The Australian Security Intelligence Organisation (ASIO) was established in 1949, ostensibly to protect the country from spies, saboteurs and subversives within society who were deemed a danger to the nation’s security. Over the next few decades, records were collected on a number of writers and prominent public figures.
In a juicy twist to this story of secrets and surveillance, many of those files are now freely accessible, providing fascinating, worrying (and in some cases highly entertaining) reading for those profiled. We’ll gather several of these persons of interest in one room, as Anne Summers, Gary Foley, Meredith Burgmann and Michael Kirby take to the stage with their newly released ASIO files open and ready to share.
Activists, agitators and troublemakers all, our guests reveal their dirty secrets, gleaned in the days before social media, blogs and even videotape had been invented. This peek behind the curtain of Australian surveillance is sure to lend insight into what was considered subversive, who was watching whom, and whether any of it was true (or worthwhile) at all.
Gary Foley is an Australian Aboriginal Gumbainggir activist, academic, writer and actor. He is best known for his role in establishing the Aboriginal Tent Embassy in Canberra in 1972 and for establishing an Aboriginal Legal Service in Redfern in the 1970s. He is currently a Professor of History at Victoria University.
Michael Kirby is one of Australia’s most admired public figures. When he retired from the High Court of Australia in February 2009, Kirby was Australia’s longest serving judge.
Meredith Burgmann became radicalised at Sydney University in the sixties, when her ASIO file began. She was an academic at Macquarie University for 18 years, becoming president of the Academics Union. She was elected as a Labor MP and later president of the NSW Legislative Council.
Dr Anne Summers AO is a best-selling author, journalist and thought-leader with a long career in politics, the media, business and the non-government sector in Australia, Europe and the United States. She is author of nine books, including the classic Damned Whores and God's Police, Ducks on the Pond, The Lost Mother, and The Misogyny Factor.