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The Wheeler Centre Gala 2018: Words on Fire

We’re probing a blazing, hot topic at the 2018 Wheeler Centre Gala Night of Storytelling: the power of the written word and the loaded tenets of speech.  

When do words inspire and when do they incite? When is speech free, and when is it hateful? Fighting words, funny words, insulting words and incendiary words – for better or for worse, language moves us and it matters.

For our first event of the 2018 Wheeler Centre programme, we’re bringing together 10 superb speakers to reflect on the words that have changed their lives. They’ll share captivating insights from the great writers and orators. And they’ll reflect on enraging – even endangering – insults from the bullies, the provocateurs and the well-meaning, but not well-informed.

Jump with us out of the frying pan and into the fire for a combustible evening of storytelling. #WordsOnFire

This event will be Auslan interpreted.

Readings will be our bookseller for this event.


Portrait of Tony Birch

Tony Birch

Tony Birch is the author of Ghost River, which won the 2016 Victorian Premier’s Literary Award for Indigenous Writing, and Blood, which was shortlisted for the Miles Franklin Award. He is also the author of Shadowboxing, and three short story collections – Father’s Day, The Promise and Common People.

Tony is a frequent contributor to ABC local and national radio, and a regular guest at writers’ festivals. He lives in Melbourne and is a Senior Research Fellow at Victoria University.

Portrait of Rosie Waterland

Rosie Waterland

Rosie Waterland is a Sydney-based author, columnist and screenwriter. Her first novel, The Anti-Cool Girl, published through HarperCollins in 2015, won the ABIA People’s Choice Matt Richell Award for New Writer of the Year, and was recently shortlisted for the Russell Prize for Humour Writing.

Portrait of Leah Purcell

Leah Purcell

Leah Purcell is an internationally acclaimed director, writer and actor.

Portrait of Omar Musa

Omar Musa

Omar Musa is a Malaysian-Australian rapper and poet from Queanbeyan, Australia. He is the former winner of the Australian Poetry Slam and the Indian Ocean Poetry Slam. His first book is Here Come the Dogs.

Portrait of Moira Finucane

Moira Finucane

Moira Finucane is a writer, director, performer and creator of volcanic and magic realist worlds … legendary salons, literary variety and intimate theatrical spectacles, internationally renowned for her arresting mix of provocation and entertainment.

Portrait of Sally Warhaft

Sally Warhaft

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.

Portrait of Patricia Cornelius

Patricia Cornelius

Patricia Cornelius is a founding member of Melbourne Workers Theatre. She’s a playwright, novelist and film writer.

Portrait of Carly Findlay

Carly Findlay

Carly Findlay is a blogger, writer, speaker and appearance activist. She challenges people's thinking about what it's like to have a visibly different appearance.  She has a loyal and ever-growing national and international audience, having written for SBS, the Guardian, Daily Life, the ABC, Mamamia, Frankie magazine, BlogHer and more. She has also contributed to Rebecca Sparrow's book Ask Me Anything and Tara Moss's book Speaking Out.

Portrait of Rachael Maza

Rachael Maza

Rachael Maza is one of Australia’s most recognisable faces of the Australian film, television and theatre industry with performance credits including the Australian Film Institute (AFI) award-winning Radiance and the stage production of The Sapphires.

Portrait of Nevo Zisin

Nevo Zisin

Nevo Zisin is a 20-year-old activist, student, writer and public speaker with a particular focus on issues surrounding gender, sex and sexuality.

Assigned female at birth, Nevo has had a complex relationship with gender, transitioning as male, undergoing different medical interventions and now identifying outside of a female/male gender binary.

They work particularly with children as a youth leader and through running programs and workshops in schools. They are also a contact point in the Jewish community for other children and families confronting issues of gender and sexuality in their own lives. Finding Nevo is their first book.

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