‘Growing Poetry’: Zalehah Turner reviews The Red Room Company’s New Shoots

New Shoots Elieen Chong Eric Avery and Mark Tredinick

New Shoots poets: Eric Avery, Mark Tredinnick and Eileen Chong on Saturday, 21 May 2016, SWF. photographer: Tawfik Elgazzar

The Red Room Company is devoted to creating poetry in unusual and useful ways and their project this year, New Shoots, poems inspired by plants and trees, will see poetic pathways in the Royal Botanic Garden, Sydney, Bundanon Trust and the Sydney Olympic Park. Launched at the Royal Botanic Garden, Sydney on 21 May at the Sydney Writers’ Festival, New Shoots encouraged participants to walk through what Director, Tamryn Bennett, referred to as “fertile ground for growing poetry” to find poets positioned close to the flora that had inspired their work. She explained that the poetic pathways of New Shoots would allow the audience “to listen to the poems that have been growing” in the Royal Botanic Garden. The act of listening created a bond between the poets, their inspirational sites and their audience.

The New Shoots commissioned poets, Eileen Chong, Mark Tredinnick and Eric Avery read and discussed their poetry all evoked by sites in the Royal Botanic Garden from the ‘Wollemi Pine’ to the ‘Lotus Pond’ at the places that had first inspired them. Each poet’s emotive response reflected the different and varied ways in which the sites had affected them personally. According to the poets, listening was part of the poetic process of writing poems inspired by plants and trees. It informed their understanding of the Royal Botanic Garden, creating an instinctive and almost, synesthetic connection between the poets and their sites.

Elieen Chong

Eileen Chong reading at New Shoots, Saturday, 21 May 2016, Royal Botanic Garden, Sydney, SWF photographer: Tawfik Elgazzar

Director, Tamryn Bennett wondered “how we might listen to the trees” with a project such as, New Shoots and the poets responded. Eileen Chong had been deeply struck by the irony of naming a tree, such as, the Wollemi Pine which had existed in nature for so long without either human awareness of it or a name until, as recently as, 1994. Before reading her poem, ‘Wollemi Pine’ she claimed that, “I’d like to imagine that if I listened hard enough, I would hear the Wollemi whisper its real name.” She also read ‘Banyan Tree’ which was written about waiting for her mother after Kindergarten under a large Banyan Tree. As she waited, she claimed she felt comforted by the large tree and childhood her friend but at some level she also felt abandoned. To her surprise her mother was not upset by listening to her read the poem in morning session.

Mark Tredinick

Mark Tredinnick reading at New Shoots, Saturday, 21 May 2016, Royal Botanic Garden, Sydney, SWF. photographer: Tawfik Elgazzar

Mark Tredinnick claimed that, “Writing poetry properly is nine parts listening.” He added that, writing the ‘Lotus Pond’, “was a listening from the beginning” and that there was a beauty in reading the poem were it was written. Although, he stressed that his new apartment in Kirribilli overlooked the Royal Botanic Garden and so, he was fortunate enough to be inspired by just looking out from his balcony.

Eric Avery

Eric Avery playing Bach at New Shoots, Saturday, 21 May 2016, Royal Botanic Garden, Sydney, SWF. Tawfik Elgazzar

Indigenous multi-disciplinary artist, Eric Avery played Bach by a Strangler Fig which is overtaking a Paper Bark tree in the Royal Botanic Garden. For Eric Avery, Songlines, the music of his ancestors recorded in stories and drawings, are an incredibly important part of remembering the history of the land. The audience listened as he played his violin, accompanying Bach with one of the songs of his great grandfather. After which he read ‘Passage of Time’ with lines like, ‘dances of listening,/ Listening to truth,/ Through our songs and stories,/ The land is our proof,’ only further drawing the audience’s awareness to the need to listen to the land and the necessity of healing after a history of conflict.

