ISMRM & SMRT Annual Meeting Family Ambassidors

Traveling to Sydney as a Family:
An Inside View from our Family Ambassadors

The newly established ISMRM family committee would like to better value and publicize the rich knowledge of our local members to improve the conference experience for attendees traveling with children.

Therefore, we envisaged the role of a family ambassador, who ideally

  • is an ISMRM or SMRT member living in the city where the next annual meeting takes place.
  • would like to introduce the family-friendly side of their home town before the conference by sharing suggestions, hidden gems and inside information with ISMRM members.
  • may give some practical local support and guidance for families during the conference (depending on availability).

We are extremely lucky and grateful that the following three local ISMRM members have already agreed to become family ambassadors for the next annual meeting 2020 in Sydney:

Lauriane Jugé, Ph.D.
Ruth Oliver, Ph.D.
Michael Green, Ph.D.

Thank you so much, Lauriane, Ruth and Michael!

To get started, we asked them to take part in an interview and give our members an overview about what is great about living in Sydney and how to make the most of it when visiting with kids.

There might be even more volunteers joining the team, but for now let’s already get excited about Sydney for families by hearing from the experts:

1.  Please tell us a bit about yourself, your work and family situation!

Ruth Oliver: I am a faculty member in the School of Engineering at Macquarie University in Sydney. I’ve been in Sydney almost 5 years, moving here after finishing my PhD at UCL. My field of MR research is ASL, which there isn’t much of in Oz, so I maintain collaborations with my European colleagues. I am a single parent and have 2 children, a son of 17 and a daughter aged 13. As my kids are teens they tend to do their own thing much of the time, but we love getting out on the water, either renting a houseboat or paddleboarding on Pittwater, which we are fortunate to live just across the road from.

Lauriane Jugé: I have lived in Sydney for 7 years. I am a postdoctoral fellow at Neuroscience Research Australia and a conjoint Lecturer at UNSW Medicine. I moved to Australia after I completed my PhD in France. My research focuses on the use of advanced MRI techniques to better understand pathophysiology in dementia, neural injury and sleep disorders, and determine clinical translation pathways for improving diagnosis and monitoring.

I have 2 lovely young baby girls (2.5 and 1.5 years). We spend most of our weekend doing outdoors activities and go with them in parks, playgrounds, zoos (they love crocodiles!) or in the swimming pools / beaches.

Michael Green: I’ve lived in Sydney for 15 years after moving from Adelaide to begin a PostDoc at what was then known as the Prince of Wales Medical Research Institute. I’ve been in my current role as a National Imaging Facility Fellow at NeuRA since 2009 where I work with a range of researchers and projects on a Philips 3T MRI specialising in diffusion analysis.

I have three kids (ages 9, 7 and 4) and have spent more time in playgrounds around Sydney than I care to imagine. We spend most of our weeks travelling around from one activity to the next and making sure we see as many of Sydney’s wonderful cafes and locations as possible.

2.  What is special about Sydney that is great for kids of all ages?

RO: It has to be the outdoor lifestyle – beautiful beaches, parks and sunshine! You really can rely on the weather, which makes planning activities easy.

LJ: Agree, and all the playgrounds and free water play parks for young kids also.

MG: It’s a great outdoors city with a wonderful climate. The beaches are beautiful, and the walks through national parks along Sydney harbour a fun day out for kids and adults.

3.  Which child-friendly restaurants and cafes can you recommend?

RO: This is probably a question best answered by those with younger kids.

LJ: Cafes and restaurants in Sydney are generally well adapted for young children with high-chairs, toilets with baby change facilities and space for prams.

There are many places where to go near the conventions centers but they can be a little bit expensive. I don’t really have a particular place to suggest.

In any cafes, I recommend to order a babyccino (warm milk with cacao powder) for young kids. My girls enjoy having their babyccino while I am having my coffee. Also, the coffee is generally quite good in Sydney.

MG: Like most of Sydney, eating out can be expensive. Fratelli Fresh underneath the conference venue (near the playground) is no different, but kids eat for free all day, every day.

