Showing all posts tagged: Australia

Sally Rooney on the hardships facing renters in Ireland

25 March 2023

Irish author Sally Rooney, writing for The Irish Times, about the end of an eviction moratorium that may render many people homeless:

The wave of evictions expected to begin from the end of this month is not merely theoretical: we already know that during the period of the ban, tenants in the State sought advice on roughly 1,500 new eviction notices. In a few weeks’ time, if the Government does not reverse course, these evictions will be eligible to proceed. Minister for Housing Darragh O’Brien has even publicly accepted that homelessness will “very possibly” increase when the moratorium comes to an end.

While the situation is different, the outlook for residential renters in Australia is likewise challenging. In January 2023, vacancy rates nationwide were just 0.8 percent. In some centres — Perth and Adelaide — vacancy rates were 0.3 percent, which might as well mean there are next to no residential properties available to rent.


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Birrarangga Film Festival a global Indigenous film event

22 March 2023
Birrarangga Film Festival poster, by Aretha Brown

Artwork by Aretha Brown.

The biennial Birrarangga Film Festival runs from Thursday 23 March, through to Tuesday 28 March 2023, in Melbourne:

BIRRARANGGA Film Festival celebrates Global Indigenous Films that explore the curatorial themes of ‘strength, resilience and the environment’. First Nations relationships to the image as a form of expression, particularly in Australia, is connected to thousands of years of cultural practices. This festival honours that history and acknowledges the contemporary currency of the moving image, of film, as an expression of the human experience in relation to our natural surroundings.

The festival opens with a screening of Bones of Crows, directed by Canadian screenwriter and filmmaker Marie Clements.


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Ukrainian writers withdraw from Adelaide Writers Week 2023

22 February 2023

Three Ukrainian authors, Kateryna Babkina, Olesya Khromeychuk, and Maria Tumarkin, who were scheduled to speak at Adelaide Writers Week in March 2023, are no longer participating in the event:

The event’s director, Louise Adler, confirmed Kateryna Babkina and Olesya Khromeychuk, who were scheduled to speak at a session on the impact of Russia’s invasion on Ukrainian civilians, had decided not to appear. She said the move was prompted by comments of another guest, Palestinian-American author Susan Abulhawa, who has described Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy as a “Nazi-promoting Zionist” and accused him of dragging “the whole world into the inferno of WWIII”.

On Tuesday, Australian law firm MinterEllison withdrew their support for the festival, in the wake of the same comments made by Susan Abulhawa, a Palestinian-American author.


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Truth Be Told, the 2023 Adelaide Writers Week program

11 February 2023

The program for Adelaide Writers’ Week 2023, which runs from Saturday 4 March though to Thursday 9 March 2023, in the capital of South Australia, has been published. This year’s theme is Truth Be Told, always a subjective, nuanced matter, as festival director Louise Adler notes:

The thread that weaves through the 2023 program of literary luminaries, writers on their way and novitiates is the notion of truth — truths we acknowledge, truths we feel are debatable and those beyond debate. Do we want truthfulness in fiction or does it only matter in nonfiction? Do novelists owe us the truth? Is the biographer’s task to tell nothing but the truth about their subject? Is my truth The Truth and yours simply your truth and therefore partial, imprecise or even suspect? Is any truth incontestable, universal? Does truth matter and if so, how should it be upheld in a world crammed with falsehoods, lies, misinformation and inaccuracies? If all ideas are reimagined or appropriated, if originality is a fallacious delusion nurtured in an artist’s garret, does truth even matter anymore?

Catriona Menzies-Pike, J.M. Coetzee, Sarah Holland-Batt, and Raina MacIntyre are among Australian writers who will be in attendance.


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A poet laureate will need to bolster interest in Australian poetry

4 February 2023

By 2025 Australia will have a poet laureate, who will presumably be selected and appointed by the proposed Writers Australia peak body. As with many aspects of the National Culture Policy which was unveiled last Monday though, details remain thin on the ground for now.