For Director, Tamryn Bennett, New Shoots was a wonderful project for The Red Room Company which “exists to make poetry a meaningful part of everyday life” by engaging with various communities across the country “as a way of unearthing poetry that lives in those spaces.” Through each poet sharing their own emotive response to their chosen sites of inspiration, New Shoots created deep, resonating connections to the plants, trees, sculptures, and history of the Royal Botanic Garden, Sydney within the audience.

Since its launch on Saturday 21 May, The Red Room Company has taken New Shoots to Bundanon Trust, the previous home of Australian painter, Arthur Boyd for the Eucalyptus Eco-Poetry Project (EEPP). According to Bundanon Trust, “This poetic art project will respond to site-specific eucalypti and ecological communities to enrich narratives, student engagement and connections with the many eucalyptus species at Bundanon Trust.” With New Shoots poet Eileen Chong in residence giving workshops for local schools and community groups, the appreciation of native flora and fauna, the importance of conservation and the love of poetry as a form of self-expression is sure to engage many at Shoalhaven. The Red Room Company is also taking New Shoots to the Sydney Olympic Park where Lorna Munro’s poems will be embedded into the Badu Mangroves boardwalk.

Over the next three years, the Royal Botanic Garden, Sydney is building a New Shoots website which will map the poems created to the sites that inspired them. The website will also have further information on the specific sites that inspired New Shoots poems, from science, ecology, history and literature. Both The Red Room Company and the Royal Botanic Garden, Sydney encourage the public to take part in writing poems inspired by plants and trees.

-Zalehah Turner




New Shoots poems

New Shoots, The Red Room Company

The Eucalyptus Eco-Poetry Project


Zalehah Turner is a Sydney based poet currently completing her Bachelor of Arts in Communications majoring in writing and cultural studies at the University of Technology, Sydney. Zalehah is an Associate Editor of Rochford Street Review: https://rochfordstreetreview.com/2016/02/09/welcome-zalehah-turner-rochford-street-review-associate-editor/


‘The Lifeblood of the Poetry Communities Across Australia’: Zalehah Turner reviews The Australian Poets Festival

APF National Program Director Toby Fitch photograph by Tim Grey

APF National Program Director, Toby Fitch. photograph by Tim Grey

Launched in both Melbourne and Perth on February 20, at Blak & Bright and Perth Writers’ Festival, respectively, Australian Poetry CEO, Jacinta Le Plastrier, said that, “The Australian Poets Festival was the crown jewel of the new national program.” She confirmed that it “will bring the passion of poetry to writing and poetry festivals across the country, highlighting the best and brightest of Australian poets nationally, by state or territory” as well as, supporting younger and emerging poets.

Australian Poets Festival National Program Director, Toby Fitch, added that, the festival “is designed to add new and more diverse poetry events to the major writers’ festivals across Australia, so as to bolster the presence of contemporary poetry in the national conscience.” In developing the APF 2016-17 program, Toby Fitch pitched several events to the major literary festivals, two of which, ‘The BIG READ’ and ‘Mysterious Ways: Poets and Publishing’, were particularly popular with the festival directors but he was keen to point out that there were a range of different events in the APF program, with others to come.

Both ‘The BIG READ’ and ‘Mysterious Ways’ have an obvious appeal as part of a truly national program. An impression that is of vital importance to Australian Poetry, which under Jacinta Le Plastrier, is committed to engaging poets across the country through a range of new programs and services despite the loss of four-year funding from the Australian Council of the Arts.

‘The BIG READ’ focuses the poets and audience on the poetry of the state or territory of the hosting writers’ festival and ‘Mysterious Ways’, on ‘the lifeblood of the poetry communities’: poets who not only write but sell, edit, teach, or publish. Both events formed part of the program at the Australian Poets Festival launch on 20 February at the Perth Writers’ Festival with ‘The BIG READ’, featuring different poets, also at Wordstorm: The Northern Territory Writers’ Festival on 7 May and ‘Mysterious Ways’ at the Sydney Writers’ Festival on 22 May.

