Treat yourself to The Festival of Questions – a series of thoughtful, quick-witted and exhilarating discussions that will change how you see the world. It’s one whole day of querying, questioning, wondering and asking why.
In four sessions across one day, we’ll bring together some of the sharpest and funniest thinkers we know. They’ll wrestle with the big questions facing Australia, and the world, today. Think: culture, class and climate; politics and punditry; philosophy and feminism. What are the issues that divide and unite us? Do terms like ‘right wing’ and ‘left wing’ still have meaning today? Is the world changing too fast, or not fast enough?
Join us for a day of storytelling, comedy, debate, discussion and ... possible disarray. We’ll open our minds and mind the whole world’s business. #festivalofQs
12pm–1.30pm – Questions for the Nation
What are the most important questions facing Australians – today and in the future?
At the first Festival of Questions session, we’ll scan the horizons, break deadlocked debates and dust off the issues rotting for too long at the bottom of the nation’s too-hard basket. And we’re bringing together some of the sharpest thinkers we know to help us do it.
Each of our speakers will present their ideas on the issues Australia needs to confront head-on. Then it’s over to you. Should there be a citizenship test to buy property in Australia? Should the public really have a say about ‘marriage equality’? Is compulsory voting bad for democracy? The Wheeler Centre has travelled the country asking these questions, and now it’s Melbourne’s turn.
As Australians, who do we want to be and how are we going to get there?
2.30pm–4pm – What is Right? What is Left?
The times, they are ... confusing. Trump and Brexit have shaken up traditional definitions of ‘left’ and ‘right’ in politics. In Australia, the extreme right wing embraces a protectionist platform in the figure of Pauline Hanson. What has happened to the old political spectrum?
At this essential debate, our speakers will put forward their ideas about the evolving political landscape in 2017, both in Australia and internationally. Dissecting hot-button topics from immigration to economic protectionism, they’ll argue for new political forces, formations and possibilities.
How will we define our obligations to ourselves and to each other in the future? What kind of leadership can emerge in a new political landscape, and where do we look for hope?
5pm–6.30pm – Philosophical Fight Club
Fight! Fight! Fight! Fight! Our diverse line-up of intellectual heavyweights will go to the mat and wrestle with some of the biggest, ugliest and toughest philosophical dilemmas facing Australians today.
Host Geoffrey Robertson will grill our panellists Socratic-style, posing questions on population growth, ethical consumption, global terrorism and more.
What role should the state play in family and intimate relationships? Should we keep reproducing when the planet is under strain? Join us for a session of scrutiny, speculation, supposition and squabbling as we delve into the spikiest moral problems of our time.
7.30pm–9pm – What the Hell? The Handmaid's Tale in 2017
This may not seem ordinary to you now, but after a time it will. It will become ordinary.
We’re concluding the Festival of Questions with an evening of readings, rantings, debate and discussion inspired by The Handmaid’s Tale. Why has Margaret Atwood’s uniquely disturbing vision of feminist dystopia struck such a chord in 2017?
Does the overwhelming response to the new TV Handmaid’s Tale series reflect a moment of unprecedented panic among feminists? Or are we waking up to our complacency?
At the Melbourne Town Hall, we'll pull apart and rebuild The Handmaid’s Tale with our panel of aunts, including Deborah Frances-White, Lauren Duca and Krissy Kneen. They’ll take us through key moments of the novel and discuss the TV series’ most poignant, powerful and hands-over-the-eyes-horrific scenes.
Join us for an exploration of the surreal, the sinister and the speculative in popular culture today. BYO white-winged bonnet and paranoid outlook.
All sessions of The Festival of Questions will be Auslan interpreted.
Presented in partnership with Melbourne Festival and the City of Melbourne.
Julian Burnside AO QC is an Australian barrister who specialises in commercial litigation and is also deeply involved in human rights work, in particular in relation to refugees.
Oslo Davis is an illustrator, cartoonist and artist who has drawn for a number of organisations worldwide, including the New York Times, the Age, theMonthly, Meanjin, SBS and the Guardian.
Geraldine Doogue is a highly accomplished Australian journalist and presenter whose career in print, television and radio includes Four Corners, the Australian, Life Matters, Compass and Saturday Extra.