For instance, how long would an incumbent serve, and what exactly would their role be? Poetry, certainly in Australia, is a niche form of literature, given less than five percent of the population chooses to partake of written rhyme, so one of the mandates of an Australian poet laureate would be to bolster interest in local poetry.

This is something Sarah Holland-Batt, professor of creative writing and literary studies at Queensland University of Technology, advocated for when making submissions to the National Cultural Policy:

“An Australian poet laureate would elevate the status of Australian poetry domestically and internationally,” Holland-Batt says. “Australian literature can struggle on the world stage so there would be a soft diplomacy element to it.” She said the laureate would be an advocate for Australia and Australian writing and the benefits would be beyond only poetry. “It would be a big boost for Australian literature to have someone with that authority invested by the state.”


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Will Writers Australia succeed where other peak bodies have not?

3 February 2023

Writers Australia is a new peak body to be established as part of the National Cultural Policy, which was released by the Australian federal government last Monday. While the exact functions of Writers Australia — which comes into being in 2025 — are yet to be fully detailed, its stated mandate is to provide direct support to the Australian literature sector.

While hopes are high the proposed new entity will improve the lot of local writers, Writers Australia is by no means the first attempt to establish an Australian peak literature body. There have been several attempts to do similar in the past, with some being anything but successful, as Adelaide, South Australia, based author Jessica Alice, writing for Meanjin, explains:

There are two years until the body will come into operation and those working in the field will remember past attempts to create a national literature body. There was Writing Australia, the unsuccessful attempt to create a peak body for writers centres that was defunct within two years, and more recently the Book Council of Australia debacle that heralded the Brandis era.

In that instance, a national body was established to represent the interests of publishers, agents and booksellers, with $6 million in funds taken from the Australia Council’s operating budget. It faced pushback from the broader literary sector culminating in an open letter signed by high profile figures like Nick Cave and JM Coetzee arguing it was a rush-job initiated without proper sector consultation and a limited terms of reference. The body was ultimately abandoned.


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The National Cultural Policy and the role of Writers Australia

1 February 2023

Among initiatives announced this week in the Australian federal government’s National Cultural Policy, is the formation of Writers Australia, a body that will, according to the policy document, “provide direct support to the literature sector from 2025.” Writers Australia will be part of a new peak arts investment and advisory body to be called Creative Australia, which will represent an overhaul of the current Australia Council for the Arts.

While the finer details are still to be made public, it is known Writers Australia will, among other things, administer the Prime Minister’s Literary Awards, and make appointments to the (kind of) newly formed role of Australian poet laureate.

It can also be presumed Writers Australia will work to address remuneration for Australian authors, who according to recent research earn about A$18,000 per annum for their work. Australian workers need to earn at least A$25,675 per annum to be living above the poverty line. The income of local writers is a point underlined by Sophie Cunningham, Chair of the Australian Society of Authors (ASA):

“We’re thrilled to see the Government’s affirmation that artists and authors should be paid fairly for their work. This is fundamental to a fair and sustainable arts sector. As I and many other authors made clear in our submissions to Government, authors do not fall under the protection of awards or industrial agreements and, as freelancers, have to negotiate on a case by case basis to be paid fairly. We welcome the recognition of the ASA’s recommended minimum rates of pay in cultural policy.”

While supporting writers and literary organisations through funding, Writers Australia will take a proactive role in boosting incomes for writers and book illustrators, by raising their profile, and growing local and international audiences for their books. One way of achieving this could be to encourage broader promotion of Australian literary awards, in the same way the British publishing industry enthusiastically backs the Booker Prize.

In the meantime poetry can look forward to more prominence in Australia, through the creation of a poet laureate, an appointment Writers Australia will make. There has not been an Australian poet laureate since 1818, when Michael Massey Robinson, a British convict, held the role for about two years.

Poetry is a poorly appreciated form of literature in Australia, with just three and a half percent of local book readers indicating they are inclined to read works of poetry, according to recent research by Amazon Kindle.

