Sydney Writers' Festival

By Sydney Writers' Festival

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Australia's largest celebration of literature, stories and ideas. Bringing together the world's best authors, leading public intellectuals, scientists, journalists and more. Subscribe to our channel for new releases.


Episode Date
The Limits of Imagination
3497

Concerns about cultural appropriation and authenticity – about who gets to tell a story, and who owns it – now dominate conversations about literary endeavour and value. Booker Prize–winner Damon Galgut (The Promise), Larissa Behrendt (After Story) and Paige Clark (She Is Haunted) join host Sisonke Msimang to ask: what are the responsibilities and opportunities of the creative writer and artist, and does imagination have its limits.

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Sep 29, 2022
Maxine Beneba Clarke & Omar Musa
3650

With an unexpected turn of phrase or lyrical twist, poetry can surprise, thrill and invite readers to make meaning from between the lines. Hear from acclaimed Australian artists and writers Maxine Beneba Clarke and Omar Musa as they discuss their electrifying new poetry collections, which upend conventional wisdom about colonial history, climate change and our pandemic-afflicted times. Maxine’s How Decent Folk Behave extends her reputation as a “powerful and fearless storyteller” (Dave Eggers), while Omar’s Killernova has been described as “if Frank Ocean ghost-wrote Nostradamus” (Hera Lindsay Bird). They appear in conversation with Evelyn Araluen.

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Sep 27, 2022
Steve Toltz: Here Goes Nothing
3501

Booker-shortlisted author Steve Toltz discusses his newest work, Here Goes Nothing, with acclaimed author Sarah Krasnostein. As wildly inventive and savagely funny as his first two books, Quicksand and A Fraction of the WholeHere Goes Nothing is a razor-sharp take on love, mortality and the afterlife. He shares common ground with Sarah, whose book The Believer explores the universal need to make sense of life, death and all that lies between. Steve appears via video.

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Sep 22, 2022
Martha Wainwright: Stories I Might Regret Telling You
3205

Nobody who has listened to Martha Wainwright's music could be in any doubt of her powerful voice, her blistering honesty and her disarming humanity. Her memoir, Stories I Might Regret Telling You, is one to excite established fans and lovers of graceful, candid writing alike. From her childhood amongst musical royalty – daughter to folk legends Kate McGarrigle and Loudon Wainwright III and sister to Rufus Wainwright – to a career with all the highs and lows of the music industry, to tales of motherhood, love and loss, divorce and the search for personal peace, it's an unforgettable work of searing emotional honesty. In conversation via video with host Julia Zemiro, Martha shares the stories, truths and triumphs behind the music.

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Sep 21, 2022
A Critical Eye
3332

Every new book comes with a host of wildly enthusiastic quotes from early readers hailing the author and/or their work as The Next Big Thing. But what does this hype mean for readers hoping to find their next read? Enter the discerning literary critic, whose expert distillation of a book’s composition helps us to read between the lines and sort the ‘must reads’ from the ‘not for me’s’. Author and winner of the Walkley–Pascall Award for Arts Criticism Delia Falconer (Signs and Wonders: Dispatches from a time of beauty and loss), writer, essayist and poet Declan Fry, and writer and researcher Eda Gunaydin (Root and Branch) discuss the role of literary criticism in a world of hype.

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Sep 15, 2022
PEN Lecture: Freedom of speech for whom?
3568

Senator Mehreen Faruqi reflects on the hypocrisies and double standards of freedom of speech in Australia. The toxic forces of racism, xenophobia and anti-migrant hostilities, which were heightened during the pandemic, dictate who can and can’t freely express themselves. These forces shape public debate, exclude marginalised voices and consolidate the power of the already powerful. Challenging them is essential. Join Senator Faruqi as she reflects on the global challenges to free speech and the fight of writers and communicators the world over.

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Sep 14, 2022
Church & State
3696

With leaders who claim to be handpicked by God and ongoing debate over religious freedoms, the separation of church and state in Australia is murkier than ever. What roles do faith and religion play in the leadership, governance and decision-making of our political figures? Can the messages of charity and kindness in scripture benefit the country – or are we on a path to a more puritanical society? Interfaith Minister and author of Intimacy and Solitude and Seeking the Sacred, Stephanie Dowrick and journalist and author of Beyond Belief, Elle Hardy discuss with Tom Tilley.

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Sep 08, 2022
Miles Allinson & Emily Bitto
3172

Having penned two of the past year’s most acclaimed novels, Miles Allinson and Emily Bitto come together to discuss their stories of characters searching for identity and meaning within fractured realities. Miles talks about In Moonland, a family portrait of three generations that stretches from the wild idealism of the 70s to the fragile hopes for the future. Emily sheds light on Wild Abandon, her tale of a lonely outsider who travels from Australia to America’s heartland trying to find his place in a late-capitalist world. Miles and Emily are interviewed by Michaela Kalowski.

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Sep 07, 2022
Jackie Huggins & Chelsea Watego
3343

Eminent First Nations writers Jackie Huggins and Chelsea Watego discuss their seminal collections that confront vital questions about this country’s past and present. Jackie’s anthology Sister Girl represents decades of writing by the historian and activist, offering deep insight into the history, values and struggles of Indigenous peoples, and her biography of her father Jack of Hearts: QX11594 is a moving account of the sacrifices made by this country’s soldiers. Chelsea’s fierce, funny and unsparing Another Day in the Colony draws from other great Black thinkers to argue for a future based not on inclusion and hope, but on self-determination. They are joined in conversation by Larissa Behrendt (After Story).

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Sep 01, 2022
How to Make a Basket: Weaving Words for Country
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In an era of climate crisis, we consider ways to protect land and Country. Campaigns to confront climate change speak of renewable energy sources and an ending of fossil fuel mining. But what of the inherent values of Country? Are we humble enough to accept its right to autonomy? 2022 Festival Guest Curator Tony Birch (Whisper Songs) sits down with three First Nations poets – Jazz Money (how to make a basket), Anne-Marie Te Whiu (Solid Air) and Evelyn Araluen (Dropbear) – who have woven images and stories that engage with the authority of Country and our place in it.

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Aug 31, 2022
But Not Forgotten
3132

Among the individuals who shape our creative, imaginative and personal selves, the influence and lasting impact of writers, artists and thinkers is irrefutable. So, in this special remembrance of writers past, Festival guests pay tribute to icons lost in the past year, eulogising and celebrating those giants in the sky. With Jackie Huggins (Sister Girl) on bell hooks; Sarah Krasnostein (The Believer) on Joan Didion; and Melissa Lucashenko (Too Much Lip) on Keri Hulme; and Clem Bastow (Late Bloomer) on Stephen Sondheim, this is an unforgettable celebration not to be missed, hosted by Susan Wyndham.

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Aug 25, 2022
Brendan Cowell & Trent Dalton
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Brendan Cowell and Trent Dalton have written two of the year’s most heartfelt and moving books. Brendan chats about Plum, his raucous novel of a fast-living former NRL player who is unexpectedly plunged into a quest for self-care and self-discovery. Trent shares how he hit the streets to speak with strangers when collating Love Stories, a collection of slice-of-life vignettes about love in its many forms. In an event sure to lift your spirits, the duo appear in conversation with Catherine Milne. Brendan appears via video.

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Aug 24, 2022
Damon Galgut: The Promise
3832

Winner of the 2021 Booker Prize, Damon Galgut, discusses his novel The Promise: a menacing and at times mordantly funny drama that charts the deep hurts and injustices of South Africa’s past and present. It was hailed by Booker judges as “a spectacular demonstration of how the novel can make us see and think afresh”. Damon sits down for an intimate and illuminating conversation with his longtime friend, Miles Franklin–winning author Michelle de Kretser, whose newest novel Scary Monsters tackles similarly big themes with an equally unsparing eye. 