While, the structure, theme and focus of ‘The BIG READ’ and ‘Mysterious Ways’, remains the same, the selection of poets at each changes as of the APF tours the significant writers’ festivals around Australia. Allowing for a diverse range of opinions, poetic style and experience to inform and engage audiences across Australia. The Australian Poets Festival has the potential to encourage a more inclusive as well as, expansive perception of Australian poetry. Australian Poetry’s new national program may well succeed in revitalising the community’s perception of poetry by showcasing a range of voices “in new and exciting ways” (Le Plastrier) which have the power to engage audiences directly, drawing it closer to the hearts and minds of the community, as a whole. At the sixteen writers’ festivals that the APF will take part in over the next few years, audiences are sure to get a sense of the strength and diversity of poetry and the poetry community within Australia.

While, the Sydney Writers’ Festival did not include ‘The BIG READ’ in its program, it embraced ‘Mysterious Ways: Poetry and Publishing’ as well as, the well-known, Sydney, experimental poetry event, ‘AVANT GAGA’ which was, according to Toby Fitch, “loads of fun.” AP CEO Jacinta Le Plastrier was proud and delighted at the turn out at both Australian Poets Festival events at the SWF. Jacinta Le Plastrier maintained that, “Australian poetry is flourishing and we want to showcase that in a way that is exciting and unexpected” with the Australian Poets Festival, the highlight of the Australian Poetry’s new national program.

Hosted by National Program Director, Toby Fitch, ‘AVANT GAGA’ featured ten poets, including, 2016, Kenneth Slessor Poetry Prize winner, joanne burns, alongside, the short listed, Lionel Fogarty, in a sold event with close to 140 in attendance, on Saturday, 21 May. ‘AVANT GAGA’ is not unique to the APF program but rather, comes from a successful, experimental poetry night hosted by Toby Fitch at Sappho Books which most definitely has been succeeding in showcasing poetry in exciting and unexpected ways. While, every event has a different line up, Sydney-siders that missed ‘AVANT GAGA’ at the SWF, can catch it at Sappho Books in the near future.

At the second APF poetry event at the SWF on Sunday, 22 May, ‘Mysterious Ways: Poetry and Publishing’, Kent MacCarter, Kate Lilley and Michelle Cahill each read a selection of their poetry and discussed the ways in which their work, editing Cordite, Southerly and Mascara respectively, and university teaching in the case of Kate Lilley, impacted or influenced the writing of their own poetry. Chair Ivor Indyk, founder of Giramondo Publishing, co-founder of Sydney Review of Books and university professor, carefully negotiated the poetry readings and discussion which under his guidance, intertwined naturally. Ivor Indyk informed the audience as to poets’ background, including their own publications, impressive awards and achievements as well as, those of the journals they edit, create and publish while all the time, gently steering the poets towards the positive connections between the two.

Editor and publisher of Mascara Literary Review, Michelle Cahill claimed that before working on projects which focused on contemporary Asian Australian and Indigenous writers, she had never really identified as writer from a particular background. Having the voices of so many people from different cultural backgrounds come across her desk as an editor was not only eye-opening but helped her reflect on personal notions of race and identity.

Poetry Editor of Southerly and Director of Creative Writing at the University of Sydney, Kate Lilley, is the author of two prize winning books, Versary and Ladylike, with another, Tilt forthcoming. Kate Lilley maintained that until, poems were published in a book, they remained unfinished, continually open to editing and rewriting. She claimed that through reading the poems she shared with the ‘Mysterious Ways’ audience, she hoped to give them a sense of finality.

Kate Lilley read the title poem of Tilt which is also part of the Red Room Company’s Disappearing app. that connects poetry to place. The poem describes her job at the old pinball parlour, Fonzie’s Fantasyland which used to be on Oxford Street, Darlinghurst. By the end of the poem, she knows she is leaving and on to another life. One, she informed the audience at SWF, she was much more suited to, that of academia. Another poem she chose to read, ‘GG’ from Realia, she felt reflected the interconnectedness between the research she undertook at university and the poems she wrote as a result. She also included, ‘Harms Way’, a poem inspired by her own engagement with the crisis of detention policy in this country.