Dropbear, a collection of poetry by Melbourne based author Evelyn Araluen, and winner of the 2022 Stella Prize, had sold in the order of fifteen thousand copies as of August 2022. In comparison, Apples Never Fall, by Sydney based novelist Liane Moriarty, was the bestselling book in Australia, with sales of just under two-hundred thousand copies, in 2021.


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Revive, Australia’s new National Cultural Policy unveiled

31 January 2023

Revive is the name the Australian federal government has given to a new five principle, five year, National Cultural Policy, that was made public yesterday.

Revive is a five-year plan to renew and revive Australia’s arts, entertainment and cultural sector. It delivers new momentum so that Australia’s creative workers, organisations and audiences continue to thrive and grow, and so that our arts, culture and heritage are re-positioned as central to Australia’s future.

Core objectives of the policy include the recognition of the work of Indigenous artists and creators, recognition of artists as workers, and increased support for cultural institutions. A revamp of the Australia Council for the Arts, and the creation of Writers Australia, which will “provide direct support to the literature sector from 2025”, are among other initiatives on the cards.


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Funding uncertainty may see online database Trove close down

10 January 2023

Trove, an online library database containing digital copies of significant historical and cultural Australian documents, maintained by the National Library of Australia, may be forced to cease operating at the end of June 2023, unless it is allocated more funding, according to its recently published strategy document:

The Library has sufficient resources to maintain Trove until June 2023. The future of Trove beyond July 2023 will be dependent upon available funds. To achieve the full strategic vision will require substantial investment. More modest investment sustained over a longer term would enable achievement of the strategy at a measured pace. In a limited funding environment, Trove may reduce to a service focused on the National Library of Australia’s collections. Without any additional funds, the Library will need to cease offering the Trove service entirely.

While funding for Trove, and other collecting institutions, including the National Gallery of Australia, and the National Museum of Australia, was not part of the recently unveiled National Cultural Policy, Australian federal arts minister Tony Burke suggested the matter would be looked at as part of this year’s federal budget, which is traditionally handed down in May.


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Proposed new policy boosts funding for Australian arts sector

2 January 2023

Speaking at the annual Woodford Folk Festival that concluded yesterday, Australian federal arts minister Tony Burke announced a raft of initiatives to bolster the local arts sector. A proposed five-pillar policy includes an undertaking to increase recognition of the work of Indigenous creatives, and plans to introduce fairer remuneration rates for artists:

The minister promised to treat “artists as workers”, criticising the [previous] Coalition government for exclusions on jobkeeper wage subsidies and for the comments by the former prime minister Scott Morrison praising “tradies … building the stage” but not artists.

In addition, streaming services such as Netflix and Stan will be subject to quotas, ensuring they air more Australian made content. Also the Lending Right Schemes, which pays a royalty to authors when a library loans one of their books out, will be expanded to include ebooks.


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What’s wrong with people who don’t eat meat or drink? Nothing

2 January 2023

Despite Australia’s apparent reputation as a nation of big drinkers, forty-six percent of Australians either abstain completely from alcohol, or only consume one drink a month. If the thirteen percent of people who only partake of a tipple two to three times monthly are added, that’s almost sixty percent of the population who barely drink at all.

Yet people who have chosen to give up alcoholic beverages still find themselves under pressure to drink at social gatherings, particularly at this time of the year. This is something I’ve seen in the now ten years since I cut back on alcohol. Today I might have a drink maybe once every two months. While most people appear to be accepting of this choice, I’ve run into a few who aren’t. One or two even seem to feel threatened when the question comes up, but I’m not sure why this should be.

Australia, for instance, is also a nation of coffee drinkers, of which I am one, but I don’t hear of anyone who doesn’t drink coffee, or only has decaffeinated coffee, being put-down. The same goes for people who, say, don’t own a car, or even drive. I think you can even choose to refuse recreational drugs with total social impunity. Why then are some lifestyle choices greeted with virtual indifference, while other cause derision?