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Aug 18, 2022
In Conversation: 2022 Stella Prize Winner
3037

Hear from the winner of the 2022 Stella Prize, Evelyn Araluen, who took home the award for her groundbreaking poetry collection, Dropbear. Described by 2022 Stella Prize judge Melissa Lucashenko as "a breathtaking collection of poetry and short prose which arrests key icons of mainstream Australian culture and turns them inside out," Dropbear has received broad praise for its fierce, witty critique of Australia's fantasy of its own racial and environmental innocence. Evelyn is joined on stage by Melissa Lucashenko for what promises to be a rich, intimate discussion on poetry, connection to Country and the role of the arts in society.

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Aug 17, 2022
Annabel Crabb & Al Campbell
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Beloved Australian journalist and writer Annabel Crabb (The Wife Drought) sits down with Al Campbell to discuss her dazzling debut, The Keepers.

“Ever since I read The Keepers, Al Campbell’s debut novel, I’ve been unable to stop thinking about it.” – Annabel Crabb

This event was part of the Your Favourites' Favourites series, in which writers you already love and trust interview the author of their favourite Australian debut from the last year. 

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Aug 11, 2022
Michelle de Kretser & Christos Tsiolkas
3598

Two of the biggest names in Australian literature, Michelle de Kretser (Scary Monsters) and Christos Tsiolkas (7 1/2) come together to discuss their latest books. These thrilling contributions to already stellar careers take them in new directions as they play with form and voice while asking questions of their own work and the world. Don’t miss this fascinating exchange between two prize-winning writers, with host Roanna Gonsalves.

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Aug 10, 2022
I Was Wrong
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They are seemingly the three hardest words to say in public life: “I was wrong”. The process of changing minds – individually, collectively and culturally – is made that much harder by a political landscape in which admitting uncertainty, confessing error or revealing a change of heart is actively discouraged. Hear from some of Australia’s most respected holders of deep-seated beliefs – David Marr, Jane Caro, Paul McDermott and Marcia Langton – as they each present a short talk on a topic that deepened their learning, evolved their thinking or flat out changed their mind. Hosted by Maddison Connaughton. 

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Aug 04, 2022
Jennifer Egan: The Candy House
3172

From one of the great writers of our time, Jennifer Egan’s The Candy House is the long-awaited sibling novel to her Pulitzer Prize–winning A Visit from the Goon Squad. Returning to the same characters and thematic terrain as her earlier novel, in equally genre-shifting style, she interweaves stories about authenticity, privacy and meaning in a world where our memories can be shared online. Jennifer appears live via video in conversation with Maddison Connaughton. 

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Aug 03, 2022
Liane Moriarty & Caroline Overington
3532

Liane Moriarty is a global publishing sensation. In a very special conversation, The New York Times bestselling author discusses her new novel, Apples Never Fall, the sensation around her TV adaptations, and her broader body of work with Literary Editor of The Australian and author Caroline Overington (The Cuckoo’s Cry). Together, they examine the art of crafting gripping stories, creating compelling characters and capturing layers of drama.

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Jul 28, 2022
Amanda Lohrey & Charlotte Wood
3205

Two of Australia’s most acclaimed writers, Amanda Lohrey (appearing live via video) and Charlotte Wood, come together for a conversation about their most recent books, their incredible bodies of work and creative lives at large. Amanda’s Miles Franklin–winning novel, The Labyrinth, and Charlotte’s bestselling work of non-fiction, The Luminous Solution: Creativity, Resilience and the Inner Life, each offer essential and illuminating insights into the hope, redemption and restoration to be found in art and creation. They appear in conversation with Ailsa Piper.

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Jul 27, 2022
Exit Through the Sweatshop
3299

In this exciting showcase of performances and readings, six of Sweatshop’s most dynamic writers share their stories on love, fear and faith. Including readings from Jazz Money, Guido Melo, Maryam Azam, Shirley Le, Mark Mariano and L-FRESH The LION. Hosted by Sweatshop: Western Sydney Literacy Movement's Michael Mohammed Ahmad. 

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Jul 21, 2022
Clementine Ford & Bridie Jabour
3353

Hear from two of the nation’s most thought-stirring writers, Clementine Ford and Bridie Jabour, as they discuss their latest books exploring the meaning of life and love today with Maeve Marsden. Clementine’s tender and moving memoir How We Love traverses the throes of romance, the grief of losing a parent, the journey into motherhood and the value of self-worth. Bridie’s Trivial Grievances is a funny and forthright enquiry into the anxieties of millennials finding their way at work, home and beyond during uniquely challenging circumstances. 

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Jul 20, 2022
Rebecca Solnit: Orwell’s Roses
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Rebecca Solnit is one of the great essayists of our times, having garnered acclaim for her work on subjects as diverse as feminism, the history of walking and even the art of getting lost. Her essay ‘Men Explain Lolita to Me’ is literary criticism and social commentary at its finest, and her seminal ‘Hope in the Dark’ is a modern classic. The renowned author and activist joins host Sophie Black live via video to discuss her latest book Orwell’s Roses, a lush exploration of nature, pleasure and politics inspired by George Orwell’s love of gardening. She shares a fresh take on the British writer, shares the significance of joy in his concept of freedom, and pushes readers “to treasure the small moments of grace to be found in the natural world, even now in the face of climate catastrophes and global unrest” (Los Angeles Review of Books). 

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Jul 13, 2022
Michael Mohammed Ahmad & Amani Haydar
3598

[Content warning: Domestic violence]

Acclaimed Sydney authors Michael Mohammed Ahmad and Amani Haydar examine the effects of love, expectation and trauma within families in their newest books, with a particular focus on fatherhood. Mohammed’s novel, The Other Half of You, is a letter from the main character Bani to his son Kahlil, revealing a tender and loving father. Amani’s memoir, The Mother Wound, tells of how she suffered the unimaginable when she lost her mother in a brutal act of domestic violence perpetrated by her father. Mohammed and Amani speak with Sarah Ayoub about the light and dark within families, and how racism and patriarchy perpetuate harm by dehumanising fathers.

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Jul 13, 2022
Johann Hari: Stolen Focus
3680

Why have we lost our ability to focus and how do we get it back? This is the question globally bestselling author Johann Hari asks in his newest book Stolen Focus, which strives to not only change, but also possibly save, our minds. He unmasks the powerful forces that render us uniquely vulnerable to companies raiding our attention for profit, while casting a hopeful vision for reclaiming our waning attention spans, both as individuals and as a society. Johann appears live via video, in conversation with Amanda Collinge.

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Jul 07, 2022
Warren Ellis: Nina Simone's Gum
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The literary debut of celebrated musician Warren Ellis, Nina Simone’s Gum, takes its name from an unlikely keepsake he snatched from the underside of his idol’s piano in a moment of rapture. Join Warren as he sheds light on his playful memoir in which a meaning-rich relic blossoms into a metaphor for art, music and obsession, traversing his childhood in country Victoria, collaborations with Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds, and prize-winning work with Dirty Three. Warren joins live via video in conversation with Marieke Hardy.

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Jul 06, 2022
Torrey Peters: Detransition, Baby
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One of the most celebrated novels of 2021, Torrey Peters’ Detransition, Baby examines the lives of three women – transgender and cisgender – when they collide after an unexpected pregnancy forces them to confront their deepest desires. Described by Carmen Maria Machado as “so good I want to scream”, Detransition, Baby brilliantly and fearlessly navigates the taboos around gender, sex and relationships, gifting readers a thrillingly original, witty and deeply moving novel. Appearing live via video, Torrey speaks about her unforgettable debut with Liz Duck-Chong.

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Jun 30, 2022
Real China
3065

Endless column inches are devoted to think pieces and hot takes on the rise of China, but genuine understanding and meaningful conversation continue to elude us. Under his nom de plume Murong Xuecun, Hao Qun is one of China’s most celebrated authors, a genuinely independent voice in fiction and non-fiction. He recently left China to publish Deadly Quiet City: Stories from Wuhan, Covid Ground Zero, which cuts through speculation to tell real stories of intimate experiences of Chinese citizens during an epic global tragedy. Now in Australia, Murong joins Linda Jaivin (The Shortest History of China) and Louisa Lim (Indelible City: Dispossession and Defiance in Hong Kong) for a conversation that goes beyond broad media commentary, with the BBC’s Frances Mao.

