the Euphrates and Tigris; the fertile plains were the birth place for the great opulent cities of Nineveh and Babylon; and the famous Assyrian, Sumerian and Babylonian empires. Using textual sources and examining archaeological excavations, languages and writing systems; discover how the professionals have reconstructed the fascinating history of Mesopotamia.

Course outline

Mesopotamia was the cradle for some of the world’s great ancient civilisations; that of the Sumerians, Babylonians and Assyrians. Based in the fertile plain created by the meandering Euphrates and Tigris rivers, this civilisation flourished for three millennia. Its greatest cities - Babylon and Nineveh – even today conjure up visions of wealth, majesty and mystery.

At first, city-states characterised the landscape of the region. But later empires, the greatest being that of Assyria, became the dominant political feature. By the mid 2nd millennium BC, Mesopotamian civilisation was such a prevalent force in the Near East that its major language; the Akkadian language, and its associated cuneiform script; were used in international diplomacy throughout the region.

In the early 1st millennium BC Assyria created an enormous empire, stretching from Egypt to the western parts of Iran. The Assyrian empire was succeeded by that of Babylon, its most famous king being Nebuchadnezzar. 

  • Part 1: The course will firstly provide an introduction to the chronology, languages and writing of ancient Mesopotamia.
  • Part 2: The second part will concentrate on providing a chronological survey of Mesopotamian history from the Sumerian civilisation until the Neo-Babylonian period in the 6th century BC, but with emphasis being on the Assyrian and Babylonian empires of the 1st millennium BC. In 539 BC Cyrus, king of Persia, captured Babylon and ended a millennia of largely indigenous derived dynastic rule in Mesopotamia.

Learning outcomes

By the end of this course, you should

  • have an appreciation of the importance of written sources in the reconstruction of history
  • know how the chronology of ancient Mesopotamia has been established
  • know the different languages that were spoken in the ancient Near East and the scripts with which they were written
  • understand the domination of the political history of the 1st millennium BC by the rise and fall of large empires, firstly that of Assyria, followed by that of the Neo-Babylonians, finally ending in rule by external powers (Persia, the Greeks etc)

Thu 25 Jul 2019 - Thu 12 Sep 2019

18:00 - 20:00

8 Sessions
12 spots remaining.

This epic course will examine the ways in which the past is presented to us in movies. The course is based on the idea that movies have played a major role in the construction of our idea of the past.

Course outline

Film, Fact, and Fiction: While the course will mainly consist of watching and talking about movies, it will also compare movies with written histories and with historical novels; and with real events as far as we can know them.

  • Introduction, mythology, and Ancient Greece
  • Rome and the Dark Ages
  • The Middle Ages
  • The Tudor period
  • The Age of Reason and the French Revolution
  • Imperialism
  • The Great War
  • The Second World War

Learning outcomes

By the end of this course, you should have an increased appreciation of history, movies, and the modern historical imagination.

Who should enrol

Anyone interested in history, film and in how we think about the past.

Wed 16 Oct 2019 - Wed 04 Dec 2019

18:00 - 20:00

8 Sessions
18 spots remaining.

Medieval culture is a fascinating paradox. Some aspects are compelling because they seem so alien, yet you will find notions of individualism, spirituality, emotional intensity, and even romantic love that you'll recognise as being strikingly modern. Join us on a journey through the medieval cultural landscape.

Course outline

  • Topic 1 - Latin and vernacular literature: the Middle Ages and the western literary canon
  • Topic 2 - The vernacular epics: The Song of Roland
  • Topic 3 - From epic to romance: Arthurian romances and the quest for the Holy Grail
  • Topic 4 - Salvation and emotion: St Anselm and the worship of the Virgin Mary
  • Topic 5 - Theology and romance: Peter Abelard and his love letters to Heloise
  • Topic 6 - Medieval literature and the afterlife: Dante’s Divine Comedy
  • Topic 7 - Medieval literature and this life: Chaucer’s The Canterbury Tales
  • Topic 8 - Medieval thought in modern literature: Umberto Eco’s The Name of the Rose.

Learning outcomes

At the end of this course, you should have:

  • a greater awareness of historical and cultural differences
  • an increased understanding of the relationship between the past and the present
  • an increased appreciation of western literature.