I also know people who embrace veganism are sometimes subjected to the same contempt as non-drinkers. Some people choose to eat a non-animal based diet instead of an animal one. So what? What’s in the Australian psyche that results in people who avoid meat or alcohol being derided? It is because those who we perceive to be outliers appear to pose some sort of threat? It is because meat and alcohol are — or were — so ingrained in our way of life, and no one should therefore upset the apparent status quo?

I might be optimistic, overly optimistic maybe, but I think attitudes are changing, albeit slowly. Is it really so hard to live and let live?


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National Dictionary Centre word of 2022 delivered on teal wave

23 November 2022

The Australian federal election, held in May 2022, saw a record number of teal, or independent, MPs elected to the Australian Parliament. Their strong showing has variously been labelled a teal bath or teal wave, after many teal candidates unseated a significant number of sitting members, most of whom belonged to the previous Liberal-National Coalition government.

It perhaps comes as no surprise then to learn the Australian National Dictionary Centre has declared “teal” as their word of 2022:

Previously associated with a dark greenish-blue colour, or even a breed of duck, teal now has another meaning in Australian English. The word came to prominence this year during the federal election. A ‘teal wave’ of independents successfully challenged government members of parliament in a number of seats.


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Dinner by Nagi Maehashi a cookbook selling like hot cakes

20 November 2022

Sydney based Australian chef Nagi Maehashi’s cookbook, Dinner, is quite literally selling like hot cakes. Published only six weeks ago, on 11 October 2022, the recipe collection has already outsold works by the likes of Jamie Oliver, and Yotam Ottolenghi:

Dinner is now leading the cookbook charts for 2022, with more than 74,500 copies sold. That’s three times as many sales as the second most-popular book, Jamie Oliver’s One, at 23,000 copies, according to Nielsen BookData. Even at the end of August, Maehashi had pre-orders that were more than double the first week sales of Yotam Ottolenghi’s Flavour.


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What is in the 2022 Australian budget for the arts sector?

29 October 2022

The arts sector had been keenly anticipating the 2022 federal budget, with hopes Australia’s recently elected Labor government might offer some respite to the arts after a difficult few years.

The government has all sorts of matters to deal with, the return of inflation, rising interest rates, and increasing power costs, to name a few, but in what arts and culture advocate Esther Anatolitis describes as a budget that is safe-ish, while daring to be boring, there is something for the sector.

Again, it’s only election commitments that are enumerated in last night’s Budget; Minister for the Arts Tony Burke has consistently focused our expectations on the comprehensive National Cultural Policy development and not immediate gestures.


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Not Now, Not Ever, a book edited by Julia Gillard

4 October 2022
Not Now, Not Ever, edited by Julia Gillard, book cover

Sunday 9 October 2022 marks ten years since then Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard delivered a scathing speech berating blatant instances of misogyny and sexism from the then opposition party, and its leader Tony Abbott. The address — which became known as the misogyny speech — is among the most significant ever made by an Australian Prime Minister.

Not Now, Not Ever, Ten years on from the misogyny speech, a book which will be published on Wednesday 5 October 2022, and edited by Gillard, examines what has changed in Australia since her speech, and what still needs to come.

On 9 October 2012, Prime Minister Julia Gillard stood up and proceeded to make all present in Parliament House that day pay attention — and left many of them squirming in their seats. The incisive ‘misogyny speech’, as her words came to be known, continues to energise and motivate women who need to stare down sexism and misogyny in their own lives.

With contributions from Mary Beard, Jess Hill, Jennifer Palmieri, Katharine Murphy and members of the Global Institute for Women’s Leadership, Julia Gillard explores the history and culture of misogyny, tools in the patriarchy’s toolbox, intersectionality, and gender and misogyny in the media and politics.

Kathy Lette looks at how the speech has gained a new life on TikTok, as well as inspiring other tributes and hand-made products, and we hear recollections from Wayne Swan, Anne Summers, Cate Blanchett, Brittany Higgins and others of where they were and how they first encountered the speech.


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Re shortlisted for the Worlds 50 Best Bars tackles food waste

3 October 2022

While I usually feature long and shortlists from some of the literary awards, why not change things up a bit? Recently the World’s 50 Best Bars 2022 longlist was announced. Not that you’ll catch me in a bar too often, but it’s worth noting two Australian bars made the cut.

