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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?

The answers to these questions depend on who you ask. Facilitator Madeleine Morris will be joined by 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 will take place at Arts House on the set of Brennan’s work, The Chat, a theatre performance created by artists and ex-offenders. We’ll also 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.

Themes of crime and punishment have preoccupied Australians since 1788. Join us for a vigorous discussion of deeds and deserts.

Presented in partnership with Arts House.


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 ... Read more

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 ... Read more

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 advo... Read more

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 an... Read more

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 h... Read more

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 ... Read more


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521 Queensberry St, North Melbourne VIC 3051

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The Wheeler Centre acknowledges the Wurundjeri Woi Wurrung people of the Kulin Nation as the Traditional Owners of the land on which the Centre stands. We acknowledge and pay our respects to all Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples and their Elders, past and present, as the custodians of the world’s oldest continuous living culture.