Spirit in the City

Annual conference on faith, public affairs and culture

About Us

Why Spirit in the City?

Spirit in the City is a Christian conference dedicated to renewing the conversation across faith, culture and public affairs, and bringing to bear, Christian thinking and influence in our highly secularised settings of contemporary Australian society.

It is inspired by the universal call for Christians seen, for example, through Vatican II’s document on the Church and the Modern World, for Christians to be pro-active and influential in morally informing the way we live and flourish – through family, politics, culture, socio-economic life, international relations and other aspects of society.

Over recent decades, the dialectic between religious and other ideologies playing out in contemporary society has become challenging and even daunting. Rampant secularisation, developments in politics, science, entertainment and the arts, and the media, pit progress against religion, accreting into a “dictatorship of relativism”, as coined by Pope Benedict XVI.

By 2017, the cuttings edges of public debates, seen through gender and sexuality, marriage, genetic engineering and stem cell therapy, assisted reproduction, religious education in schools, digital media and Internet consumption, the ‘human’ advance of robotics and pervasive technology – all confound the right ways for Christians to understand, judge and act.

Is faith simply a matter of the heart? Is it little more than private opinion with no bearing on real-world? Is the notion of ‘right’ and ‘wrong’ an oxymoron, giving way to ‘perspectives’ and ‘progressive thinking’ as so many movies, books, the media, politicians et al contend? Does science or government or other hold sway for the answers to all of life’s questions? Could our churches and schools do a better job of equipping believers to bring faith to a world that fights it? Will the Christian faith survive unprecedented times of secular hostility? Penultimately, when the Son of God comes again, will he find faith on earth?

Against the trends of religion playing a diminishing role in society – of informing laws about marriage, the right of unborn life, what can be taught in schools, and other issues concerning the freedoms and beliefs of people, Spirit in the City challenges the secular orthodoxy.


About the conference?

Spirit in the City is one of Australia’s premier Christian conferences bringing together international and local leaders to tackle the big questions facing faith, culture and public affairs.

It was founded by a number of Catholic clergy and academic staff at QUT, through QUT Chaplaincy in 2014, under the leadership of Fr Bavin Clarke (former QUT Chaplain).

The conference engages on the key questions facing society and the challenges of understanding and applying the Christian faith through: our highly secularized and progressive culture; a political climate with an all-time low in public confidence; an education system rife with political correctness and under-performance; and the Church leadership scandalised by the sexual abuse crisis on the one hand, all too often, divided by, and liberal/conservative filters on the Gospel and Church teachings on the other.

To the big questions life, the conference says a resounding – yes, that faith matters. YES, with Mary, the Mother of God, in obedience to God, to be fully committed to bringing Christ to the world, YES, to be beacons of faith, hope and charity to humanity that, however unknowingly, hungers for holiness and true flourishing.

Spirit in the City 2017, held on October 7th 2017, is consecrated to Our Lady of Fatima and the Feast of the Rosary.

The orientation, of the conference is:

  • Catholic (i.e. universal Christian) in gravitas and ecumenical in outreach
  • Orthodox in faith
  • Open to the possibilities to what it means for Christians to think and act, under the call for pro-active evangelisation of faith and the New Evangelisation.
  • Politically non-preferential
  • Targetted at the whole community, and an inspiration for university students and young adults in their faith and life journey
  • Committed to the strength of witness, seen by high quality and leaders who have made significant impact.


Sponsors, affiliates and previous speakers

The conference is sponsored by the Knights of the Southern Cross and the Archdiocese of Brisbane and has oversight of, and ongoing participation by, Archbishop Mark Coleridge.

We are also grateful to the conference affiliates that help promote and assist with the conference: Cherish Life; Australian Family Association; Catholic Mission; Catholic Youth Ministry; Australian Marriage Forum; Millis Institute; Perpetual Eucharistic Adoration, Villa Maria; French Catholic mission SOS Chrétien’s d’Orient; and (IT Web hosting company) Codemason.

In addition to Archbishop Mark Coleridge, previous speakers have included:

  • Tony Abbott
  • Prof. Stephen Barr (internationally acclaimed physicist, theologian and author)
  • Tess Livingstone (assistant editor, The Australian)
  • Scott Stephens (ABC radio presenter)
  • Orange Sky Laundry
  • Dr Ryan Messmore (former Campion College President and leader of liberal-arts colleage Millis Institute)
  • Fr James Grant (religious scholar at the Institute of Public Affairs)
  • Sr Moira Debono (Notre Dame University lecturer).



Spirit in the City is organised by Catholics @ QUT:

I am a graduate of QUT back in the days when it was QIT and was ordained to the Diaconate in 2007.   In secular employment I have had substantial years of experience in Human Resources, supported by appropriate qualifications coupled with significant periods of leadership as a volunteer in the not-for-profit sector including Catholic Schools Parents and Friends in Queensland which works closely with the government and independent sectors.  In recent years my ministry has focused on my local parish in Brisbane and ecumenical ministries in the local region.  Much of my time is focused on supporting Parish ministries, families of prisoners and university chaplaincy, at both QUT – Gardens Point and Griffith University – Logan.



Alistair Barros is a professor and Head of Service Science Discipline at QUT’s School of Information Systems. He has a PhD from the University of Queensland and 30 years ICT experience in industry, technology vendor and research roles, including Global Research Leader and Chief Development Architect at SAP and Consultant Architect in one of the federal government largest service delivery transformation projects, the DHS Welfare Payments Infrastructure Transformation project. His major area of work relates to next-generation digital service platforms for supporting service provisioning and delivery accessing in wide spanning ecosystems. He has contributed to a number of widely adopted IT platform standards/references, including: Business Process Management Notation 2.0, the Workflow Patterns, Unified Modelling Language 2.0 and and Unified Service Description Language. He has led large research proposals/projects across Europe and Australia including Smart Services Collaboration Research Centre, Internet of Services projects in EU Framework Program 7 and German BMBF and a number of Australian Research Council projects. Alistair is a father of five children, former President of Australian Family Association Queensland, member of the Parish Pastoral Council at Our Lady of the Rosary Parish, Kenmore, and a member of the Knights of the Southern Cross.