Illustration by Sophie Beer

Illustration: Sophie Beer

Hush. It's a moody, evocative word. It's a word we hear more often in verse than in regular speech. It was the name of an Australian Seventies glam-rock band. It's the name of a fruity eau de toilette. And it's the name of the first edition of the Wheeler Centre's relaunched Notes.

With ‘Hush’, we're bringing you writing on stifled sound, shushed shouts and stealth work. Stuart Kells considers noise and silence in the history of public libraries, Zoe Norton Lodge swallows her screams and Santilla Chingaipe reflects on a deferred national discussion. And in the first of a new series of anonymous interviews, a private investigator reflects on a career of sneaky secret surveillance.


Illustration by Sophie Beer

Illustration: Sophie Beer

At the 2018 World Cup, English striker Dele Alli has been wearing the same 'lucky' shin pads he first wore as an 11-year-old. Serena Williams wears the same pair of socks from the beginning to the end of any Grand Slam tournament. Brazilian martial artist Lyoto Machida drinks his own urine to get an edge on his rivals.

For some people, the drive to win, to be the best, inspires some strange behaviour. Why do some of us crave victory more than others? What does it mean to win, and what happens when we shift the goalposts?

In 'Win', Jane Howard considers changing definitions of fairness in the world of elite sport. Alex McClintock reflects on the psychological manipulation of pokie machines, and Shannon Hick shares a tale of McDonald's workers on their own Olympic journey. And an anonymous reality TV casting producer divulges techniques for finding the perfect heroes and villains.


Texta-style illustration of packing boxes, lipstick, a house, tie, a hand holding money, a 'sold' sign, a suitcase covered in stickers, a high-heeled shoe, a key, a staircase and the word 'sell'

For this edition of Notes, we're taking our cue from a word that carries no small degree of ambivalence: sell.

Think hustling, hawking, peddling and trading. What is it to sell up or sell out? What do you lose – or gain – when you sell your soul, your youth, your image, your ... stuff? How are we thrilled and tainted by the prospect of big and small sales?

In 'Sell', Masako Fukui reflects on the first Japanese women who came to Australia in the 19th Century, 'selling spring'. Scott Limbrick asks what happened to the stigma of selling out. Michele Lee contemplates the link between big sales and life milestones. And we meet an anonymous big-bank financial adviser who quit his job amid the crushing sales culture.


Illustration of a magician in a top hat and mask pretending to remove their thumb, with the word 'Trick' over the top

Illustration: Lachlan Conn

Hat tricks, bags of tricks, missing tricks, turning tricks. Stuffed sleeves, old dogs, modestly skilled ponies – our idiom is riddled with tricks.

A trick can be a hoax or a gimmick, or it can be an act of conjuring or contortion. It's a word that deals in duplicity and fraud. But it also signifies dexterity, ingenuity and finesse!

For this bumper edition of Notes, we've summoned writing about many forms of secret skill and trickery. Ivy Shih explores the surprising scientific afterlife of the Tasmanian tiger. Isabella Trimboli reflects on the utility of useless life hacks. Chris Somerville frets over his doppelgänger. Angelina Hurley testifies to real and unreal family miracles. And an anonymous tech guy tells us what happens backstage at illusion and circus shows.

Plus, there's more on scams, stunts, hacks, marvels, miracles, superstition, cheating and double-dealing from our archives.


Illustration of the letters F-U-L-L amongst a pile of rocks, pipes and other detritus

Illustration: Lachlan Conn

We're at capacity with this edition of Notes; bringing you a whole lot of writing on the theme of Full. What’s plenty? What’s the maximum? What’s enough? How, and when, do we stop?

The pieces in this edition explore ideas of stuffing and cramming – our bodies, our bins and even our sentences. We're reflecting, too, on filling in the gaps – on taking in nuance and detail beyond vacant first impressions. Also: bugs. We're eating bugs.