Who should enrol

Anyone with an interest in history.

Thu 24 Oct 2019 - Thu 12 Dec 2019

18:00 - 20:00

8 Sessions
18 spots remaining.

Teacher: Roy Forward

On 1 July 2021 the Chinese Communist Party will turn a hundred. This year, 2019, is the centenary of the May Fourth Movement, the seventieth anniversary of the CCP taking power in Beijing, the sixtieth anniversary of its invasion of Tibet, the thirtieth anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall and of Tiananmen Square, and eighteen years since China joined the World Trade Organisation, dates we must understand to arrive at a balanced estimate of China’s prospects.

How united is it? Will it take from the West more than the science and technology that have helped enrich it so far? How committed is it to defeating climate change and the mass extinction of species, and to sharing access to diminishing food supplies and raw materials? How likely to submit to multilateral international agreements? What does it expect in return for boosting the economies of so many nations, including Australia?

In this intellectually and visually stimulating series, examine ancient and beautiful calligraphy, painting, music, architecture and gardens, and beginning with Confucius; dwell on how difficult China is to run, and on the emphasis placed on expanding its borders. It is rich and advanced due to being both communist and capitalist, and although it faces enormous challenges it is bound to grow even bigger and more powerful.

Course outline

  1. Old, big and beautiful
  2. Varied and hard to govern
  3. Active on the borders through its military
  4. Communist and capitalist
  5. Rich, advanced and faces enormous challenges
  6. Expanding in global reach

Learning outcomes

  1. Refresh our love of China and all things Chinese
  2. Understand what has happened in China since the early 1990s
  3. Appreciate Australia's dilemmas in relations with the new superpower

Roy has written, published and taught Chinese politics, Chinese international relations and Chinese art since 1960. He first visited China in 1974, teaching for two years in a Shanghai university, was in the Square leading up to the ‘Tiananmen Incident’ of 1989, and has visited China 13 times, including leading 9 study tours for the Australian National University’s Centre for Continuing Education.


No dates are currently scheduled.

Concentrating on its archaeology, discover the heritage and development of Irish culture from the prehistoric period through to the 16th century. Examine a range of sites - from megalithic tombs and ring forts through the introduction of Christianity and its many monasteries, to the invasions of the Vikings, Normans and Cromwell’s armies. Question the role of the ‘Celts’ in the development of Irish Culture and discuss whether the Celtic myths are merely that of pure myth - with the Irish developing their own identity which originates in the distant past and did not rely on the arrival of people from central Europe to create the image that is so commonly displayed today. 

Course outline

Topic 1: The first settlers and early farmers
When did the first people inhabit Ireland? We will discuss the arrival of the first settlers, hunters and gatherers, and how they developed into simple farming yet were capable of building massive megalithic monuments. These monuments are common across Ireland and famous throughout the world. Newgrange, Knowth, the Hill of Tara and Carrowmore are just a few of the sites we will visit during this discussion.

Topic 2: The arrival of metals and the impact of trade
From stone age beginnings, the Irish quickly adapted to the use of metals and their metalworkers were able to produce some of the most beautiful pieces of art from this period around 3,000 years ago. We will examine the archaeological evidence and see how these people once lived.

Topic 3:  The introduction of Christianity
St Patrick, the Patron Saint of Ireland, is credited with this achievement however Christian missionaries were present well before his birth.  This session will examine the evidence of early Christianity and discuss how it changed the course of Irish history.

Topic 4:  Invaders from abroad. From its distant past to more recent history, the Irish have been at war with one another as well as from enemies from abroad.  We will look at how the ‘invaders’ impacted on Irish culture and where its impact can still be seen today - these include the Vikings, Normans and the British.

Who should enrol

Anyone who enjoys archaeology or history.

No dates are currently scheduled.

Monsters – grotesque and horrifying; yet completely engaging. Explore humanity’s obsession and attraction to the ugly, macabre, dark and frightening world of monsters in this disturbing, yet fascinating course.

Canvassing literature, music and art across generations, descend into the world below – the perfect course for lovers of words, art and history.

