In our backyards, balconies and beer gardens – Australians get along famously with booze. Drinking is an entrenched part of our national identity: it’s a recurrent theme in our pop culture, a scene-setter for friendship, a supposedly inherent part of work and play.

Lately, though, as the personal, social and public health costs of drinking become clear, many Australians are reconsidering our indulgent traditions. Some have even suggested that alcohol will go the way of the cigarette once its connection to chronic or life-threatening illnesses is fully acknowledged.

Writer Jenny Valentish’s book, Woman of Substances, tells her own story (as well as those found in rehab facilities, halfway houses and AA groups) as she explored the paths people take into and out of addiction. In the process, she discovered that women’s experiences of substance abuse and treatment differ greatly from those of men. Valentish joins researcher Michael Bowen, journalist Wendy Harmer and host Kate Jinx, for a fresh discussion about Australia’s changing relationship with alcohol, and how we can anticipate and deal with the side effects.

Monday Conversations: Each month, join us at Belvoir for a focussed exploration of one idea. After the discussion, we’ll close with a performance or reading – illuminating or responding to a central idea from the night’s conversation.

Presented in partnership with The Wheeler Centre and Belvoir.

Wendy Harmer (Australian)

Wendy Harmer

In a career spanning four decades, Wendy has found success as a journalist, columnist, radio broadcaster, TV host, author, playwright and comic performer. A former political journalist, Wendy ran away with the circus in the 80s and forged a career in comedy at the Edinburgh Festival, London’s West End and on stages in Ireland, the US and all over Australia. Wendy was a pioneer for women in media as MC of ABC TV’s The Big Gig and as the headliner in radio 2Day FM’s Morning Crew which dominated Sydney radio ratings for 11 years. She holds a Doctor of Letters (Honoris Causa) from Macquarie University and is the author of some 30 fiction books for children, teens and women. She has also written plays, an opera libretto and has been a prolific columnist for many magazines and newspapers, most notably as Editor In Chief of her own site for women, The Hoopla. Most recently Wendy was co-host of the breakfast programme with Robbie Buck on ABC Sydney.