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Festival Guide: Unpacking the Issues

Bringing together some of the world’s leading thinkers for ten days of discussion – Melbourne Writers Festival is a platform for authors and artists to bring important social and political issues to the fore. For those looking to broaden their perspectives, we’ve pulled together our favourite sessions with big issues at their heart.


Journalism: Heartbreak and Resolve
Saturday 31 August, 5.30pm
As the President of the free world wages war on the media and the term ‘fake news’ is weaponised, how do those working in journalism stand their ground, especially in the face of crumbling print empires and the rise of citizen journalism on the internet? The Saturday Paper‘s Erik JensenThe Guardian‘s Jack Latimore, author Ginger Gorman and Crikey’s Bhakthi Puvanenthiran speak about professional heartbreaks and the resolve required to move forward.



Labour of Love
Sunday 1 September, 11.30am
Putting oneself on the line as an activist can be costly – not only in terms of career, family and romantic relationships, but emotional and mental health. So what does it feel like for those who have publicly gone into battle? Youth activist and poet Aretha Brown, HIV activist Nic Holas, ex-Greens MP Scott Ludlam and former race discrimination commissioner Tim Soutphommasane talk about how best to survive in the fray.


Jane Caro: Accidental Feminists
Sunday 1 September, 7pm
‘Women over 55 are of the generation that changed everything. We didn’t expect to. Or intend to.’ Writer and prominent feminist Jane Caro‘s book explores the trailblazing feminists of her generation – those whose lived experience and determination paved the way for future women. She celebrates wild political victories of the past and pays tribute to the women who made them happen with Denise Scott.


John Button Oration: In the Face of Hatred
Tuesday 3 September, 6.30pm
In Antisemitism: Here and NowDeborah Lipstadt argues that trying to defeat an irrational supposition ‘with a rational explanation is virtually impossible’. What then does one do in the face of hatred? Lipstadt proposes a way forward in a hostile and divided world.


DeRay Mckesson: On The Other Side of Freedom
Tuesday 3 September, 7pm
Civil rights activist and author DeRay Mckesson is one of the leading voices in the Black Lives Matter movement, and his new book reflects not only on his own journey to activism, but how the nature of the world is changing. He speaks to Benjamin Law about activism, the power of politics translated through social media and why it’s so important to keep hope alive.



Data Journalism: Changing the Debate
Thursday 5 September, 6pm
The Guardian’s Deaths Inside investigation exposed more than 400 indigenous deaths in custody since 2008. The Killing Times, based on University of Newcastle data, developed an interactive map of frontier massacres. Jack BanisterLorena Allam and Lenore Taylor discuss how two data projects shifted the national conversation. With Andrew Dodd.



Charlotte Allingham: The Power of the Image
Saturday 7 September, 11.30am
Wiradjuri woman and illustrator Charlotte Allingham’s iconic artwork, Always Was, went viral on Australia Day 2018, becoming a symbol of the vocal uprising against national celebrations of the day. Allingham reflects on politicising her work with Tarneen Onus Williams.


Ruby Hamad: White Tears/Brown Scars
Saturday 7 September, 1pm
White Tears/Brown Scars deconstructs archetypes including ‘damsel in distress’ and ‘angry brown woman’ to interrogate how race privilege allows white women to position women of colour as aggressors in times of conflict. Ruby Hamaddiscusses her searing debut with Amal Awad.


Family Violence
Sunday 8 September, 2.30pm
The statistics regarding domestic violence against Australian women should be causing us all grave concern. Four leading advocates discuss this crisis, and how the stories of survivors are more important than ever. Featuring Jane GilmoreShakira HusseinNicole Lee and Lidia Thorpe.


Fall of the Prince
Sunday 8 September, 10am
Louise Milligan knows the Pell case well: she won the prestigious Gold Quill for her coverage, and her book Cardinal: The Rise and Fall of George Pell – infamously removed from Victorian bookshelves during Pell’s trial – was awarded the 2017 Walkley Book Award. She speaks with The Saturday Paper’Martin McKenzie-Murray about the long and emotional journey from breaking story to conviction.

Browse all Festival events with a focus on News & Politics.