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Jun 29, 2022
Marcia Langton & Julianne Schultz
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It’s hard to imagine two figures with a bigger impact on the cultural and intellectual understanding of contemporary Australia than Marcia Langton and Julianne Schultz. The two professors are unparalleled when it comes to analysis, engagement and understanding of our public and political sphere. The esteemed pair sit down to assess the potential, the disappointments and the current state of the nation. Marcia and Julianne speak with Clare Wright.

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Jun 23, 2022
Hanya Yanagihara: To Paradise
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To Paradise is the first novel by Hanya Yanagihara since her decades-spanning saga of survival and suffering A Little Life won over the world and became a Booker Prize–shortlisted bestseller. Her follow-up is even more ambitious in scope, traversing some three centuries and differing versions of America, and exploring themes of love, loss and the elusive promise of utopia in a fictionalised New York. Hanya speaks with Anton Enus.

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Jun 22, 2022
Yassmin Abdel-Magied: Talking About a Revolution
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Award-winning social advocate Yassmin Abdel-Magied explores everything from big tech to unconscious bias. Her searching new essay collection Talking About a Revolution shares the challenges and grief around her activism and leaving Australia. Speaking live via video in her first Australian event ahead of its release, she shares insights into how notions of justice and transformative change are evolving, as well as the adversity faced by a younger generation of activists urged to work towards empowerment rather than power. Yassmin is in conversation with Sisonke Msimang.

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Jun 16, 2022
Sarah Winman: Still Life
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Hailed as a tonic for wanderlust and a cure for loneliness, Still Life by British novelist Sarah Winman is a joyous historical celebration of love and beauty in all their forms. Hear from the bestselling author of When God Was a Rabbit and Tin Man about this rich tale of people brought together by art, love and war, set against the backdrop of Tuscany, Florence and London in the 1940s. Sarah joins live via video, speaking with Ailsa Piper.

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Jun 15, 2022
Opening Night Address
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Three extraordinary writers reflect on the changed, changing and changeable nature of their minds over their careers. Hear from award-winning Yankunytjatjara poet, author and memoirist Ali Cobby Eckermann (Inside My Mother), Bidjara and Birri Gubba Juru author, academic and advocate Jackie Huggins (Sister Girl and Jack of Hearts: QX11594), and Yuwaalaraay musician and author Nardi Simpson (Song of the Crocodile), each complex and compassionate artists of rare strength and power.

This conversation was recorded with Ali Cobby Eckermann appearing live via video.

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Jun 08, 2022
Closing Night: Chloe Hooper
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Chloe Hooper is one of our finest writers: in her non-fiction (The Tall ManThe Arsonist), her fiction (A Child’s Book of True CrimeThe Engagement) her acclaimed journalism and new book Bedtime Story, she has attracted readers and accolades alike for her fearless storytelling, unflinching eye and generous sense of humanity. To close the 2022 Festival, Chloe reflected on the power and limitations of the stories that we tell, and the words that we choose to make sense of the world.

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Jun 08, 2022
Stan Grant & Kerry O’Brien
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"I think that these great defenders of western civilisation think it is so weak that it will collapse if we have gender neutral bathrooms, it will collapse if we have a treaty with First Nations people, that these things are antithetical to liberalism. They're not." – Stan Grant

In a meeting of great journalistic minds, legendary reporters Stan Grant and Kerry O'Brien come together for an intimate and wide-ranging conversation on the state of the world. Stan's new book, With the Falling of the Dusk, investigates why the planet is being pushed to crisis and how we might avert it – weaving the personal along with the universal. Kerry draws on his 50-year career as both a news presenter and foreign correspondent covering national and global affairs. Together, they reflect on the human condition and our shared future. 

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Apr 02, 2022
Disagreeable
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Many column inches have been devoted to ideas about who gets to be heard. The ubiquitous cry of ‘cancel culture’ is bandied around to suggest that we have a collective cultural problem with free speech, but the nature of disagreement in the public sphere suggests that the real difficulty lies elsewhere. Different platforms speak at different volumes, structural power rejects dissent and our discourse is increasingly polarised. Hear Jeff Sparrow (Fascists Among Us: Online Hate and the Christchurch massacre), Randa Abdel-Fattah (Coming of Age in the War on Terror) and journalist Kishor Napier-Raman explore the loaded ways we understand the privilege, responsibilities and dangers of public speech, with Sophie Black.

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Apr 02, 2022
2022 Program Announcement: Annabel Crabb & Michael Williams
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"If I go on believing I might be able to have my mind changed then the possibilities are endless." Michael Williams, Artistic Director of Sydney Writers' Festival 

Join Annabel Crabb and Artistic Director Michael Williams as they unveil the 2022 Festival program.

The pair discuss the 2022 Festival theme, Change My Mind – an invitation, a challenge, and a promise of intent – and the litany of impressive local authors as well as writers from further afield joining us this year, ready to inspire conversation, spark new ideas and start robust debates about the world and our place in it.

Thank you to 2SER for facilitating the recording of this podcast.

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Mar 24, 2022
YA Gala - Protect Them At All Costs
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Each of us – including your favourite YA authors – has a treasured protagonist, antagonist or side character who we firmly believe should have nothing bad ever happen to them. Listen to this special gala event from 2021 All-Day YA as Gary Lonesborough (The Boy from the Mish), Zana Fraillon (The Lost Soul Atlas), Garth Nix (The Left-Handed Booksellers of London), Leanne Hall (The Gaps), Michael Pryor (Gap Year in Ghost Town), Jenna Guillaume (You Were Made for Me) and Will Kostakis (Rebel Gods) share which characters they would protect at all costs from malevolent authors and literary harm. Introduced by Amelia Lush and hosted by Will Kostakis, with a Q&A at the end.

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Mar 18, 2022
Rebecca Starford & Claire Thomas
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"I think it's valuable to dwell on the difficult stuff sometimes, and that this can actually be very productive and germinating in terms of writing." – Claire Thomas

Rebecca Starford and Claire Thomas discuss their acclaimed 2021 novels with Declan Fry. Hailed as a gripping thriller and deft character study, Rebecca’s The Imitator is the story of a female spy recruited into an elite MI5 counterintelligence unit during World War II. Named one of The Sydney Morning Herald’s most anticipated books of the year, Claire’s The Performance is a tightly woven portrayal of three women forever changed during a night at the theatre as bushfires burned nearby.

Listen as these two talented authors touch on the joys of inhabiting their characters' heads, their shared need to make sense of the world through art and the growing societal pressure to adopt a false sense of positivity.

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Mar 10, 2022
Barrie Cassidy & Friends: Biden’s America
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Celebrated journalist Barrie Cassidy breaks down the challenges and opportunities for the then newly minted US President Joe Biden with a panel of experts and colleagues. Joining him are journalist for The New Yorker and award-winning author of Joe Biden: American Dreamer Evan Osnos; UNSW Law Professor Rosalind Dixon; and former foreign minister Bob Carr. Throughout their lively discussion, the group offers their insights into the man who took the presidency in a time of extraordinary turmoil.

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Mar 09, 2022
SWF Within Reach Gala: Maria Tumarkin
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“Maybe the fingernail in the flesh is your dream too, now that loving and staying away are newly conjoined.” – Maria Tumarkin

For our 2021 Festival, an all-star line-up of guests came together to deliver a speech on the Festival theme, Within Reach. Speakers celebrated the power of writing to generate empathy, imagination and action. In this moving highlight, cultural historian and novelist Maria Tumarkin (Axiomatic) muses on the blurred boundaries between personal and shared space in a world of colonial theft, social distancing measures and rolling crises.

