Secretive, star-studded and litigious – the Church of Scientology holds a risky, irresistible allure for a certain kind of investigative journalist.
There’s been some excellent reporting on Scientology in recent years, including documentaries from Alex Gibney (Going Clear) and Louis Theroux (My Scientology Story). Now, Walkley Award-winning journalist Steve Cannane digs deeper into the local activities of the religion with his new book, Fair Game.
Scientology and Australia have had a strange, troublesome history. In 1963, the world’s first official government inquiry into Scientology was held here, and the state of Victoria subsequently (and briefly) became the first place in the world where the religion was banned.
At the Wheeler Centre, Cannane’s focus will be the church’s more recent history in Australia. He’ll discuss the writing and research of Fair Game and his fascinating findings on the church’s recruitment of James Packer, its dispute with Julian Assange and its role in exposing abuses in Australian psychiatric facilities. He’ll also address some broader questions about Scientology. Is the myth of Xenu any wackier than that of the virgin birth? How much does prejudice play into media discussions of the religion? And why are non-believers so fascinated by Scientology?
Sophie Black is head of special projects at the Wheeler Centre where she has worked on projects such as the writers scheme The Next Chapter, the podcast mentoring scheme Signal Boost, the multi-award-winning podcast, The Messenger, and the ABC RN program, Talkfest.
Previously she was editor-in-chief at Private Media and she is the former editor of Crikey. She has delivered the Adelaide Festival of Ideas as Director, sits on the advisory board for Melbourne University’s Centre for Advancing Journalism and is co-chair of the human rights publication Right Now.
Steve Cannane is a senior reporter and occasional presenter for Lateline. He also shares hosting duties of The Drum. Steve has worked as a reporter, producer and presenter for ABC TV and radio. He was the founding presenter of Triple J's current affairs program Hack. In 2006 he won a Walkley Award for Broadcast Interviewing. In 2008 Steve presented The Hack Half Hour on ABC2 and in 2009 he fronted the ABC documentary series Whatever - The Science of Teenage. Steve’s book, First Tests: Great Australian Cricketers and the Backyards That Made Them was published in 2009. You can follow him on Twitter at: @SteveCannane