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Crime and Punishment

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‘The question is, am I a monster, or am I myself a victim? And what if I am a victim?’ One hundred and fifty years since Dostoevsky’s masterpiece, Crime and Punishment, we’ll be talking about our enduring obsessions with transgression, retribution and justice. What purpose does punishment play in society? Is punishment good for you? And what is the connection between punishment, justice, catharsis and redemption?

'Rehabilitation. What the hell is that?'

Arthur, a cast member from The Chat

The answers to these questions depend on who you ask. Facilitator Madeleine Morris speaks with former Pentridge Prison chaplain Peter Norden, female inmate advocate Debbie Kilroy, actor Uncle Jack Charles, Susan Shepherd, a former dominatrix with a lived experience of prison, and theatre maker J.R. Brennan.

This Insight-style forum took place at Arts House on the set of Brennan’s work, The Chat, a theatre performance created by artists and ex-offenders. We hear from a range of other guests who are invested in these issues – from criminologists to ex-offenders, from the law makers to the law breakers.

Host Madeleine Morris

Host Madeleine Morris opens the discussion — Photo: Johnboy Davidson

Presented in partnership with Arts House.


Portrait of Madeleine Morris

Madeleine Morris

Madeleine Morris is a Melbourne-based reporter for ABC television’s 7.30. She was formerly a presenter for the BBC in London and reported from dozens of countries before returning to her native Australia. She is the author of Guilt-Free Bottle-Feeding: Why Your Formula-Fed Baby Can Grow Up To Be Happy, Healthy and Smart, published by Finch. 

Portrait of Peter Norden

Peter Norden

Peter Norden is an adjunct professor at RMIT, and former Catholic chaplain at Pentridge. In 2009, Peter left the priesthood and the church. After decades of service, he no longer identified with the institutional Catholic Church.

He was a vocal critic of the prison system and a strong advocate for prison reform. He worked to expose the oppression that led to the 1987 Jika Jika fire that killed five prisoners, and was required to identify their bodies. Today, he continues his advocacy of criminal and social-justice reform.

Portrait of Debbie Kilroy

Debbie Kilroy

Debbie Kilroy was imprisoned for drug trafficking in 1989 for six years. She was stabbed and witnessed the only murder inside an Australian women's prison, and lost almost everything: her marriage, her home and her children. After her release in 1992, Debbie established Sisters Inside to advocate for the rights of women and girls in prison.

Portrait of Jack Charles

Jack Charles

Jack Charles is an actor, musician, potter, Koori elder and national treasure.

After Bastardy, a biographical documentary about Jack, was released in 2008, he rediscovered family members, and is now a respected elder of the Boon Wurrung clan and one of Australia's foremost Indigenous stage and film actors.

As a member of the Archie Roach Foundation’s Council of Elders, Jack has taken his place as a Kadaitcha man — a traditional lawman — and works to help Indigenous prisoners see a better life beyond jail. 

Portrait of Susan Shepherd

Susan Shepherd

With around 25 years experience working as a Dominatrix, Susan Shepherd is currently mid-way through a Degree in Literature as well as writing a book that is part memoir and part social commentary with an explicit focus on de-glamorising and demystifying the sex industry. Susan has been involved in the anti-trafficking community in Melbourne through Project Respect, and is an avid prison activist.

Portrait of J.R. Brennan

J.R. Brennan

J.R. Brennan is a performer, creative producer/director and composer. He has worked in Australia, Brazil, USA, UK, Germany and Poland, producing original works in theatre, music and contemporary performance.

In recent years his work has interrogated the nature of criminality and virtue side by side, drawing on his own autoethnographic research, collected and observed in his role as a parole officer with NSW Corrective Services and his experimental theatre practice in Europe and Australia.

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