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Mar 08, 2022
Krissy Kneen: On How Mushrooms Can Save Your Life
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"I am not magically transformed by my relationship with mushrooms, but I am certainly on the right path." – Krissy Kneen

Faced with the mental health impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic, award-winning author Krissy Kneen (Affection; An Uncertain Grace; and The Three Burials of Lotty Kneen: Travels with My Grandmother’s Ashes) was forced to rethink her writing practice and took an unexpected deep dive into the world of mushrooms. In this Curiosity Lecture, Krissy gives a mushroom-making masterclass, argues the case for why mycologists are the cheeriest scientists and explains how mycelium might become the saviour of our planet.

Please note, experiences of depression and anxiety are discussed in this podcast episode.

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Mar 07, 2022
SWF Within Reach Gala: Alison Lester
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“I was never in pain or afraid, but it was a journey that’s left me cherishing every bit of every day and I’m so happy that it’s within reach.” – Alison Lester

For our 2021 Festival, an all-star line-up of guests came together to deliver a speech on the Festival theme, Within Reach. Speakers celebrated the power of writing to generate empathy, imagination and action. In this moving highlight, children’s author Alison Lester recounts her harrowing time spent in a six-day medically induced coma and what unexpected treasures came from this miraculous experience.

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Mar 04, 2022
Rob Brooks: On AI and Intimacy | Curiosity Lecture
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As the COVID-19 pandemic ushers in a new era of remote communication, machines are being programmed to mimic the way humans make friends, grow intimate and fall in love. In this compelling talk from our Curiosity Lecture series, evolutionary biologist Rob Brooks (Artificial Intimacy: Virtual Friends, Digital Lovers and Algorithmic Matchmakers) explains how these artificially intimate devices can help us make friendships in a world of cognitive overload, stay close in a time of isolation and feel better despite the rising rate of mood disorders.

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Feb 24, 2022
Future Cities
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For too long our understanding of how to build urban spaces has relied on a particular set of orthodoxies and expertise. But what does it mean to reconceive of the places where we live; how might we combine other knowledges and ideas with an appetite for change? Jess Scully (Glimpses of Utopia), Fiona Murphy (The Shape of Sound) and Alison Page (Building on Country) talk with Manisha Amin from the Centre for Inclusive Design about how we might design our way to a better, more inclusive and more sustainable way to live.

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Feb 24, 2022
Laughing at the News
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A good joke makes us laugh. A great joke can upset some of the most powerful people in the world. With deft irreverence, the best political satirists reach right into the heart of things and bring back stark truths about the world we live in – all while keeping us in stitches.

Join some of Australia’s most facetious comedians, writers and social commentators as they discuss the perilous (and hilarious) art of being funny in unfunny situations and undermining the very serious and powerful, one joke at a time. Featuring Twitter icon and writer for Tonightly with Tom Ballard, Rebecca Shaw; The Chaser’s and Dragon Friends’ Alex Lee; and The Weekly’s Alistair Baldwin; in conversation with The Frant’s and The Feed’s Jan Fran. 

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Feb 21, 2022
SWF Within Reach Gala: Ceridwen Dovey
569

“Some might say that it’s still better to send an imperfect message to the future than nothing at all, but what we choose to memorialise is as political and flawed as what we choose to forget.” – Ceridwen Dovey

For our 2021 Festival, an all-star line-up of guests came together to deliver a speech on the Festival theme, Within Reach. Speakers celebrated the power of writing to generate empathy, imagination and action.

In this stellar highlight, social anthropologist and author Ceridwen Dovey discusses NASA’s Golden Record and the warped legacy of what we choose to remember. 

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Feb 21, 2022
Your Favourites’ Favourites: Tony Birch & Evelyn Araluen
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“We are living in an existential but predominantly climactic crisis, and it is one that we cannot imaginatively distance ourself from with utopian thinking,” said Evelyn Araluen in this intellectually rigorous and magnificently poetic discussion with Tony Birch. Together, they discuss Evelyn’s fierce debut, Dropbear – a collection of poetry and prose from one of Australia’s most exciting young writers, described by Declan Fry as “a stunning scalpel wielded through Australian myths” (Guardian Australia) – the project of sovereignty, and creating change through storytelling. 

Supported by Australian Poetry.

Please note, this episode contains references to topics including Indigenous deaths in custody and the Stolen Generations. 

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Feb 12, 2022
SWF Within Reach Gala: Sisonke Msimang
451

"This collective fury is so bright, so full of possibility, that it does feel like something new is afoot." – Sisonke Msimang

For our 2021 Festival, an all-star line-up of guests came together to deliver a speech on the Festival theme, Within Reach. Speakers celebrated the power of writing to generate empathy, imagination and action. In this enthralling highlight, author Sisonke Msimang questions where justice can be secured from and if a new future awaits us. 

Please note, this episode contains references to sexual assault and harassment. 

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Feb 12, 2022
SWF Within Reach Gala: Fiona Kelly McGregor
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“People talk about queer family but what I saw was an ecosystem, a habitat. And I thought: I can live here.” – Fiona Kelly McGregor

For our 2021 Festival, an all-star line-up of guests came together to deliver a speech on the Festival theme, Within Reach. Speakers celebrated the power of writing to generate empathy, imagination and action. In this wondrous highlight, acclaimed writer and artist Fiona Kelly McGregor presents eight scenes from a dancing life. 

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Feb 12, 2022
SWF Within Reach Gala: Christos Tsiolkas
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“Though I am not religious, I have often been grateful for how the calendar of my parents’ faith can bring me to pause and contemplation. I suspect I am not alone in finding it difficult to make space for such moments of serenity in this age.” – Christos Tsiolkas

For our 2021 Festival, an all-star line-up of guests came together to deliver a speech on the Festival theme, Within Reach. Speakers celebrated the power of writing to generate empathy, imagination and action. In this moving highlight, award-winning writer Christos Tsiolkas contemplates the centrality of family and the assurance of ritual in times of uncertainty and separation. 

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Feb 12, 2022
Jacqueline Maley & Debra Oswald
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Jacqueline Maley and Debra Oswald speak with Susan Wyndham about their enthralling works of fiction bound by sudden tragedy, motherhood and rage. Sydney Morning Herald columnist Jacqueline Maley sheds light on The Truth About Her, her portrayal of a journalist and single mother who learns that a young wellness blogger she uncovered in an exposé has taken her own life. Award-winning Offspring creator Debra Oswald reflects on her thriller, The Family Doctor, about a suburban GP haunted by the murder of a friend and her children by their estranged husband and father. Listen to this powerful and emotive discussion on shame, consequences and the craft of writing compelling narrative conflict and characters. 

Please note, this episode involves discussion of suicide and domestic violence.

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Feb 04, 2022
Meet the SMH Best Young Australian Novelists
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Each year, The Sydney Morning Herald names the authors it considers to be the best young fiction writers in the country. Jason Steger, Books Editor at The Sydney Morning Herald and The Age, leads a discussion with 2021 winners Jessie Tu (A Lonely Girl Is A Dangerous Thing), K.M. Kruimink (A Treacherous Country) and Vivian Pham (The Coconut Children) about their extraordinary works, crafting a distinctive narrative voice, and the cathartic, playful and empowering role writing has held in their lives.

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Jan 28, 2022
Land of Plenty
3442

 “We are eating the wrong animals. We are growing the wrong crops. We’ve completely misunderstood the land.” – Bruce Pascoe

Australia is a beacon of unique biodiversity and rich natural resources, yet its land, water and wildlife are devastatingly mismanaged. Environmental experts and authors Richard Beasley (Dead in the Water), Bruce Pascoe (Loving Country), Victor Steffensen (Fire Country) and Rebecca Giggs (Fathoms), join ABC Radio’s Philip Clark to call for change. From uncovering political inaction to recovering Indigenous agricultural practices, this is a powerful conversation about when we stopped being the lucky country and if we can change. 

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Jan 28, 2022
SWF Within Reach Gala: Ellen van Neerven
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For our 2021 Festival, an all-star line-up of guests came together to deliver a speech on the Festival theme, Within Reach. Speakers celebrated the power of writing to generate empathy, imagination and action.