Lauren Duca is an award-winning and -losing freelance journalist best known for her viral piece 'Donald Trump is Gaslighting America', and calling Tucker Carlson a 'partisan hack' on national television. In addition to working on her Thigh-High Politics column for Teen Vogue, Lauren's work can be found in/on New York magazine, the New Yorker, the New Inquiry, the Nation, Pacific Standard, Cosmopolitan and Complex, among other publications.
Gareth Evans is a writer, academic, lawyer and former cabinet minister.
He was a Cabinet Minister in the Hawke and Keating Governments for thirteen years, as Attorney General, Minister for Resources & Energy, Transport & Communications, and Foreign Affairs; Leader of the Government in the Senate for four years; and Deputy Leader of the Opposition in the House of Representative for three years. After 21 years in the Australian Parliament, he led the Brussels-based International Crisis Group from 2000-2009.
Deborah Frances-White is a stand-up comedian, corporate speaker, screenwriter and executive coach.
She was adopted at ten days old, raised in Australia, became a Jehovah’s Witness as a teenager, left her religion and family to go to London with a one-way ticket, has worked as an interpreter in both sign language and Japanese, read English at the University of Oxford, and has lived in a number of countries including America and Israel.
She founded the innovative improv company The Spontaneity Shop in 1997. She and her partner Tom Salinsky wrote The Improv Handbook, which was published in 2008. She is also a Chicago Improv Festival Artistic Associate.
As well as staging improvised comedy shows and teaching the principles of improvised comedy, The Spontaneity Shop is very active in the corporate arena, teaching advertising executives, bankers, lawyers, charity workers and many others how to give better presentations, network with ease, be more charismatic leaders or be more inspiring and creative. Deborah’s corporate work has tended to be as an executive coach, or delivering seminars to large groups.
Although she rarely improvises any more, Deborah can be seen regularly as a stand-up comedian at festivals and in theatre. Her signature show How To Get Almost Anyone To Want To Sleep With You has been seen at the Edinburgh Festival, at Latitude, and in Adelaide, Melbourne, New York, and at her regular monthly spot at London’s Leicester Square Theatre. Deborah has recently toured Deborah Frances-White Rolls the Dice live in theatres around the UK, and regularly performs stand-up comedy in the podcast The Guilty Feminist, which she hosts and created. She is also the host of comedy panel show podcast Global Pillage.
Rebecca Huntley is one of Australia's most respected researchers on social and consumer trends, and head of research at Essential Media. She is the author of Still Lucky: Why You Should Feel Optimistic About Australia and Its People.
Krissy Kneen is the author of Swallow the Sound, a collection of short erotic fiction; Affection, an erotic memoir; Triptych, an erotic adventure; and Steeplechase.
She has had short fiction and non-fiction published at nerve.com, in Best Women’s Erotica 2013, Griffith Review and Island Magazine, Archer, the Lifted Brow and the Great Unknown. She has written and directed short films and television documentaries.
Anna Krien is the author of Night Games: Sex, Power and Sport, published by Black Inc. Anna’s first book, Into the Woods: The Battle for Tasmania’s Forests, won the Queensland Premier’s Literary Award for Non-Fiction and the Victorian Premier’s People’s Choice Award.
Kenan Malik is a writer, lecturer and broadcaster. He is a presenter of Analysis on BBC Radio 4, and a panellist on The Moral Maze. He has taught at universities in Britain, Europe, Australia and the USA, presented many TV documentaries and writes regularly for newspapers across the world including the New York Times, the Guardian, Göteborgs-Posten and the Australian. His books include The Meaning of Race, Man, Beast and Zombie, Strange Fruit: Why Both Sides are Wrong in the Race Debate and The Quest for a Moral Compass.
Amy McQuire is a Darumbal and South Sea Islander woman from Rockhampton in central Queensland. She has been the editor of the National Indigenous Times and Tracker magazine, was a former NITV National News political correspondent and journalist and producer for 98.9 FM in Brisbane. Recently Amy worked at the online independent magazine New Matilda, where she still contributes occasionally, writing predominately on Aboriginal affairs. Currently Amy is the Indigenous Affairs Reporter at Buzzfeed Australia and co-host of an investigative podcast called 'Curtain', centred around the wrongful conviction of an Aboriginal man who has been locked up for 26 years.
