After a year to forget, an all-star line-up of guests comes together for the Sydney Writers’ Festival Gala to deliver a speech on this year’s theme, Within Reach. This centrepiece event celebrates the power of writing to generate empathy, imagination and action during times of unparalleled change. Speakers look ahead with humour and hope to what could be ours to grasp with the right focus, ideas and words. Featuring Tony Birch, Geraldine Brooks (via video), Trent Dalton, Ceridwen Dovey, Adam Goodes, Alison Lester, Fiona McGregor, Sisonke Msimang, Michael O’Loughlin, Christos Tsiolkas, Maria Tumarkin and Ellen van Neerven.
This event is Auslan interpreted.
Supported by the City of Sydney. Thanks to David Paradice.
Tony Birch (Australian)
Tony Birch is the author of the bestselling The White Girl, winner of 2020 NSW Premier’s Award for Indigenous Writing and shortlisted for the 2020 Miles Franklin Award; Ghost River, winner of the 2016 Victorian Premier’s Literary Award for Indigenous Writing; and Blood, shortlisted for the 2012 Miles Franklin Award. He is also the author of four short-story collections Shadowboxing, Father’s Day, The Promise and Common People. In 2017, he was awarded the Patrick White Literary Award.
Maria Tumarkin (Australian)
Maria Tumarkin writes books, essays, reviews, and pieces for performance and radio. She also collaborates with sound and visual artists, and has had her work engraved into the paving at Victoria Harbour as part of the Melbourne Docklands Urban Art Program. Maria is the author of four books of ideas. Her fourth (and latest) book Axiomatic was named by The New Yorker as one of the best books of 2019. Maria is a recipient of the 2020 Windham Campbell Prize in the category of non-fiction. She holds a PhD in cultural history and teaches in the creative writing program at the University of Melbourne.
Trent Dalton (Australian)
Trent Dalton is a two-time Walkley Award–winning journalist for Weekend Australian Magazine. His number one bestselling debut novel, Boy Swallows Universe, broke records to become the fastest selling Australian debut novel ever and it has been published globally across 34 territories. It is currently being adapted for stage and screen. His latest novel, All Our Shimmering Skies, was published in September, 2020 and became an instant number one bestseller on release.
Christos Tsiolkas (Australian)
Christos Tsiolkas is the author of six novels, including Dead Europe, Loaded and Barracuda. His novel The Slap won Overall Best Book in the Commonwealth Writers’ Prize 2009, was shortlisted for the 2009 Miles Franklin Literary Award, longlisted for the 2010 Man Booker Prize, won the Australian Literary Society Gold Medal, and was announced as the 2009 Australian Booksellers Association and Australian Book Industry Awards Books of the Year. Many of his books have been adapted for film, TV and for the stage. Christos is also a playwright, essayist and film critic for The Saturday Paper. His latest novel is Damascus.
Geraldine Brooks (International)
Australian-born Geraldine Brooks is an author and journalist. She was awarded the Pulitzer Prize in fiction in 2006 for her novel March. Her novels Caleb’s Crossing and People of the Book were New York Times bestsellers. Her first novel, Year of Wonders, is an an international bestseller, translated into more than 25 languages. She is also the author of the non-fiction works Nine Parts of Desire, Foreign Correspondence and The Idea of Home. Geraldine is based in Massachusetts.
Ceridwen Dovey (Australian)
Ceridwen is a fiction writer and essayist based in Sydney. She’s the author of several works of fiction (Blood Kin, Only the Animals, In the Garden of the Fugitives), and non-fiction (On J.M. Coetzee: Writers on Writers and Inner Worlds Outer Spaces). Her essays have been published by The New Yorker, Smithsonian Magazine, WIRED, The Monthly, and Alexander. She was awarded a prestigious 2020 Australian Museum Eureka Award for long-form science journalism and won the 2020 UNSW Press Bragg Prize for science writing. Her latest novel is Life After Truth.
Alison Lester (Australian)
One of Australia’s most popular and bestselling creators of children’s books, Alison Lester has written many books, and won several prestigious awards including the 2005 Children’s Book Council of Australia Picture Book of the Year Award for Are We There Yet? and the 2012 CBCA Eve Pownall Book of the Year Award for One Small Island. Alison was Australia’s Inaugural Children’s Laureate from 2011 to 2013, and was awarded the Melbourne Prize for Literature in 2018. Her most recent book is Sing Me the Summer with Jane Godwin.
Sisonke Msimang (Australian)
Sisonke Msimang is the author of Always Another Country: A memoir of exile and home and The Resurrection of Winnie Mandela: A biography of survival. She is a South African writer whose work is focused on race, gender and democracy. She has written for a range of international publications including The New York Times, The Washington Post, The Guardian, Newsweek and Al Jazeera. Sisonke is the curator of the literature and ideas program at Perth Festival.
Ellen van Neerven (Australian)
Ellen van Neerven belongs to the Mununjali Yugambeh people of South East Queensland. Ellen is an award-winning writer, editor and literary activist. They have authored three books including a new poetry collection Throat, which explores different ways to be heard, and edited the anthology Flock: First Nations Stories Then and Now.
Adam Goodes (Australian)
An Adnyamathanha man, Adam Goodes is a champion Australian Rules football player with the Sydney Swans. Adam holds an elite place in AFL history, winning two Brownlow Medals and two premierships. He is a four-time All-Australian, member of the Indigenous Team of the Century, and has represented Australia in the International Rules Series. Adam is proud of his Indigenous heritage, and is actively involved with several Indigenous sport and community programs. He has spent time working with troubled youth, including those in youth detention centres. Together with his cousin and former teammate Michael O’Loughlin, Adam established the Go Foundation, which empowers the next generation of Indigenous role models in all walks of life. Adam co-chairs the foundation, focused on promoting education, employment and healthy lifestyles.
Michael O’Loughlin (Australian)
Michael O’Loughlin is an accomplished AFL player with a career spanning 20 years. In 2005, Michael was part of the premiership winning team, and was also inducted into the Indigenous Team of the Century. In 2015, Michael was inducted into the AFL Hall of Fame. Together with his cousin and former teammate Adam Goodes, Michael established the Go Foundation, which empowers the next generation of Indigenous role models in all walks of life. Michael co-chairs the foundation, focused on promoting education, employment and healthy lifestyles.
Fiona McGregor (Australian)
Fiona Kelly McGregor has published seven books, most recently the essay collection Buried Not Dead. Her novel Indelible Ink won The Age Book of the Year. Other books include travel memoir Strange Museums, Steele Rudd Award–winning short story collection Suck My Toes/Dirt, and photoessay A Novel Idea, a tongue-in-cheek rumination on the novel writing process through the rubric of endurance performance. Fiona is also known for an extensive repertoire of performance art. In 2020 she created Moving Masks in response to the COVID pandemic.