“People say the system is flawed. But what if it’s actually working?” says award-winning writer, editor and literary activist Ellen van Neerven in this stirring highlight. Why, since the Royal Commission into Aboriginal deaths in custody, are things only worse? What is justice without accountability?

Please note, there is discussion of Indigenous deaths in custody in this podcast episode. 

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Jan 28, 2022
After Australia
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What does Australia look like in 2050? What climate catastrophes are occurring? What legacies of white supremacy are we living with? Or have we found a way to change our country’s course?

Some of Australia’s most imaginative and provocative Indigenous writers and writers of colour offered an unflinching prediction of our country’s future in the daring anthology, After Australia. Discover what ails our world, and how we might still yet change our future, with contributors Michelle Law (Single Asian Female, Homecoming Queens) and Roanna Gonsalves (The Permanent Resident); in conversation with the anthology’s editor Michael Mohammed Ahmad (The Lebs).

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Jan 27, 2022
SWF Within Reach Gala: Tony Birch
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“...real change is within reach. And we should never give up on the potential to make this planet a better place.” – Tony Birch

For our 2021 Festival, an all-star line-up of guests came together to deliver a speech on the Festival theme, Within Reach. Speakers celebrated the power of writing to generate empathy, imagination and action. In this moving highlight, celebrated author Tony Birch (The White Girl), winner of the 2020 NSW Premier’s Award for Indigenous Writing, calls each of us – even in the darkest of times – to act with strength, reach for hope and listen to Country.

Please note, experiences of depression are discussed in this podcast episode.

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Jan 21, 2022
Beyond the Pale
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“I really get that strength from Country and from knowing that those stories are still there and you’re supposed to be telling those stories, and there’s something bigger speaking to you and speaking for you. I really get that sense of purpose from that.” – Amy McQuire

The racial justice movement gained momentum around the world in 2020, but what happened in Australia? Across the anglosphere, statues toppled, mastheads faced a reckoning and protests on the streets met conversations about representation and accountability. Yet Australian newsrooms and TV screens, our cultural and media institutions, somehow missed the moment. Why are the key figures in our public sphere so bad at addressing entrenched racism, structural power and unchallenged whiteness?

Journalist Amy McQuire, triple j Hack’s Avani Dias and IndigenousX’s Rhianna Patrick confront the white elephant in the room, with writer and broadcaster Sami Shah.

Please note, this episode contains discussion of Indigenous deaths in custody and experiences of racism. 

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Jan 21, 2022
Danielle Celermajer & Jonica Newby
3302

“This notion that we could write without it being saturated with what it feels like to be faced – confronted – with the threat to what makes our lives possible, to think that one could write that without an emotional response, without it being saturated with emotion, is to write as if we were writing about what was happening on the moon, not here on Earth.” – Danielle Celermajer

Danielle Celermajer’s Summertime: Reflections on a Vanishing Future is a different kind of nature writing; it’s a philosophy, elegy, meditation. In the aftermath of last year’s bushfires, Danielle asks what we are losing in this shared, ravaged world. In her book Beyond Climate Grief, science reporter Jonica Newby considers what a personal, emotional, human response might be to global catastrophe. The two discuss these themes and their personal journeys of courage and hope in the face of disaster and uncertainty, with Suzanne Leal.

Please note, there is discussion of mental health topics and climate grief in this podcast. 

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Jan 14, 2022
A Lie Agreed Upon
3303

“Am I Australian? Am I Canadian? Am I Jamaican? I’m all of them. And they exist inside me. And all I had to do was be responsible to that person that was inside me. So in a way, it kind of gave me that grounding…I found myself. And it had nothing to do with a country. It had to do with my own spirit and the ancestors with me.” – Sienna Brown

In the right hands, a story set in the past can shed new light on the present, set the imagination loose and make for a page-turning read. But what are an author’s responsibilities (and burdens) when it comes to telling the truth? A panel of celebrated authors of historical novels unpack the tricky business of sorting facts from fiction when putting the past to the page. Featuring 2020 ARA Historical Novel Prize winner Mirandi Riwoe (Stone Sky Gold Mountain), Sienna Brown (Master of My Fate) and Miles Franklin Award winner Steven Carroll (O) with historian Clare Wright (You Daughters of Freedom).

Please note, topics such as the history and experiences of racism, including slavery, are discussed in this podcast episode. Racial slurs are also discussed as examples of historical discrimination. 

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Jan 13, 2022
SWF Within Reach Gala: Trent Dalton
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For our 2021 Festival, an all-star line-up of guests came together to deliver a speech on the Festival theme, Within Reach. Speakers celebrated the power of writing to generate empathy, imagination and action. In this special highlight, bestselling author of Boy Swallows Universe and All Our Shimmering Skies Trent Dalton delivers one undeniable truth wrought by the pandemic: that he quite likes to wrap his arms around people. Enjoy this humorous and hopeful homage to the hug. 

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Jan 07, 2022
Hilary Mantel: The Final Wolf Hall
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“You write an extraordinary decapitation,” begins this enthralling conversation on the sixteenth century, royalty and the craft of writing historical fiction. In 2020, the third and final volume of Hilary Mantel’s magisterial Wolf Hall trilogy, The Mirror & the Light, brought her retelling of Thomas Cromwell’s rise and fall to an end over 900 astonishing pages. While her collection of essays Mantel Pieces, also published in 2020, spanned from her celebrated piece ‘Royal Bodies’ (linking Anne Boleyn and Kate Middleton) to some of the finest literary criticism around. Hilary joined Sydney Writers’ Festival from the UK to share her insights and literary methods with ABC Radio National’s Jonathan Green. 

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Jan 04, 2022
Simple Pleasures
3296

In a world that has felt chaotic, uncertain and inescapably busy, what simple acts help us find joy amongst it all? ABC Radio Sydney’s Sarah Macdonald asks a line-up of beloved writers how they capture moments of wonder and peace in their day – whether it’s growing their own garden, enjoying a cup of tea, writing or looking at the stars. Host of ABC’s The Drum and author Julia Baird; author, comedian and broadcaster Sami Shah; and author Krissy Kneen (The Three Burials of Lotty Kneen) share the grounding rituals and perspectives that grant them pleasure in life.  

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Dec 13, 2021
Ceridwen Dovey & Emily Maguire
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Ceridwen Dovey and Emily Maguire shed light on their riveting new novels, both electrifying tales of trust and consequences, with Bridie Jabour. A murder mystery and study of modern manners, Ceridwen’s Life After Truth tells of former Harvard classmates whose weekend reunion is rocked by the death of a fellow alumnus. Emily is a Miles Franklin Award shortlisted writer whose latest novel, Love Objects, is the insightful, compassionately drawn story of a young woman whose aunt is imperilled by compulsive hoarding. Together, the two discuss the writing process, midlife opportunities (rather than midlife crises), and the power of fiction to generate empathy.

“More and more I feel that in fiction we are all rehearsing for real life...it continues to astound me that as humans we have no real way of knowing what is going on in anybody else’s mind and yet we still manage to come together and try so hard to communicate between one another, there’s something heartbreaking about that. And for me that’s what fiction is...it’s the most profound tool we have at our fingertips to get into each other’s experiences.” – Ceridwen Dovey

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Dec 10, 2021
Richard Fidler & Ramona Koval
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Journalist and author Caroline Baum (Only) joins two of Australia’s favourite broadcasters and authors for a whirlwind of a conversation comprising incredible stories, curious characters, robots, alchemy and hyper-optimism. Host of ABC’s Conversations Richard Fidler has turned his love affair with Prague into a personally curated history – The Golden Maze – a work that is both a biography of a city and the stories and people that define it. Former host of ABC Radio National’s The Book Show Ramona Koval recently embarked on a global quest to better understand the ingenuity, science and tales that make us human in A Letter to Layla

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Dec 03, 2021
Your Favourites’ Favourites: Michelle de Kretser & Andrew Pippos
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Award-winning author Michelle de Kretser (Scary Monsters) speaks with Andrew Pippos about his debut novel Lucky’s – an unforgettable family epic that was shortlisted for the 2021 Prime Minister’s Literary Awards. “In Andrew Pippos’ Lucky’s, the grand story of the Greek diaspora is rendered beautifully intimate,” said Michelle de Kretser. “Pippos writes lively, evocative prose while handling structure and characterisation with flair.” Listen to this conversation that ranges from the local – the Australian Greek literary tradition – to the epic – The Iliad and The Odyssey. And enjoy insights into the craft of writing from two literary sensations along the way. 