An active member of Melbourne PEN, Creative Director of Cordite and author of three poetry collections, Kent MacCarter claimed that he would read four poems directly influenced by jobs he was working on at the time. However, his first poem, a combination of bricolage and journalism about the ‘incomputable persistence of life’ was ironically inspired by the hardest job of his life, being a father, and the survival stories of airplane crash victims, among others.

He maintained that while working at Cordite came at a great personal cost to his own writing, it gave him a unique position to see what was going on in the world. He also felt strongly that his varied work experience had exposed him to jargon and terms specific to those particular areas which, when taken out of context and used in poetry, had the capacity for wonderful word plays.

Interestingly, in response to an audience member who had seen the explosion of interest around English poet, Kate Tempest since her appearance on Q & A and her opening address at the SWF and wanted to know how poetry could engage that level of attention consistently and why it didn’t generally, Kate Lilley suggested that poetry was constantly engaging with enormous interest and support from the community particularly, in Australia. According to Kate Lilley, poetry was no longer just for the elite and this intense level of interest in poetry which she claimed to witnessed first-hand was happening around us all the time.

‘Mysterious Ways’ certainly addressed several issues surrounding poetry and the publishing industry from the perception of poets who form the ‘lifeblood of the community’ by not only writing and publishing their own but working in ways that make poetry possible for others. Along with ‘AVANT GAGA’, it gave a voice to a range of poets and lead to a successful Sydney premiere of the Australian Poets Festival.

However, National Program Director, Toby Fitch was quick to point out that there were a range of different events that he had been pitching to the literary festivals around the country. “There’s the BIG READ gala, there’s AVANT GAGA, which originated at the Poetry Night at Sappho Books I run monthly, and there’s Mysterious Ways, but there are other events too, and that will happen at festivals to come.”

While those APF poetry events are part of the programs of writers festivals to come, Toby Fitch announced that, “At Queensland Poetry Festival and at Melbourne Writers Festival, on consecutive weekends, along with the [other] events, I’ve also organised for something called ‘Transforming My Country (by Dorothea Mackellar)’, in which poets will read and discuss a poem they’ve written (say, a version, an experimental translation, a response, or a riposte) to that famous Australian poem about Australian identity.” According to Fitch, “The poets in the two iterations of this panel will reflect the diversity of poets at work in Australia.”

The poem now known as ‘My Country’ by Dorothea Mackellar compares England to Australia and was redrafted several times before its initial publication under its original title, ‘Core of My Heart’ in The Spectator, London, 1908.

Some may remember reciting, ‘My Country’, at school until, the words lost their meaning. Still others, may feel strongly that the intensely patriotic poem written by Mackellar at nineteen while homesick in London does not reflect the experience of the average Australian, let alone acknowledge the original landholders, nor the horrors of what was an incredibly recent history at the time the poem was written.

The title itself, ‘Transforming My Country’ suggests that the event allows members of the panel in both cities to reflect and transform through their response, not only the original poem but the concept of national and cultural identity. Through reading and then, discussing the poem they have written for the event, the poets will have the chance to engage the audience in questions of national identity, pride, history, heritage, and culture. As well as, reflecting on the concepts of place and community which are inherent in both the focus on the Australian landscape in the second two stanzas of Mackellar’s poem and the overall theme of belonging.

Given the significance of ‘My Country’ to questions of national identity in Australia, ‘Transforming My Country (by Dorothea Mackellar)’ has the potential to be a key poetry event in the Australian Poetry’s revitalised, national program and the Australian Poets Festival.

However, the APF program is not just about increasing the visibility and diversity of successful poets but also offers workshops, such as the up and coming, ‘Poetry of the Eye: The Visual Aspects of Poetry’ hosted by the Program Director Toby Fitch at the Emerging Writers’ Festival on Wednesday, 15 June at the Wheeler Centre, Melbourne. ‘Poetry of the Eye’ is part of the EWF’s ‘Writers’ Night School’. Workshop participants are encouraged to bring a poem or text written by themselves or another, to reshape after learning a brief history of concrete and visual poetry.