Eloise Grills considers the joys and horrors of over-eating; André Dao gains a richer understanding of new landscapes; Catie McLeod investigates the growing entomophagy (insect-eating) movement; Alistair Baldwin remembers his first job as a keyword-cramming copywriter, and an anonymous recycling collector begs us not to overstuff our bins.

Plus, more from our archive on questions of supply and saturation: from housing markets and the gig economy to storytelling journalism and literary feasts.


Animated illustration of the word 'Clean' gleaming in block letters over a shifting cloudscape, through bubbles

Illustration: Lachlan Conn

These days, it's unusual to hear the phrase 'cleanliness is next to godliness' spoken without a degree of irony. But the word 'clean' is still linked to ideas of virtue and even of utopia. Perhaps now more than ever, in fact, with rising interest in ‘clean living’ and ‘clean eating’.

In this edition of Notes, we delve into themes of purity and sterility. We'll look at the flipside, too: contamination, pollution and disorder. James Colley tries to launder his conscience; Zoya Patel describes a messy break-up with religion; Alice Gorman sweeps at cosmic dust and CB Mako enters an eerie, ultra-sterile isolation ward in the Royal Children's Hospital. And what stories can stains tell? Clem Bastow asks a vintage clothing restoration expert.


Illustration of three people looking into one hand mirror, held by the person at the centre, who has no facial features.

Illustration: Carla McRae

The faces of early hominids were like stiff masks; they didn't have much variation or mobility at all. Over millions of years, our faces have evolved to become smaller and narrower – and to become enormously varied from one person to the next. Scientists think being readily identifiable and recognisable has helped us to thrive as a species.

But if the pieces in this edition of Notes are any indication, there’s quite a bit of anxiety about the connection between faces and personal identity at this stage in human evolution. Do our faces belong to us – or do we belong to our faces?

In this edition of Notes, Connor Tomas O'Brien delves into surveillance and facial recognition technology, Georgia Rose Phillips explores the short history of experimental face transplants, and Tiffany Tsao imagines a profitable face-swap. Through a series of loosely-connected observations, Rachel Ang's graphic essay takes the face as a site of recognition and transaction. And an anonymous TV hair-and-makeup artist reveals behind-the-scenes secrets.


Collage of three hands over a coloured background pointing to or holding squares containing different numbers of circles

Art: Kate Banazi

For this edition, our theme is Order.

It’s a word that brings to mind structure, organisation, command or subjugation. It’s both a state of being and a method of containment. Think: the natural order, alphabetical order, out of order. It’s a title, descriptor, an alternative. A holy order, a tall order, or law and order? It can be a direction, or a request. Get your house in order. Take your marching orders. The machine is out of order; should we order in? Order implies a set of values, to be followed or to be broken.

With ‘Order’, we're bringing you a special audio edition of Notes featuring layers of history, food and recollection.

Maddi Miller delves into the hidden stratigraphy of Melbourne, Nicole Pingon explores memory and sonic imagination, in relation to Yum Cha, and Karishma Luthria reflects on moments, travel and the fluidity of ‘home’.

The Di Gribble Argument 2021

The climate change discussion has been deadlocked in this country for decades. So for this year’s Di Gribble Argument, we’re not presenting a debate — instead, we’re proposing the radical act of listening. Three essays by Bruce Pascoe (author of Dark Emu), Victor Steffensen (author of Fire Country) and Teila Watson (aka Ancestress) offer three different generational perspectives on climate management and caring for Country. Each writer will speak from a body of knowledge that has beensilenced since invasion. First Nations responses to 2020’s bushfires and the pandemic offer yet more opportunities to reimagine how we rebuild in a radically different time, but are our political leaders smart enough to listen? 

On Sunday 28 March 2021, a full day of events was held at the Malthouse Outdoor Stage featuring a broad range of First Nations speakers discussing and reflecting on the ideas raised in the three essays. Through panels, performance and music, the events and essays encourage multi-generational public dialogue that empowers individuals to engage with environmental action.