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Dec 03, 2021
The Larrikin Lie
3210

One of the enduring beliefs of Australian identity is the idea that we as a nation embody the larrikin spirit, that we’re easy going, anti-establishment, laissez-faire. But arguably, behind our ‘she’ll be right’ veneer, we’re an anxious, obedient people living in what some believe is the most over-regulated nation of all of the world’s democracies. In this spirited and thought-provoking conversation, David Marr, Joe Williams and Rebecca Huntley separate the shit-stirring from the boot-licking with ABC’s Laura Tingle.

Please note, this podcast episode contains references to sexual assault and massacres of Indigenous peoples. It also contains explicit language. 

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Nov 28, 2021
A Bit of Shush
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“The noise that is most difficult for any of us is the noise that is inside our own heads.” – Stephanie Dowrick

After years in which many of us were forced to spend more time alone, a panel of writers join Anton Enus for a profound and fascinating reflection on the pitfalls, pleasures and peace of solitude, and its powerful relationship with self-renewal, self-understanding and creativity.

Christine Jackman’s Turning Down The Noise: The quiet power of silence in a busy world follows her quest to strip out the constant stimuli of modern living. Donna Ward’s She I Dare Not Name: A spinster’s meditations on life is a memoir of living life alone in a world built for couples and families. And three decades on, Stephanie Dowrick’s classic Intimacy and Solitude: Finding new closeness and self-trust in a distanced world is more timely than ever, and has been republished with new reflections on life in the pandemic. 

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Nov 26, 2021
Radical Black Futures
3296

In the words of Sydney Writers’ Festival Guest Curator Nayuka Gorrie, “The future is black, abolitionist and whatever we want it to be.” Lorna Munro, Mali Hermans, Keith Quayle and Estelle Clarke join Nayuka to consider those futures – hopeful, defiant and clear-eyed – and ask how we might radically reimagine black stories.

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Nov 25, 2021
Malcolm Knox & Michael Robotham
3510

Prize-winning Australian writers Malcolm Knox and Michael Robotham join Ashley Hay to discuss the riveting new novels that extend their reputations as masters of their crafts. A prolific journalist and author, Malcolm chats about the hilarious and mesmerising Bluebird, which examines nostalgia, gentrification and the Australian dream through the lens of decades of secrets buried in a beachside suburb. One of the country’s finest and bestselling crime writers, Michael talks about the pulse-quickening When She Was Good, which sees the return of forensic psychologist Cyrus Haven, embroiled in an explosive murder case with disturbing origins.

Please note, this discussion includes references to topics such as sexual abuse and torture. 

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Nov 19, 2021
Voices of Our Future
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Youth activists have become some of our strongest voices advocating for climate justice. They are heralded as leaders of the future, yet fear that without action from politicians, they will never see the future they’ve been burdened with building. In this electrifying conversation, a panel of Australia’s most inspiring young activists, Jean Hinchliffe (Lead the Way), Daisy Jeffrey (On Hope) and Varsha Yajman, share how they are tackling the most pressing issue of our time with Santilla Chingaipe. 

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Nov 12, 2021
Bruce Pascoe & Vicky Shukuroglou
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Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander listeners are advised that this podcast episode contains the names of people who have died.

“That sense of loving does not mean silence. It doesn’t mean acceptance...When you love something, you’re not silent about it.” – Vicky Shukuroglou

Loving Country: A Guide to Sacred Australia is a guidebook by Dark Emu author Bruce Pascoe and co-author and photographer Vicky Shukuroglou. It offers a new way to explore and fall in love with Australia by seeing it through an Indigenous lens. The duo speaks with ABC Radio National’s Daniel Browning about their beautifully designed road map that celebrates some 65,000 years of inhabitancy, including the fish traps at Brewarrina and rivers that feed the Great Barrier Reef, and the need to love and protect Country amidst the recent and ongoing destruction and devastation of sacred sites in this land. 

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Nov 09, 2021
Anita Heiss & Meg Keneally
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Hear from two acclaimed novelists as they discuss their captivating new works of historical fiction set against the backdrop of our colonial past. Based on devastating true events in 19th-century Wiradjuri Country, Anita Heiss’ Bila Yarrudhanggalangdhuray (River of Dreams) is an epic story of love and loss centred on a young couple’s search for home. Meg Keneally’s novel The Wreck follows a young woman fleeing London for Sydney after a failed rebellion in 1820, and is a moving tale of treachery and courage that is rich in history. The two are joined by Roanna Gonsalves for this fascinating discussion on the power of naming, voice and language, the writing process and how history holds a mirror. 

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Nov 05, 2021
The Feminists Are Coming
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“The point of conversations like these is to counter the unbelievable gaslighting of the rest of the world. That is the point of feminist writing. It’s saying again and again and again that rage is appropriate and that everything is not okay.” – Laurie Penny

Twenty-five years ago, award-winning journalist Virginia Trioli tried to get to the bottom of questions about sex and power in Australian public life in her book Generation F. In a new edition published in 2019, Virginia revisited the horrifically – and historically – polarising conversation on appropriate responses to sexual abuse and harassment that continues today. Activist, journalist and author Laurie Penny is a powerful voice in global feminism. Their 2017 book Bitch Doctrine: Essays for Dissenting Adults applied dark humour and urgent provocations to hard conversations on online harassment, the transgender rights movement and other definitive issues of our time. With author Sisonke Msimang, the pair tease out the shifts and faultlines of being a feminist in public life.

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Nov 04, 2021
Bearing Witness
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Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander listeners are advised that this podcast episode contains the names of people who have died.

“I’m no longer exhausting my labour on appealing to a people whose existence is predicated upon me not existing because it’s tiring work and they don’t believe us anyway, no matter how sophisticated our tools are, no matter how articulate our storytelling is. The power of the black story and the real black story is the story that’s told to black people by black people.” – Chelsea Watego

Sydney Writers’ Festival Guest Curator Nayuka Gorrie speaks with Chelsea Watego, Amy McQuire and Veronica Heritage-Gorrie about writing from the front lines, bearing witness in a way no one else can. From young black women telling Pauline Hanson she’s not Indigenous to speaking back to the archive. As Nayuka says, “In the colony, it is the black woman who speaks truth to power and sees this colony for what it really is.”

Please note, this episode contains references to topics such as the Stolen Generations and Aboriginal deaths in custody. 

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Oct 30, 2021
Have A Go, Get A Go
3421

“I think that’s where we see the limits of our compassion. It’s always tempered by the biases that we are comfortable continuing with and not interrogating.” – Kishor Napier-Raman

The myth that Australian society is egalitarian enough to give everyone a ‘fair go’ is pervasive. Supposedly, if you have a go, you’ll get a go. Yet it’s an idea rarely reflected in our economic policies. Welfare recipients are demonised as dole bludgers, wealth is protected and the divide between rich and poor feels ever more acute. Two of our finest economic and political commentators, Rick Morton (On Money) and Kishor Napier-Raman, examine where money meets policy – from their predictions on the then-upcoming COVID vaccine roll-out to housing affordability – with Vice-Chancellor and Principal of the University of Sydney, Mark Scott.

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Oct 28, 2021
SWF Great Debate: Benjamin Law
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"Hold on to the goodness this country offers. Because the only other option is to fall into despair and given the stakes, that’s not actually an option." – Benjamin Law

What a lucky country we are – sunburnt, egalitarian, no worries. But look beyond the marketing slogan and you may start to wonder: where the bloody hell are you? In this special highlight from the SWF Great Debate – moderated by the unsparing Jennifer Byrne – journalist, columnist, TV screenwriter and author Benjamin Law argues that maybe Australia isn’t so bad. After all, there’s universal healthcare, gun control, MasterChef…it’s enough to make Benjamin strip down on stage at Sydney Town Hall to reveal a Southern Cross ‘tattoo’. 