George Megalogenis is an author and journalist with three decades' experience in the media. His books include The Australian Moment, which won the 2013 Prime Minister's Literary Award for Non-fiction and the 2012 Walkley Award for Non-fiction, and formed the basis for the ABC documentary series Making Australia Great. George is also the author of Faultlines, The Longest Decade, Quarterly Essay 40: Trivial Pursuit – Leadership and the End of the Reform Era, Australia’s Second Chance and Quarterly Essay 61: Balancing Act: Australia Between Recession and Renewal.
Shireen Morris is a lawyer, senior policy adviser and constitutional reform research fellow at Cape York Institute, Noel Pearson’s constitutional recognition adviser, and co-editor of The Forgotten People: liberal and conservative approaches to recognising indigenous peoples (MUP, 2016).
Shen Narayanasamy is GetUp!'s Human Rights Campaign Director. She founded the No Business in Abuse project, targeting corporate involvement in offshore detention of asylum seekers, and led #LetThemStay, which prevented the deportation of hundreds of asylum seekers to Nauru.
Recently, she led GetUp's response to the Federal Government's attempts to change the Racial Discrimination Act, and ongoing attempts to change citizenship requirements. Shen's background is as a human rights lawyer and advocate, working in Australia and across the Asia Pacific on issues of economic justice and land rights.
Jordan is a world class comedian, actor, singer and digital content creator. She is best know for her work as the front woman for comedy rock band The Axis of Awesome.
Jordan has written about transgender issues and spoken about her personal experience for numerous publications and media programs, including The Project, Archer Magazine and JUNKEE, and is an outspoken voice for trans rights and representation. She has become an inspiration to young LGBTQIA+ people by living her genuine life, openly and publicly, and being an outspoken campaigner for progress and understanding.
Helen Razer was a broadcaster and is now a writer. She has written on social and political matters for the Age and the Australian. She now contributes news and cultural analysis to Crikey, the Saturday Paper, the Daily Review, SBS Online and Atlantic digital publication, Quartz.
Over the past five years, Jamila Rizvi has firmly established herself as an eminent voice of young Australian women online. She is a columnist for News Limited, a presenter for Fox FM and a regular television commentator for shows including The Project and The Drum.
Jamila is the former Editor-in-Chief of the Mamamia Women’s Network websites. Prior to entering the media, Jamila worked in politics for former Prime Minister Kevin Rudd and Minister Kate Ellis. In 2014 she was named one of Cosmopolitan’s 30 Most Successful Women Under 30; in 2015, she was listed as one of Australia’s 100 Women of Influence by the Australian Financial Review and in 2017 was named one of Melbourne’s Most Influential Women Under 40 by the Weekly Review.
Jamila lives in Melbourne with her husband and an impossible toddler. Not Just Lucky is her debut book.
Geoffrey Robertson QC is founder and head of the world’s largest human rights practice, in London. He has prosecuted Hastings Banda, defended Julian Assange and acted for Human Rights Watch in the proceedings against General Pinochet.
Sally Warhaft is a Melbourne broadcaster, anthropologist and writer and the host of the Wheeler Centre’s live journalism series, the Fifth Estate, now in its sixth year. She is a former editor of the Monthly magazine and the author of the bestselling book Well May We Say: The Speeches that Made Australia.
Tim Wilson is the Member for Goldstein. He was first elected in 2016 and achieved the strongest result in the Goldstein’s history for the Liberal Party. As a proud liberal he is committed to economic and social freedom, underpinned by the preservation of our culture and institutions.
He formerly served as Australia’s Human Rights Commissioner. In that role he worked with the government to reform laws to stop and prevent terrorism, improving economic opportunities for indigenous Australians as well as standing up for laws to protect free speech and stop marginalised communities from public harassment.
Damon Young is a prize-winning philosopher and writer. He is the author of ten books in English and translation, including The Art of Reading, How to Think About Exercise, Philosophy in the Garden and Distraction. Young is also the author of several popular children’s books, including My Brother is a Beast and My Sister is a Superhero.
$60 full day pass. Individual sessions at $20 each will open for bookings from Monday 4 September.Book your tickets
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