Michael Williams steps down as director of the Wheeler Centre

After ten years with the Wheeler Centre, director Michael Williams will be leaving the organisation to take on his next challenge. 

Photograph of Michael Williams

Over the period of his leadership, the Wheeler Centre has cemented its place in the hearts and minds of Victorians and has attracted a global audience through podcasts, broadcasts and digital media, and its more than 200 events a year. In 2008, Melbourne was designated a UNESCO City of Literature and the Centre of Books, Writing and Ideas was established; a vibrant new hub for a diverse range of literary and ideas-based organisations and activities.

Michael has been a driving force at the centre from the very beginning. He began as head of programming in 2009 and became director from September 2011. Michael’s commitment to raising public conversation to an art form and placing it at the heart of civic engagement has seen the Wheeler Centre earn a reputation for programming excellence and creativity. The Wheeler Centre model is unique and its year-round programme is the envy of readers and writers in other cities and states – across Australia and beyond.

Michael is held in the highest regard for his dynamic leadership and engaging style and for the significant new concepts he took from ideas to reality. During Michael’s tenure as director, the Wheeler Centre began producing and publishing new podcasts, including Better Off Dead and the award-winning series, The Messenger. With the Aesop Foundation, in 2018, Michael devised and launched The Next Chapter, an innovative national writers’ scheme that elevates marginalised and diverse voices. Michael also devised and hosted Talkfest on ABC Radio National and oversaw the launch of the Wheeler Centre’s new feminist ideas festival, Broadside, late last year.

Over ten extraordinary years, he has been instrumental in the programming of high-profile international and local speakers including George Saunders, Colson Whitehead, Annie Proulx, George R. R. Martin, Fran Lebowitz, the late John Clarke, Ira Glass, Art Spiegelman, the late Terry Pratchett, Zadie Smith, Helen Garner, Jia Tolentino and countless others.


Michael Williams said: ‘Being part of establishing, defining and shaping the Wheeler Centre over ten years, with some of the most extraordinary thinkers and professionals I’ve ever worked with, has been a singular privilege and a dream. The Wheeler Centre is truly unique, and I couldn’t be prouder of what we’ve achieved in the decade of its life. I’m ready and excited for my next challenges, and will be in the front row as a Wheeler Centre devotee thrilled to see where it goes in its next ten years.’

Minister for Creative Industries Martin Foley said: 'Over the past decade, the Wheeler Centre has grown from a great idea to a globally renowned organisation – a go-to for local and international thinkers and a platform for new and diverse voices. Michael Williams has shaped and driven this vision from the very start and I acknowledge his incredible contribution to the centre, to our City of Literature and to public discourse here in our creative state.'

Wheeler Centre Chair Susan Oliver AM said: ‘The Wheeler Centre Board extends its thanks to Michael for all his efforts and contributions. He has been a progressive thought leader and has built a team of loyal and talented staff. We look forward to launching the next ten years bringing life to conversation, challenging ideas, and supporting great writers, and our book industry in Australia.’

An executive search is underway to secure the new director for the Wheeler Centre.

Michael’s resignation will take effect on 31 March 2020.