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Oct 22, 2021
Sarah Dingle & Kaya Wilson
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“Our transgender kids need their rights, they need access to healthcare, mental health care, they need to be cared for. But they also need boots that withstand 400 degrees because people are throwing fire at them.” – Kaya Wilson

Sarah Dingle and Kaya Wilson’s memoirs explore the discovery of long-held family secrets and their resounding intergenerational effects. When Kaya came out to his parents as transgender, a year after a near-death surfing accident, he was met with a startling family history of concealed queerness. Sarah was 27 when she found out she had been conceived via a sperm donor, but when she began digging she only discovered destroyed records and dead ends. With Maeve Marsden, Sarah (Brave New Humans) and Kaya (As Beautiful As Any Other) discuss Australia’s troubling treatment of donor-conceived and transgender children and adults.

Please note, this episode contains references to sexual assault and suicide. 

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Oct 21, 2021
But Not Forgotten
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"Words are what she has left us. They were her glory. They must be our consolation." – Michelle de Kretser on Elizabeth Harrower 

When a beloved author dies, there is consolation in knowing that their books – the culminated words of a lifetime in letters – outlive them and tether us to their memory. However, the beauty of those words isn’t simply a static point in time; it continues to evolve in the minds of the writers and thinkers who follow them. Four Festival guests join Chris Taylor to reflect on the powerful work of four writers taken from us: Michelle de Kretser on Sydney literary great Elizabeth Harrower; Kerry O’Brien on legendary political reporter Mungo MacCallum; Michael Robotham on spy master John le Carré; and Sally Warhaft on renowned historian and travel writer Jan Morris. 

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Oct 15, 2021
Thomas Keneally & Stan Grant
2480

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander listeners are advised that this podcast episode contains the names of people who have died.

Thomas Keneally reflects on The Chant of Jimmie Blacksmith in conversation with his long-time friend, Stan Grant. Thomas’ 1972 Booker Prize–nominated story of a black man’s revenge against an unjust society, The Chant of Jimmie Blacksmith, was a formative novel for Stan, helping the young reporter recognise the contradictions at the heart of our national identity. Stan has written the latest instalment of the Writers on Writers series on Thomas. The two continue a long-running conversation about their body of work and friendship, and this land’s history, stories and peoples.

Please note, this episode contains references to topics such as the Stolen Generations and abuse. 

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Oct 15, 2021
Are You There, Sydney? It’s Me, Judy Blume
3155

For generations of readers, Judy Blume is an icon. Beginning in the late 1960s, her celebrated novels were formative for young readers and future writers alike. Her children’s stories, including Tales of a Fourth Grade Nothing, are funny, irreverent and riotous precursors to the blockbuster kids’ series of today. While her young adult books were beloved – and sometimes banned – for their free and frank depictions of puberty and sexuality. Judy joins the Festival from America to speak with Sophie Black about her books, which changed the lives of so many – including her own, the new challenges presented to young people today, and her life now happily running a bookstore on an island in Florida.

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Oct 08, 2021
Critical Condition: Daniel Mendelsohn & Michael Sun
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In an age of celebrity endorsements, book-club picks and Amazon reviews, what is the state of once-vital literary criticism? How has the importance of robust and informed evaluation changed in an ever-crowded publishing market and an online sphere where everyone is potentially a critic? In this two-part series, Sydney Review of Books editor Catriona Menzies-Pike interviews four renowned critics about the future of literary criticism. In this episode, Catriona speaks with bestselling author, critic and New York Review of Books Editor-at-Large Daniel Mendelsohn and winner of the Kill Your Darlings New Critic Award, Michael Sun. 

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Oct 08, 2021
A. C. Grayling: The Frontiers of Knowledge
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A. C. Grayling is one of the world’s most widely read and celebrated philosophers. This year, the long-time Sydney Writers’ Festival favourite transcended the barriers of distance and the disruption of the global pandemic to join us from the UK to discuss his latest work, The Frontiers of Knowledge, with host of ABC Radio’s Conversations, Richard Fidler. In his inimitable style, this exploration of the paradox of knowledge – that the more we know, the greater our ignorance – reflects on the importance of education and culture to connect us to one another, to new ideas and to different branches of knowledge that can help us understand who we are in the world. 

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Oct 05, 2021
Veronica Heritage-Gorrie & Kathryn Heyman
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Veronica Heritage-Gorrie and Kathryn Heyman share insights into their powerful memoirs of adversity and perseverance with the author of Who Gets To Be Smart, Bri Lee (and another special guest: Veronica’s grandchild). Veronica’s Black and Blue: a memoir of racism and resilience tells of her experiences as an Aboriginal police officer fighting for justice within and beyond Australia’s deeply compromised law-enforcement system. Kathryn’s Fury is the account of her year-long stint as a fishing trawler deckhand in the Timor Sea, which reshaped a life marked by poverty and abuse. Together, they explore the transformative power of giving form to your experiences. 

Please note, this episode contains references to topics such as the Stolen Generations and sexual assault. 

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Sep 30, 2021
The Unacknowledged Legislators
3566

Poets have been shaping societies for generations. Sometimes painfully, other times joyously reflecting back the worlds they live in and helping us make sense of who we are. In this podcast episode, hear from some of the finest working poets in Australia right now who are defining our place in the world, deepening our understanding of our relationships, setting the agenda and envisioning our future. From a moving tribute to Kate Jennings to a tongue-in-cheek guided ASMR meditation about the end of the world, listen to Eileen Chong (A Thousand Crimson Blooms), Maxine Beneba Clarke (Carrying the World), Ellen van Neerven (Throat), Erik Jensen (I said the sea was folded), Felicity Plunkett (A Kinder Sea), Omar Sakr (The Lost Arabs) and Alison Whittaker (Blakwork) as they read their work, with writer and critic Declan Fry. 

Please note, this episode contains references to topics such as sexual assault and slavery.

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Sep 24, 2021
Rachel Cusk: Second Place
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Rachel Cusk is a true original. Her Outline Trilogy attracted acclaim and a legion of readers because it felt like something new from a voice in fiction we hadn’t heard before. Writing across fiction, memoir and essay, this award-winning chronicler of the personal is renowned for her coolly glittering prose and astute examination of women’s lives. Rachel (from the UK) speaks with Annabel Crabb about her extraordinary career in writing and Second Place, her latest fable of human destiny and decline. 

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Sep 22, 2021
Jan Fran & Judith Lucy
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Judith Lucy is known as a performer for her radical, even brutal honesty. Over a celebrated career as one of this country’s finest stand-ups, she’s sardonically laid herself bare in the name of laughs. But as an author she’s equally forthcoming, with her memoirs The Lucy Family Alphabet and Drink, Smoke, Pass Out both bestsellers. Now she’s back with her new book Turns Out, I’m Fine. Judith joins Walkley Award–winning reporter Jan Fran for a heart-wrenching and hilarious discussion about disappointing relationships, giving up on men, the life-changing impact of introspection and what it actually means to be fine.

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Sep 17, 2021
Blowing the Whistle: Government, the Law and Secrecy
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Lawyer Bernard Collaery faces jail for allegedly helping his former client, intelligence officer Witness K, expose Australia’s bugging of the East Timorese government to gain the upper hand during oil and gas negotiations. His ongoing legal case has been described as a grave threat to freedom of speech at home. Discussing his new book, Oil Under Troubled Water: Australia’s Timor Sea Intrigue, Bernard appears alongside Julian Burnside, with host Eleanor Hall, to explore the fragile, fraught and vitally important relationship between our government, the legal system and whistleblowers.

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Sep 16, 2021
Writing the Unspeakable
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Join three memoirists who have tackled difficult and taboo topics – ranging from grief and trauma to the challenges of motherhood and alcoholism – and found beauty, humour and even redemption by telling it exactly like it is.

