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From Indigenous oral traditions, to the paintings of Eugene Von Guerard, to the books of Ethel Turner – the Australian landscape has proved a powerful and enduring presence in our national storytelling. But parts of our vast and diverse landscape are changing. Do the sweeping plains and ragged mountain ranges beloved of Dorothea Mackellar still inspire Australians and inform our sense of nation?
Panellists Alexis Wright, Cate Kennedy and Adrian Hyland have written extensively – and to critical acclaim – about Australia beyond city limits. Between them, through fiction and non-fiction, they’ve explored the freezing Tasmanian wilderness, the tropical Gulf of Carpentaria and the bushfire-prone communities of regional Victoria.
We’ll ask them how urban sprawl, climate change, Indigenous affairs – even globalisation – affect the way Australian writers view and present the land today. Is the Australian landscape as powerful and evocative a character as ever? And, with such a diverse geography, does it even make sense to regard the land as a single literary subject?
Sophie Cunningham is the author of five books, the most recent of which is City of Trees: Essays on Life, Death & the Need for a Forest. She is a former publisher, former editor of Meanjin, former Chair of the Literature Board of the Australia Council and was a co-founder of The Stella Prize. She is an Adjunct Professor with RMIT's Non/fiction lab.
Alexis Wright is a member of the Waanyi nation of the Gulf of Carpentaria and the renowned author of the prize-winning novels Carpentaria and The Swan Book. Her most recent book, Tracker, was awarded the 2018 Stella Prize. She holds the Boisbouvier Chair in Australian Literature at the University of Melbourne.
Cate Kennedy is the author of the highly acclaimed novel The World Beneath, which won the People’s Choice Award in the NSW Premier’s Literary Awards in 2010. She is an award-winning short-story writer whose work has been published widely.
Adrian Hyland is the award-winning author of Diamond Dove, Gunshot Road and Kinglake-350,which was shortlisted for the Prime Minister's Literary Award for non-fiction in 2012. He lives in St Andrews, north-east of Melbourne, and teaches at La Trobe University.
A Week in the Country
Life in the country has a lot going for it. There’s the solitude, the scenery, the extra brain space available when your mind is not jammed with parking and public transport-related neuroses. Many of Australian literature’s best loved writers, from Henry Lawson to Miles Franklin to Colin Thiele, have taken life in the bush as their inspiration.
In a week of events with a special regional focus, we’ll get past the romance – and past the past – to focus on the realities of contemporary country Australia. We’ll find out from writers, regional leaders and political figures about what matters in regional areas, from infrastructure and innovation to creative expression, cattle exports and climate change. In the heart of the city, join us for some conversations about life in the regions.
Stream it from the regions
By popular demand, we're offering everybody the chance to contribute remotely to Question Time: Regional Focus. We'll stream the event live via Periscope (download the app to your Apple or Android phone or tablet), and relay some of your questions to the panel in Melbourne on your behalf. Follow @wheelercentre or keep an eye on our Twitter feed to see when it's getting started.