The APF is also showcasing other events and awards within Australian Poetry’s new national program. At the Australian Poets Festival launch at the Wheeler Centre on 20 February, Samuel Wagan Watson and his mentee, Caution read poetry, rapped and discussed the importance of Blak voices and the AP Blak mentor program at Blak & Bright, The Victorian Indigenous Literary Festival in Melbourne. Samuel Wagan Watson is one of the poets on the ‘Tune Your Poetry’ committee, an online poetry mentoring service run by Australian Poetry that aims to connect prospective mentees with mentors from the same state or background and identity if requested.

Another significant event in the APF program is the announcement of the winner of the Scanlon Prize at ‘SUNBURNT COUNTRY’, the APF event at the Melbourne Writers’ Festival on Friday, 2 September. The Scanlon Prize is a partnership between Australian Poetry and the First Nations Writers’ Network made possible by the Scanlon Foundation.

The Australian Poets Festival is certainly showcasing and increasing the visibility of Australian poetry at writers’ festivals around the country and hopefully will continue to do so with the help of the Copyright Agency Cultural Fund. The Copyright Agency contributes 1.5% of its annual income to development projects, such as the APF, that support the Australian publishing and visual arts industries, and have a broad cultural benefit. The program is truly diverse and national with the launch of the Australian Poetry mentoring service at Blak & Bright, ‘The BIG READ’ reconnecting poetry and place, ‘Mysterious Ways’ focusing on the strength of the poetry community, ‘Transforming My Country (by Dorothea Mackellar)’ on questions of national identity, AVANT GAGA on the playful and experimental side of poetry and ‘Poetry of the Eye’ on practical and informative advice on creating your own visual poem.

Given the significant impact of the funding cuts announced by the Australian Council of the Arts on Friday, 13 May to Australian Poetry, along with sixty-two other arts based organisations, one can only hope that people vote in favour of change and the return of adequate and stable funding to the Australian Council of the Arts.

Blak & Bright x Australian Poets Festival: Samuel Wagan Watson and Caution at the launch of the APF at the Wheeler Centre, Melbourne on 20 February 2016: Blak & Bright x Australian Poets Festival

-Zalehah Turner


Zalehah Turner is a Sydney based poet currently completing her Bachelor of Arts in Communications majoring in writing and cultural studies at the University of Technology, Sydney. Zalehah is an Associate Editor of Rochford Street Review:  https://rochfordstreetreview.com/2016/02/09/welcome-zalehah-turner-rochford-street-review-associate-editor/

The next Australian Poets Festival event is ‘Poetry of the Eye’, a workshop held by Toby Fitch at the Emerging Writers’ Festival at the Wheeler Centre, Melbourne on Wednesday, 15 June at 6:30pm. Tickets cost $35 and $30 for concession holders. ‘Writers’ Night School: Poetry of the Eye’: http://www.emergingwritersfestival.org.au/event/writers-night-school-poetry-eye/

Vale Gillian Mears

meares meanjin

Gillian Mears cracking stock whips against a Grafton storm, 2002. Photograph by Peter Mears. Published in Meanjin in 2012.

Gillian Mears died on Monday on her family’s property near Grafton. She had been suffering from multiple sclerosis for almost 20 years.  Her collection of short stories, Ride a Cock Horse (1988) and her novel The Grass Sister (1995) were both short listed for the Commonwealth Writers’ Prizes, and her novel The Mint Lawn won the Vogel Literary Award in 1990. In 2012, her first novel in 16 years, Foal’s Bread, was shortlisted for the Miles Franklin Award and won the fiction prize in the Prime Minister’s Literary Awards – it was also reviewed by Kate Pardey in Rochford Street Review Issue 3.

