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Jane Harrison: The Visitors

‘I wanted those Aboriginal characters to have agency. Because colonisation happened to us and we didn’t have a say in it. We were just victims of it, in a sense. But being a victim is not a very empowering position. You’re stuck in victimhood. And so I thought, what would happen if my characters actually did have a say?’ – Jane Harrison.

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Jane Harrison’s work has captivated audiences globally, earning her international acclaim for plays including Stolen and Rainbow’s End. With an impressive body of work and a deep commitment to promoting and developing First Nations perspectives – including as the Director of the Blak & Bright First Nations Literary Festival – Harrison has established herself as an essential voice in the Australian cultural landscape.

In this episode, Harrison discusses the work of reimagining the past in her first novel for adult readers, The Visitors – a radical retelling of the events of 26 January 1788 from a First Nations perspective. Based on her play of the same name, which first wowed audiences at Sydney Festival in 2020, The Visitors is now a multi-artform phenomenon, appearing as a novel, a production and an opera.

In this wide-ranging and frank conversation with host Tony Birch for Melbourne City Reads, Harrison discusses the story’s journey across artforms and shed new light on this critical moment from Australia’s past.

An upcoming production of The Visitors is taking place at The Round this July. You can find out more here.



This event was part of the Melbourne City Reads series.

It was recorded on Monday 9 October 2023 at The Wheeler Centre as part of the Spring Fling series.

Featured music is ‘Traveling Again’ by Sarah, the Illstrumentalist.

Spring Fling was proudly supported by the Victorian Government through Creative Victoria and the Melbourne City Revitalisation Fund. Special thanks to official bookseller Readings and accommodation partner The Sofitel.


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The Wheeler Centre acknowledges the Wurundjeri Woi Wurrung people of the Kulin Nation as the Traditional Owners of the land on which the Centre stands. We acknowledge and pay our respects to all Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples and their Elders, past and present, as the custodians of the world’s oldest continuous living culture.