The City of Melbourne’s annual Melbourne Knowledge Week (MKW) festival today revealed its 2019 program highlights and festival ambassadors, including South Sudanese AFLW player Akec Makur Chuot, 14-year-old coder Tamara Baker, musician and architecture academic Simona Castricum, Victoria’s inaugural Chief Engineer Dr Collette Burke, Four Pillars founder Cameron Mackenzie and indigenous Australian writer Davey Thompson.

The seven-day event, focused on connecting people, place, research and technology to imagine the city of the future, is this year centered around the theme, “So, what if?”. The 2019 festival aims to capture the struggle between apathy and optimism, giving people a sense of their individual and collective agency in a complex world. Talk topics will include questions such as “So, what if AFL can cure democracy?”.

The keynote address will be given by US-based Raina Kumra, Director of the global entrepreneurs group Omidyar Network, co-developer of The Ethical Operating System: A Guide to Anticipating the Future Impact of Today’s Technology and former co-director of innovation at the world’s largest international media organisation, the Broadcasting Board of Governors, under the Obama Administration.

A live gaming experience hosted by Triple J’s Tim Shiel will launch the festival week, where dynamic live visuals will overlay a string quartet and four-piece band; Waleed Aly and Scott Stephens will do a live recording of their weekly ABC Radio National show The Minefield; and guests will have the opportunity to attend an intimate dinner hosted by renowned Indigenous Australian novelist Bruce Pascoe.

With nearly 100 events, the 2019 program will be the most ambitious to date. The MKW Hub, once again located at Meat Market in North Melbourne, will this year feature a sleek yet playful interior fitout including recycled elements by leading design firm Moth Design. The innovative pop-up café bar, Utopian Foods, will highlight food and beverages around the concept of ‘utopia’ and a positive world to come.

A key exhibit within the Hub will be the Melbourne City DNA exhibit, an imaginative blending of the physical and digital worlds that enables visitors to deep dive into the city via immersive virtual reality experiences.

Chair of the Knowledge City portfolio, Councillor Dr Jackie Watts, said MKW19 offers the community the opportunity to explore, learn and, most importantly, to question the future of the city – its form as well as its evolving cultural, economic and social life.

“Knowledge Week 2019 will bring together some of the brightest minds and most influential thinkers in Melbourne with the task of reflecting upon and exploring the challenges faced by our citizens” Cr Watts said.

“The week is about sharing knowledge and expertise for our collective benefit. This year’s theme ‘So, What If’  is designed to provoke us all to learn, to question what we see around us and will hopefully spark important debates on the future of the Melbourne we will all share.

“The heritage Meat Market in North Melbourne will once again be transformed into the Knowledge Week Hub – an innovative tech space, one of many such spaces around the city, hosting events  where everyone – both young and old, tech savvy and not so – will encounter challenges, ideas and experiences during Knowledge Week. Now more than ever, Melbourne Knowledge Week will allow Melburnians to come together, to learn, to confront the ‘big’ issues, to grapple with challenges and to find solutions”.

Other festival highlights include a Startup Breakfast Series, the launch of the Melbourne Accelerator Program, an Open Innovation Competition pitch night exploring safe mobility, an Indigenous Design Knowledge Symposium and satellite events with partners from the Startup Community including Two Square Pegs, Melbourne Connect and General Assembly.

This year’s Prototype Street – a working prototype of a future Melbourne street – will be located outside the Hub at Blackwood Street, North Melbourne. It will feature 5G and IoT (Internet of Things) hardware displays, a future street lighting installation, sustainable transport and agriculture showcases, and RACV’s solar-powered Tiny House display featuring smart home components.




Melbourne Knowledge Week will take place between Monday 20 May and Sunday 26 May 2019.

Attracting over 22,500 students, startups, professionals, investors, families and community members to connect and share ideas and insights with the broader Melbourne community, MKW is a cornerstone event for City of Melbourne’s Smart City Office. The festival is designed to catalyse further innovation and lay the groundwork for our future.


  1. Opening Night: Duet Live with Tim Shiel
  2. Keynote Address by Raina Kumra: Unintended Consequences: How tech ate the world and how we can get it back
  3. Live Recording: ABC Radio National’s The Minefield with Waleed Aly
  4. Dinner with Bruce Pascoe
  5. Launch of 2019 Four Pillars Bloody Shiraz gin
  6. Startup Breakfast Series
  7. Lunchtime Talks at the Wheeler Centre
  8. How to Live Well: Sunset talks with Madeleine Dore
  9. Prototype Street
  10. Melbourne Accelerator Program launch