Course outline

  • Topic 1: Who were the first Gothic artists  – circles of Hell and early Gothic conventions
  • Topic 2: Ugly versus beauty in art – angels and demons
  • Topic 3: Love and our curiosity of gruesome and the macabre – monsters we grew up with
  • Topic 4: The attraction of vampires and similar creatures – the story of the real Vlad Cepecs
  • Topic 5: The duality of Victorian men – Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde
  • Topic 6: Gothic poems and music – Poe, Coleridge and Keats
  • Topic 7: Monsters of today – Pan’s Labyrinth, Del Toro’s symbolism and portals to other worlds

Learning outcomes

By the end of this course you should:

  • learn how to tame your 'monsters' and live happily with them - in other words; learn to appreciate the darker aspects of our everyday
  • know more about the artistic conventions of Gothic literature, paintings and yes, music as well
  • be able to embrace your inner raven and similar creatures, and to look on angelic beauty with deep reserve – or in other words, to have your usual perception of the world challenged and maybe changed a little.

Who should enrol

Anyone with a love of history, literature, and/or the arts. Oh and all monsters welcome!

No dates are currently scheduled.

Teacher: Beatrice Bodart-Bailey

As an island nation, Japan’s culture is fascinatingly different from its Asian neighbours. During two and a half centuries of self-imposed isolation in the pre-modern period, Japan developed cultural traditions so strong that they still intrigue the foreign visitor today.

Using an abundance of visual material, this course will survey Japanese history and culture from its beginnings to the early 20th century, giving due consideration to how its geographical position next to the Asian Continent and some hundred active volcanoes dotting the islands, frequent earthquakes, tsunamis, heavy monsoon rains and typhoons shaped the ethos and life-style of its people.

Course outline

  1. Introduction: the geographic and climatic features shaping Japanese history and culture. .Where did the first people on the island chain come from? Jômon culture with its fantastic pottery and masked statues.
  2. A new wave of immigrants: rice cultivation, mega tombs, mirrors, swords and a female ruler. The religion of Shinto and the sanctuary of the sun goddess Amaterasu, the progenitor of the imperial line.
  3. The introduction of Buddhism in the 6th century, the architecture of its temples that withstood earthquakes for well over a thousand years, the imagery of Buddhist statues.
  4. The founding of the imperial capital of Kyoto. The refined culture of the aristocracy. The rise of the samurai: recruited to serve the emperor, they usurped his political authority and created their own warrior culture. The attempted invasion of Kublai Khan and the divine winds that saved the country.
  5. The Christian Century: from missionary success to persecution and martyrdom. Artistic and cultural gains from the encounter between East and West. The three great unifiers of Japan and the politics of the tea ceremony.
  6. The Tokugawa military rulers (shogun) and 250 years of peace and closure of the country.  The much-maligned “Dog Shogun” and the eye-witness account of a foreign visitor.
  7. The growth of the mega city of Edo (Tokyo), and the flowering of what is celebrated as traditional Japanese culture today, such as haiku, kabuki, the art of the geisha and the woodblock print. The passion for travel: the Japanese inns and the cultural life on the busy highways.
  8. Earthquakes, tsunamis and volcanic eruptions in the18th and 19th century, the arrival of the Americans, the restoration of imperial rule and rapid Westernization.

     Learning outcomes

     Upon completion of this course, you should:

    • appreciate how the environment has shaped the culture and history of Japan
    • understand to what extent China, Korea and the West impacted on the culture and history of Japan
    • be aware how frequent natural disasters shaped religious believes and philosophical tenets in Japan, differing from those of other countries
    • know the difference between Buddhism and Shinto and the political role played by these two religions
    • have some appreciation of the role of Christianity in Japan
    • know about the origins of samurai culture and the role it played over the course of Japanese history
    • be aware of how the position of Japanese women changed over the course of Japanese history
    • understand how even after the so-called closure of Japan, cultural exchange led to advances in science and the arts in Japan and the West
    • appreciate how under the infamous Dog Shogun, laws were promulgated some of which appeared in the West only 200 years later
    • have learned about the life in perhaps the largest and most densely populated city in the world, twice the size of London in the pre-modern period.

    Who Should Enrol

    Anyone desiring to understand and appreciate the history and culture of Japan.