One is Caretaker’s Cottage in Melbourne, as is Re Bar, located in the Sydney suburb of Eveleigh, which I find myself in, or near, on occasion. I’ll have to look out for Re Bar next time I’m nearby.

It also turns out Re owner Matt Whiley is passionate about tackling the scourge of food waste. If you think food waste is a trivial matter, watch the trailer for Never Wasted, an in production documentary on the efforts being made by Whiley, and others, to reduce food waste.


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The 2022 National Young Writers Festival

23 September 2022

The 2022 National Young Writers’ Festival (NYWF) runs from Thursday 29 September, through to Sunday 2 October, both in Newcastle, Australia (about one hundred and sixty kilometres north of Sydney), and online.

NYWF is so-called Australia’s largest gathering of young writers, with artists bringing their craft from all around (cities, regional, rural and our beloved regular cohort from Aotearoa). We showcase work in both new and traditional forms including zines, comics, blogging, screenwriting, poetry, spoken word, hip hop, music, journalism, autobiography, comedy and prose.


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Australia will be a republic says former PM Julia Gillard

20 September 2022

Australia will become a republic says Former Prime Minister Julia Gillard, though right this minute is not the time to think about it.

Asked if she was still of the view the Queen’s death would be an appropriate time to move away from a British head of state, Gillard said: “Yes, I always thought that when the Queen did leave us, that it would cause a period of reflection. I always thought in Australia too it would unleash a new set of reflections about our own constitutional arrangements. But there’s no rush and I certainly endorse what the prime minister has said. There’s time for measured discussion. It’s certainly too soon for that now.”

An opinion poll taken days after Queen Elizabeth II died, found sixty percent of Australians favoured retaining the British monarch as head of state. While it could be argued the Queen’s death generated some support for the status quo, the republican cause has somewhat floundered in recent years.

I’m in favour of a republic, with an Australian head of state (rather than the reigning British monarch), but maintain public support would need to be the other way around, that is, sixty percent in favour of an Australian republic instead of the monarchy, before that could happen.

A clear majority of Australians would need to support such a momentous change in the way the country is governed.



Five levels of encryption on the Australian Signals Directorate coin

7 September 2022

Sen, an all-round IT professional, writes about decoding messages embedded in the recently issued Australian Signals Directorate (ASD) fifty cent coin. While a fourteen year old boy in Tasmania is credited with making the discovery of four messages “hidden” on the coin, it turns out there is a fifth level of encryption.

The outer ring came close to looking like Morse Code and was giving some output that almost looked like real words, but just a bit too gibberish. After much banging-of-heads-on-keyboards we realised I’d transcoded the outer strings wrong, which meant of course we were trying to break codes that didn’t exist.

Note that Sen’s article contains spoilers, the messages are revealed in their entirety, so read it later if you still want to decode the coin’s messages yourself.



Australian Signals Directorate 50 cent coin with coded message

3 September 2022
Australian Signals Directorate coded commemorative fifty-cent coin

Image courtesy of Royal Australian Mint.

I’d never heard of the Australian Signals Directorate (ASD) until now, but in short they’re a government intelligence agency.

To mark the seventy-fifth anniversary of their establishment, the Directorate, in association with the Royal Australian Mint, have issued a commemorative fifty-cent coin. But not any fifty-cent coin… this one comes with a hidden, coded, message:

Designed in collaboration with staff from ASD and the Royal Australian Mint, the commemorative coin pays tribute to the evolution of signals intelligence with multiple layers of cryptographic code included in the design. A hidden message will be revealed as each layer of code is cracked; all that is needed is a pen, paper, Wikipedia and brainpower.

Anyone who thinks they’ve cracked the code is invited to submit their answer to the ASD, who will reveal the correct message at the end of September 2022.

Update: well that was quick… ABC News reports a fourteen year old Tasmanian boy cracked the code in about an hour, on the day of the coin’s release.