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Event Details

Sean Turnell: An Unlikely Prisoner

30 November 2023
6.30pm – 7.30pm AEDT
Science Theatre, UNSW Kensington
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Sean Turnell | Melissa Crouch

In the wake of the 2021 military coup in Myanmar, Sean Turnell was held for 650 days in Myanmar’s terrifying Insein Prison on the trumped-up charge of being a spy. His improbable story as an optimistic economics professor unfolds in his recently published book, An Unlikely Prisoner, where he recounts how he survived his traumatic incarceration. 

In an evening of conversation with Melissa Crouch, a UNSW Sydney Professor who was part of the team advocating for his freedom, Sean will share how he not only survived his lengthy and traumatic incarceration, but also left with his sense of humour intact, his spirit unbroken and love in his heart. Sean's unique perspective coupled with his expertise on Myanmar offers broader insights into the plight of the people and the political prisoners under Myanmar’s newest dictators, and the many human rights issues at play. 


The Science Theatre is located at UNSW Sydney's Kensington Campus. Please note this is a live event only, and will not be available via livestream. 





Wheelchair Access
The Science Theatre is located at UNSW Sydney's Kensington campus (highlighted red on this map). The closest accessible drop-off point to the Science Theatre is towards the rear of the building, with access via Gate 2, High Street. Vehicles can drop off patrons directly adjacent to the Business School west wing which is then a 200 metre walk approximately. More information on getting there can be found via our interactive accessibility map available here.

Hearing Loop
The Science Theatre has hearing assistive technology available. Patrons wishing to utilise this service must collect a Roger™ inductive neck loop receiver from the venue staff, and this system can be used with a hearing aid or cochlear implant with a T-coil, or with headphones.

This event will be live captioned. 

Auslan interpreting services can be provided for selected talks upon request. 

To book and discuss access services, please call the Centre for Ideas on 02 9065 0485 or email


The Science Theatre is easily accessible via public transport and the closest light rail stop is UNSW Anzac Parade (L3 line). For more information please call the Transport Infoline on 131 500 or visit

Free parking is also available in the Barker St Car Park (Gate 14) from 5.30pm. For access to free parking, event patrons must park in the UNSW Permit Holder bays, available on all levels. The Barker St Car Park (Gate 14) parking station is located here. 

Paid casual and visitor parking is offered via the CellOPark App and ‘pay by plate meters’ in all other UNSW car parks. For more information head here



For all the other enquiries, please email or call the Centre for Ideas on 02 9065 0485.

The Centre for Ideas is happy to receive phone calls via the National Relay Service. TTY users, phone 133 677, then ask for 02 9065 0485. Speak and Listen users, phone 1300 555 727 then ask for 02 9065 0485. For more information on all other relay calls visit here.

Sean Turnell

Sean Turnell

Sean Turnell has been a senior economic analyst at the Reserve Bank of Australia, a Professor of Economics at Macquarie University, and is currently a Senior Fellow at the Lowy Institute, Sydney. From 2016 to 2021 he served as economic adviser to Myanmar’s democratic government led by Daw Aung San Suu Kyi. Following the military coup that took place in Myanmar in February 2021, Sean was imprisoned alongside Myanmar’s democratic leadership. After 650 days of incarceration and severe ill-treatment, he was finally released in November 2022. Sean has written extensively on macroeconomic policymaking, economic reform, and the role of financial institutions in economic development, with a special focus on Australia, Myanmar, and the Indo-Pacific.  

Melissa Crouch

Melissa Crouch

Melissa Crouch is Professor in the School of Global and Public Law, Faculty of Law & Justice, UNSW Sydney. She was one of many people in Australia who campaigned for Sean's release. 

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