Mears has been remembered by many at the Sydney Writers’ Festival this week as a great and courageous writer.

“The real extent of Mears achievement is, as with all good books, only fully understood after the last page is read”.  Kate Pardey, Rochford Street Review.

Standing for Something – the raison d’etre of Julia Gillard: Linda Adair & Lucinda Adair-Roberts reflect on a conversation

The Sydney Writers’ Festival sometimes feels like an election campaign because, just as political parties these days seem to deliver their policy launches a week or so out from the election, there already appears to be a month’s worth of Festival events stretching through May even though Mohsin Hamid is not due to deliver the Opening Address until 19 May. It is probably fitting then that an ex-Prime Minister kicked off events on May Day 2015. Linda Adair and Lucinda Adair-Roberts look back on Julia Gillard’s conversation with Jamila Rizvi.

Julia Gillard SWF images Prudence Upton

Julia Gillard at the City Recital Hall – Photograph Prudence Upton Sydney Writers Festival

The wet weather and long cloakroom queue to check umbrellas could not dampen the enthusiasm of those assembling at the City Recital Hall Angel Place Sydney on Friday 1 May 2015 to hear Australia’s first female prime minister Julia Gillard converse with Jamila Rizvi. Editor in Chief of the Mamamia Women’s Network websites,  on the theme of “Standing for Something”. Director of the 2015 Sydney Writers’ Festival, Jemma Birrell presided as MC to this sold out ‘premier event’, to ‘pre-launch’ the festival which runs Monday 18 to Sunday 24 May 2015.

Through the conversational style that the interview took, and the scope for the audience to ask questions, one was left with a sense of knowing the author on a more personal and relaxed level. This appeared to stem from Gillard’s personal desire to show her more emotionally adept personality than she was unable to share with the public during her time as PM, due to the stigma associated with women in power showing too much emotion. We listened for one and half hours to her speak very genuinely on topics ranging from pop culture, to education, and gender, strength of purpose, ethics and the kind of world we want to shape. Without a tough and feisty interviewer in the style of Leigh Sales, Jamila guided a conversation among two friends with approximately 1000 “wannabe friends” appreciatively listening in. The audience clapped, and cheered and, at appropriate moments, laughed. Her keen sense of humour and incisive words cut through in a way that, with the exception of The Misogyny Speech on 9 October 2012, we rarely saw reported by the press.

The three warm-up questions related to the typical office kitchen chit chat of TV. The second was delightfully tongue in cheek. When Jamila asked: “Is working in Canberra more like:

  1. House of Cards,
  2. The West Wing
  3. The Hollow Men

Julia’s cheeky reply was that whilst she enjoyed House of Cards, she felt that the idea that someone with Frank Underwood’s public profile could to go down to a station, unobserved, and throw a journalist under the train, no matter how attractive the idea might be,  was  rather implausible! She said that The Hollow Men was fun but extreme, which meant that the West Wing, in the romantic Bartlett era, while portrayed by “impossibly good looking people”, best captured the sense of purpose that, for Julia’s money, should drive people to enter politics. She cited the character CJ’s work for Emily’s List prior to joining Jed Bartlett’s staff as an example, noting that Emily’s List is a real foundation which Labor supports in this country.

Whilst the three years and three days of Julia Gillard’s Prime Ministership was the locus of the conversation, it comprised a cool listing of achievements and at times a, refreshingly humble, critical self-awareness of political missteps such as the “real Julia” which she described as a “clumsy lunge at the reset button” in the face of the two contending narratives put forward by the media about Labor’s 2010 election campaign. Illogically, her government’s election campaign was simultaneously criticised by the media as being “too tightly scripted” and “out of control”.