Lech Blaine’s Car Crash is a heart-wrenching and darkly comic story of perseverance in the face of unthinkable tragedy. Ashe Davenport’s Sad Mum Lady is a savagely amusing memoir of motherhood and depression. Comedian Fiona O’Loughlin’s Truths from an Unreliable Witness chronicles a secret addiction to alcohol with gallows humour.

The trio join interviewer and moderator Michaela Kalowski for a deeply moving yet humorous conversation about making monsters dance and muffling their voices between the pages of a book.

Please note, this episode contains discussion of sensitive topics such as suicidal thoughts and sexual assault. 

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Sep 10, 2021
George Miller
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One of the greatest directors of all time, George Miller AO, joins actor, writer and comedian Tim Minchin (Matilda) to discuss his formidable track record of trailblazing, record-breaking films that have defined Australian cinema. With two films in the top ten highest selling Australian films at the Australian box office (Babe, Happy Feet), and the most nominated and most awarded Australian film ever at the Oscars (Mad Max: Fury Road) – George is a legend of cinema. Join one of this country’s most revolutionary, innovative creative figures for an unforgettable conversation about the art of storytelling, screenwriting and adaptation. 

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Sep 07, 2021
Critical Condition: Bernadette Brennan & Declan Fry
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In an age of celebrity endorsements, book-club picks and Amazon reviews, what is the state of once-vital literary criticism? How has the importance of robust and informed evaluation changed in an ever-crowded publishing market and an online sphere where everyone is potentially a critic? In this two-part series, Sydney Review of Books editor Catriona Menzies-Pike interviews four renowned critics about the future of literary criticism. This episode, Catriona speaks with award-winning literary critics Bernadette Brennan (A Writing Life: Helen Garner and Her Work) and Declan Fry – writer, poet, essayist and proud descendant of the Yorta Yorta. 

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Sep 05, 2021
SWF Great Debate: Nakkiah Lui
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What a lucky country we are – sunburnt, egalitarian, no worries. But look beyond the marketing slogan and you may start to wonder: where the bloody hell are you? In this special highlight from the SWF Great Debate – moderated by the unsparing Jennifer Byrne – Nakkiah Lui, writer, actor and Gamillaroi/Torres Strait Islander woman, questions just how good is Australia in this hard-hitting and hilarious speech with the best use of anaphora we’ve ever heard. 

Please note, this podcast episode contains explicit language. 

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Sep 03, 2021
The War In Newsrooms
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While the external assaults on journalism and newsrooms – politicised attacks on ‘fake news’ or an ‘enemy of the people’ – have a damaging effect on confidence and trust, the internal battles in mastheads and media companies are proving even more explosive. Often presented as a generational divide, questions around the role and responsibilities of journalism are acute. A panel of journalists and media experts – Ariel Bogle, Osman Faruqi and Alan Sunderland – come together with host Erik Jensen to thrash out the differences in sensibility and mores that are causing conflict within media organisations.

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Aug 27, 2021
Why We Love a TV Villain
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Sure, heroes are great and they save the day, but what is it about a TV villain that we can’t get enough of? From Succession’s Kendall Roy and Breaking Bad’s Walter White to Veep’s Selina Meyer, the baddies tend to steal the show. Acclaimed writers Benjamin Law (The Family Law) and Melina Marchetta (Looking for Alibrandi) join The Chaser’s Chris Taylor to discuss what makes their favourite TV rogues and cringe-worthy wrongdoers so compelling in this riotous conversation that ranges from Fleabag to The Office

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Aug 24, 2021
Rick Morton & Don Watson
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In Watsonia, decades of Don Watson’s writing – history and journalism, reflections and fragments – have been gathered together for the first time, providing a snapshot of a writer and of a nation. Rick Morton (My Year Of Living Vulnerably) joins Don to discuss the real radical position in politics, bringing back knighthoods, the republic movement, snakes, mateship and not being a public intellectual, as well as the many speeches, essays, books and words that he’s devoted himself to as part of making sense of the world.

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Aug 20, 2021
Nikki Gemmell & Sofie Laguna
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Hear two celebrated Australian writers discuss their heart-rending and lyrically drawn new novels with writer and podcaster Nicole Abadee. Globally bestselling author Nikki Gemmell offers insights into The Ripping Tree, her gripping novel of survival that examines the dark heart of early colonisation in characteristically evocative prose. Miles Franklin Award winner Sofie Laguna talks about Infinite Splendours, an incandescent tale of art and nature, and the lasting impact of childhood trauma. 

Please note, this podcast episode contains discussion of sensitive subjects some listeners may find distressing, including domestic violence and sexual assault. 

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Aug 18, 2021
Your Favourites’ Favourites: Nam Le & Rebecca Giggs
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Award-winning author Nam Le (The Boat) speaks with Rebecca Giggs about her narrative non-fiction debut Fathoms – a powerful, surprising and compelling view of some of the most urgent issues of our times. “What I love about Fathoms is its language: the wonder in it, and of it,” said Nam. “I found it a book of rare beauty and ambition.” Enjoy this poetic and immersive discussion into the art of writing about the world and those animals that magnetise our imaginations and which we fill with stories. 

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Aug 13, 2021
The Other C-Word
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After last year’s devastating bushfires brought the climate crisis home for many Australians, calls for action were soon drowned out by the COVID-19 pandemic. Hear a panel of our sharpest minds draw focus to the growing spectre of global warming, unpack the political roadblocks and consider how to achieve real progress. Featuring journalist Paddy Manning (Body Count: How climate change is killing us), documentarian Craig Reucassel of The Chaser (Fight for Planet A), and Walkley Award–winning journalist Marian Wilkinson (The Carbon Club), in conversation with author, researcher and broadcaster Rebecca Huntley (How to Talk About Climate Change in a Way That Makes a Difference).

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Aug 11, 2021
Who’s Afraid of Big Tech?
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Hear a panel of leading technology experts discuss the "horrifying, beautiful, wonderful, terrifying reality of big tech” (Rae Johnston). Together, they tackle questions about who owns what on the internet, the right to privacy, digital threats to democracy, Australia’s legislative showdown with Silicon Valley, the sinister impact of the algorithm and more. Award-winning STEM journalist and proud Wiradjuri woman Rae Johnston speaks with tech reporter Angharad Yeo, cyber policy analyst Ariel Bogle, Reset Australia Executive Director Chris Cooper and Technology Editor for The Australian Financial Review Paul Smith about the role of big tech in our lives – online and off. 

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Aug 05, 2021
Faruqi on Faruqi
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Mehreen Faruqi (Too Migrant, Too Muslim, Too Loud) was the first Muslim woman to become a senator in Australia. A life-long feminist and anti-racism activist, she received the Edna Ryan Grand Stirrer Award in 2017, which recognises those who boldly challenge the status quo. Osman Faruqi is the Editor of 7am, Schwartz Media’s daily news podcast. Previously a reporter with the ABC, he’s an award-winning, respected and fearless commentator and has his first book – on race relations in Australia – on the way. He is also Mehreen’s son. Sally Rugg (How Powerful We Are) leads this riveting conversation on politics, media – and some affectionate roasting – between two grand stirrers. 

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Aug 04, 2021
Meg Mason & Ewa Ramsey
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Meg Mason (Sorrow and Bliss) and Ewa Ramsey (The Morbids) wrote two of the biggest literary hits of the past twelve months, with novels acclaimed for their razor-sharp wit and canny sense of humour. Meg’s Sorrow and Bliss circles the breakdown of a marriage, retracing a history of hurts, failures and disappointments to manage a path through family and selfhood. And Ewa’s titular ‘Morbids’ are a support group for people with death anxiety. Her novel follows a member of the group, Caitlin, as she comes to terms with her past and learns to start living again. Meg and Ewa discuss their novels that both explore the nuances of mental illness with compassion and a dry sense of humour with The Guardian’s Bridie Jabour.

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Jul 31, 2021