A Question of Identity

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at Fairfax Studio, Arts Centre Melbourne

The Australian Moment: What Does it Mean to be Aussie Right Now?

Step into a time capsule and go back 20 years … Paul Keating is prime minister of Australia. The Twin Towers dominate New York’s skyline and September 11 is the date of a Chilean coup. Pauline Hanson is an anonymous redhead who works in a fish and chip shop and ‘multicultural’ is a relatively new buzzword. ‘Boat people’ sail yachts on Sydney Harbour.

Phil Kafcaloudes takes a panel of artists and decision-makers back to the Australia they knew then, and compares it to the one we know today. He’ll talk to comedian Aamer Rahman, playwright Hannie Rayson and Marylou Jelbart, artistic director of fortyfivedownstairs.

How has Australia changed over the Howard and Rudd years, and how much of that change was led by politicians? Has our art altered? Have we grown as a nation – or have we always been the same in our attitude to the world?

They’ll also look at the way multiculturalism has developed and changed in the past two decades – including our engagement with indigenous art, and with Islam.

Co-presented by the Melbourne Festival and the Wheeler Centre.


Portrait of Aamer Rahman

Aamer Rahman

Aamer Rahman is an Australian comedian whose work covers politics, race relations, and the War on Terror. He has performed sold-out shows at some of the world's largest festivals including the Melbourne International Comedy Festival and Edinburgh Fringe. 

Rahman's work has been covered by media outlets such as The Huffington Post, NBC, Slate, Colorlines, Afropunk, AlterNet, VICE and Essence Magazine.

Portrait of Phil Kafcaloudes

Phil Kafcaloudes

Phil Kafcaloudes is a writer, journalist and broadcaster who hosts an international breakfast show on the ABC’s Radio Australia network. He has been a radio and TV journalist, and has worked for the ABC in South Africa, Vietnam, Indonesia, Malaysia, Singapore, Papua New Guinea, and across the Pacific.

Portrait of Hannie Rayson

Hannie Rayson

Hannie Rayson is a playwright and screenwriter best known for Hotel Sorrento.

Portrait of Mary Lou Jelbart

Mary Lou Jelbart

Mary Lou Jelbart is a former program-maker, theatre and arts reviewer for ABC Radio National. She is the founder and artistic director of fortyfivedownstairs, a not-for-profit gallery and theatre in Melbourne’s CBD, which presents the work of independent visual artists, theatre companies and musicians.

A Question of Identity

What does it mean to be Australian today? Is being Australian important to the art we produce, or promote?

As Melbourne Festival brings the best of international art to Melbourne, this series of talks explores the nature of the Australia we present to the world. Are our iconic cultural notions and images relevant to the Australia we live in, and why are they buried deep in the bush, while most of us live clinging to the coastal fringe?

Over three nights we present panel discussions hosted by some of Melbourne finest cultural commentators, to explore our place in the world, investigate how Australian identity is shifting and discuss what it all means for the art we create. Join the conversation.


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