Julia Gillard SWF images Prudence Upton 065

Julia Gillard in conversation with Jamila Rizvi – Photograph Prudence Upton, Sydney Writers Festival

Although the “F word” – Feminism – was not uttered by Julia until it came up in questions from the floor, it was implicit as when she said, as is foregrounded in My Story, that she was always aware that if she showed emotion in the role of the first female prime minister, she would labelled “psychologically fragile” and the threat was that all women in future would be left with that stigma. She declares in the first page of the book that even after losing the prime ministership “I was not going to let anyone conclude that a woman could not take it”. The definition of Feminism she prefers is one where roles are not constrained  according to stereotypical norms for either gender, because if women benefit from wider choices as to the paths they can follow, so do men. Her contention being that, given merit is based equally among the sexes, until there is equality of representation, with equal numbers of men and women in senior roles at all levels of society, we are selling our country short because, necessarily, we do not have the best people in important roles.

During the conversation Julia referred to the dichotomy of archetypes highlighted in 1975 by Anne Summer’s Damned Whores and God’s Police and how, in the media to this day, male leadership collocates with likeable whereas the same qualities for women will be recast as unlikeable; possibly because women leaders are in the minority. Gillard’s observation that with the same characteristics in a leader being interpreted through the prism of gender and gender stereotypes, there is an oppositional relation of a Likeable Male Leader to an Unlikeable Female Leader. This says much about the culture we live in and flags a debate that needs to be had.

Binary classification necessarily privileges the first “A” term at the expense of the second, “not A”, term which is characterised as the absence of,  or “Other” to,  the characteristics of the first term. This is central to the phallocentric logic that has sustained patriarchal institutions since Plato. As a contemporary to Julia, and the first person in a family to finish school and attend university, one of the co-authors of this piece stands in respectful awe of her achievement and applauds the resilience that allowed her to do extraordinary things in spite of formidable obstacles. The other co-author is of the generation that seeks to redress the imbalances. Together, we lament that Julia had to gain this awareness the hard way; empirically. Doubtless as she was working in a domain where women were the minority, with a work load so enormous, on issues so big that by comparison theoretical awareness seemed irrelevant, we consider such analysis and strategy is key to what positive change demands. Whereas Arts undergraduates studying feminist theory would likely be familiar with the structuralist critique discussed above, vocationally specific degrees such as law may not provide the chance for reading feminist theory and, as we know many parliamentarians have cut their teeth working in law. Volumes of theoretical analysis have interrogated the supposedly value-free, common-sense view of the world that privileges male identity and normalises it, but applying theory to developing some enabling practical strategies for the future would prevent a repeat of the negative labelling that hounded Julia Gillard’s tenure. It is a project for progressive men and women be they academics, parliamentarians, activists or simply fellow travellers to engage in, before our next female prime minister is elected only to face the same battles.

As the experience of our first female prime minister attests, it is through practice that things do change. However, best practice would be informed by theory and full of reflection and advice to educate and protect the next generation of women who willl strive to find a path to change the world so that they also look after their own wellbeing. Resilience of the sort that Juliaso doggedly demonstrated, needs to be more than a personal characteristic; it needs to be something that is embedded into the strategy and practices of feminist politics. Thus, devising, evaluating and creating an alternative paradigm for what goes by the label of political leadership is the other legacy of Julia Gillard’s prime ministership. Whilst she continues to work to make the world a better place, through her global and teaching roles, Julia has graciously left the political stage for those who follow in her wake. However, her book and this wonderful conversation provide valuable foundations for those seeking to build a framework for the next generation of politically engaged women, forewarning them of some of the pitfalls awaiting them public life, to stand for something positive for those without representation and lacking choices.


– Linda Adair and Lucinda Adair-Roberts

My Story by Julia Gillard, Randon House 2014, is available from  http://www.randomhouse.com.au/books/julia-gillard/my-story-9780857983992.aspx

Linda Adair is a Sydney based critic and an editor of Rochford Street Review.
Lucinda Adair-Roberts is studying at Macquarie University and is a Publishing Assistant on Rochford Street Review

The Sydney Writers’ Festival runs from 18 to 24 May (though there are a handful of events before the 18th). For more information and a detailed list of events go to http://www.swf.org.au/

Donate Ad2