July 27, 2016

Whether the IAG should financially support members who bring their babies to IAG conferences raises three questions. First, should members be encouraged to bring their children to conferences? Second, should members with other dependents (or disabilities of their own) be assisted in attending conferences? Third, are these the best uses of IAG funds? Here are my suggestions.

1. As an octogenarian grandfather with two children of my own, I empathize with parents whose children restrict their professional progress. Our compensation is the glory that children bring to our lives. But I believe there are occasions when the absence of children is desirable. I recently heard a baby cry in the Sydney Opera House during a symphony concert. It shattered the experience for devotees who listen attentively to classical music. I’m also aware that several airlines now allocate “child-free” seating, presumably because many travellers want to sleep. Engagement in deep thought (in libraries or conferences) can also be disrupted by noisy children (not to mention mobile phones). 

2. If the IAG is willing to support mothers with babies, shouldn’t it also support parents with “dependent” school children? Some members of my own “dinosaur” generation can only travel to conferences if their “carer” accompanies them, perhaps pushing a wheelchair. Should “carers” expect financial assistance from the IAG? Are there no Stephen Hawkings in geography? Alternatively, couldn’t conference sessions or keynote talks be streamed live on the internet? That would benefit non-attendees as well as those looking after children (or dinosaurs) in an interactive conference room?

3. In the IAG’s constitution, only one of its six “objects” is to sponsor conferences. Our web page describes the IAG’s primary role as “promoting the study and application of geography in Australia.” That should be the main criterion when our Councillors weigh the benefits (and propriety) of dividing our funds among scholarships, research grants, publications, publicity, and travel to conferences. The Biblical King Solomon had an easier time “splitting the baby.

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