The Wheeler Centre
Rachel Kushner: The Mars Room
Ellena Savage and Rachel Kushner on stage — Photo: Scott Limbrick
‘This is a story that gets to the root of how my society is structured right now … There’s a way that prison is invisible to a middle-class person. It’s not a conspiracy, but it may be by design in certain regards. It’s a serious subject for a novelist.’
Rachel Kushner is among America’s brightest literary stars. With her previous, highly acclaimed novels, Telex from Cuba (about American expatriates in 1950s pre-Castro Cuba) and The Flamethrowers (about radical New York artists in the seventies), she explored two very different scenes of ideological chaos and confusion, with exhilarating prose and virtuosic storytelling.
Kushner's latest novel, The Mars Room, sees her applying her talents, once again, to probing the political context and meaning of a very specific time and place. This time, it’s the American prison system, and it's the present day. The Mars Room is about a woman serving two life sentences for killing her stalker and it’s the product of years of research, and close collaboration with Americans who have themselves served time.
In conversation with Ellena Savage for our Mayhem series in April 2019, the extraordinary Kushner talks crime, punishment and American institutions.
The Wheeler Centre
We Are Here: Stories of Home, Place and Belonging
Homelessness can take many guises – sleeping rough, yes, but also couch-surfing, squatting, or staying in a refuge, boarding house or caravan park. The same can be said of the people who experience homelessness. Not defined simply by their predicament, they’re a diverse group. They may be siblings, parents, grandparents; people who study or work; people who’ve moved or migrated, yet to find their feet. People with full lives, and much to offer.
A new profit-for-purpose book from Affirm Press, We Are Here: Stories of Home, Place and Belonging, is a testament to the unique insights of people who’ve known homelessness in Australia. Edited by novelist, homelessness researcher and former Big Issue deputy editor Meg Mundell, it offers a bounty of extraordinary true stories from a wide range of writers – prominent names, emerging voices and first-timers – who have themselves experienced homelessness. Behrouz Boochani, Krissy Kneen and Claire G. Coleman appear alongside undiscovered talents, exploring the idea of place – and how our sense of it changes when homeless.
Hosted by Mundell, and presented in partnership with Writers Victoria, hear from contributors Claire G. Coleman, Roderick Waller, Ayub Abdi-Barre and Jody Letts about their stories, their places and their writing. Hear readings from the book – and learn about the process of putting it together – at this celebration of survival, place and belonging.
'It’d be near-impossible to read this rich and humane mosaic of stories and not have how you conceive of homelessness completely reframed. A beautiful testament to survival, resilience and hope.' – Benjamin Law
Prefer to watch? Catch up on our live-streamed video below. Includes Auslan interpretation.We Are Here: Stories of Home, Place and Belonging Watch
The Wheeler Centre
Writing in Exile: PEN International Day of the Imprisoned Writer
Sami Shah, Samah Sabawi, Mammad Aidani and Roza Germian at the Wheeler Centre
Writers and journalists are often among the first citizens targeted and punished by autocratic leaders. With creeping authoritarianism and instability in many regions around the world, it's an increasingly dangerous time for writers of all kinds.
On the eve of PEN International's Day of the Imprisoned Writer, we held a special panel event as part of our Writers in Exile series to discuss old and emerging threats to literary freedoms today.
Host Sami Shah welcomed back the three writers who have shared their personal stories of exile – journalist Roza Germian, playwright Samah Sabawi and playwright and poet Mammad Aidani – for the last conversation in the series. They discuss their own experiences and their knowledge of press and literary restriction in their respective home countries – as well as the role Australia can and should play on the international stage with regards to protecting and protesting the freedom of writers here and overseas.
Presented in partnership with PEN Melbourne.
Local Lens: Refugees in Regional Australia
In this panel discussion at the Ballaarat Mechanics’ Institute, we’ll consider a global issue through a local lens.
Mass human displacement is one of the most complex ethical and legal global challenges of our time. Australia’s response to asylum seeker arrivals has attracted controversy over the years, including criticism from the United Nations. Last year, the federal government commissioned a…
The Wheeler Centre
Writing in Exile: Roza Germian
Sami Shah and Roza Germian at the Wheeler Centre
‘As a Kurd, I was stateless until I became an Australian, and Australia is the only official home I have, because Kurdistan does not exist on a map.’
Journalist Roza Germian lived through war for most of her childhood. In 1991, when Germian was 10, she was one of more than one million Kurds who fled Saddam Hussein's Iraq following the Iraqi retaliation to the Kurdish uprising. With her family, she later found temporary refuge in Turkey, and then moved permanently to Brisbane at age 15, when her family gained humanitarian visas.
As a teenager, Germian learned English and then went on to gain two university degrees. She now works as the executive producer on SBS Radio's Kurdish programme, where her earliest experiences of terror, persecution and prejudice continue to inform her journalistic work.
At SBS, Germian has continued to highlight stories that concern the Kurdish community here and abroad, from the ISIS conflict to Kurds held in Australia's immigration detention system. Hosted by Sami Shah, the remarkable Germian shares her story and discusses her life and work.
The Fifth Estate
Sally Warhaft and Tim Costello
For decades, Tim Costello has been among Australia’s most outspoken voices on issues of social justice and global inequality. Through his work as a minister, as a lawyer and as the mayor of St Kilda council, he’s tackled pressing social issues – from gambling and homelessness to gun control.
He’s perhaps best known to most Australians, though, for his 15-year tenure as CEO of World Vision – a job which took him to conflict and disaster zones across the world, including to Darfur and to several countries affected by the Boxing Day Tsunami.
In his new memoir, A Lot with a Little, Costello reflects on his life and varied career. He reflects, too, on how his experiences have shaped his views on questions of equality, liberty, faith and community. With Sally Warhaft, he discusses the book, his ongoing work and the confronting and complex work of tackling global inequality.
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