4.  What is your favourite playground or out-door activity with kids in Sydney (e.g., which beach and what to do there…)?

RO: I would recommend all ISMRMers attending with family take the time to visit Manly beach. There are ferries from Darling Harbour (conference location) to Circular Quay, where you can hop on the Manly Ferry. That is an awesome experience in its own right, and there is a huge stunning beach once you arrive. Don’t confuse the strip of sand by the ferry terminal for Manly Beach as I once did – the beach is a short stroll down the Corso. Pick up some gelato en route, maybe grab some fish and chips and settle in for an afternoon of people watching and sun soaking. Manly also has a plethora of restaurants and bars. And the return ferry trip provides the best view of Sydney Harbour Bridge and the Opera House.

LJ: Yes, excellent idea Manly beach! Coogee beach is also beautiful. I also like Garrie beach in the royal national park, but this is a little bit further away from the city.

Next to the convention center, there is also the Chinese garden of friendship where you can feed the fish.

And of course, all the zoos of Sydney! Tarongo zoo is not too far from the convention center and I would highly recommend to take the ferry to go to the zoo from Circular Quay. The Royal Botanic Garden is also a great spot where to go with the children.

MG: Coogee Beach is my favourite place to hang out with the kids if you want to get out of the city. (Catch bus 373 from Hyde Park, or 374 from Central Station). Coogee Pavilion has a fun area for kids while you eat including table tennis.

Nielsen Park at Shark Beach is a great harbour beach to hang out for the day. Don’t be scared off by the name, there is a big shark net for very safe swimming.

Catching the ferry to Tarongo Zoo is also one of the best things you can do in Sydney with kids. We usually walk around (and downhill) and then catch the gondola back up the top.

5.  Are there any museums or in-door activities you can recommend, in case of bad weather?

RO & MG: The Powerhouse Museum would be a good bet for a rainy day. Just 10 minutes walk and great for old and young kids

LJ & MG: Sydney Aquarium is nearby: 

MG: …And so is WildLife Sydney (but Tarongo Zoo is better)

There is a TimeZone (arcade game centre) not too far away in Haymarket.

Indoor play centre Little Dynamos is a 10min drive from downtown Sydney.

And Skyzone is fun but again, 10-15min drive out of the city.

6.  Do you have any thoughts on specific activities/hotels/food options near the conference center?

RO: The Australian National Maritime Museum is actually at Darling Harbour: along with the Aquarium:

Bear in mind – the ISMRM/SMRT meeting is during Sydney school holidays, so these places may be very busy.

There are heaps of restaurants around Darling Harbour, some do offers where the kids eat free if you take an early sitting.

Hotels in general will be quite pricey in this tourist area, so take advantage of the special ISMRM rates and book accommodation early. See previous comment about school holidays.

LJ: There is a playground and water play park next to the convention center, but it may be quite busy.  There is also a fireworks show most Saturday nights at 9 pm at the darling harbour.

All the parks in the Sydney are well adapted for picnics / BBQs. This can be a low cost option also while enjoying the wonderful water views of Sydney.

MG: The conference venue overlooks a great kids playground and water-play park in Darling Harbour just a short walk away.

7.  Do you have any experience with on-demand short-term child-care or babysitting in Sydney that you can recommend?

LJ: No.

MG: No, but I can find out from other people if required.

Note from family committee: We will try to find some more first hand experience with available childcare options for conference attendees.

8.  Anything else you want to tell ISMRM members with children coming to Sydney?

RO: Sydney can be a very expensive place to visit, but there are many free or low cost activities as well. Many parks have public BBQs for instance which are beautifully maintained and make a great picnic spot.

I live on the Northern Beaches, which is a bit of a distance from the conference venue, so probably most won’t get that far, but I’d be very happy to share its gems with anyone interested.

LJ: It’s quite easy to travel through the city with a pram with lifts at most train stations. Enjoy!

MG: Every Sydney beach is special and the walks around the harbour are wonderful.

My secret hidden gem would be Wendy’s Secret Garden (just on the other side of the Harbour Bridge).