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, 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.

Jenny Valentish (Australian)

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Jenny Valentish is the author of Woman of Substances, a journey into the female experience of addiction and treatment. She is a regular contributor to The Sydney Morning Herald and The Saturday Paper, and former editor of Time Out Melbourne and Triple J's Jmag. She was born in Slough, a satellite town of London, and moved to Australia in 2006. She quit drinking in 2009, which sparked a desire to explore the drives behind addiction. Currently, she is completing a graduate diploma in Alcohol and Other Drugs with Turning Point/Monash University.

Micheal Bowen (Australian)


Dr Michael Bowen is National Health and Medical Research Council Doherty Biomedical Fellow and Senior Lecturer based at the University of Sydney’s Brain and Mind Centre. Dr Bowen’s expertise is in applying cutting edge cellular and preclinical research techniques to central nervous system drug discovery and development. Some of his recent career highlights include winning the 2016 Eureka Prize for Outstanding Early Career Researcher, the inaugural NSW Premier’s Prize for Early Career Researcher of the Year in 2015, the 2016 International Behavioral Neuroscience Society Early Career Award, and being inducted into the World Economic Forum’s Young Scientists Community of 50 of the top scientists under the age of 40 from around the world. Dr Bowen is one of the lead inventors of novel therapeutic drugs being developed for the treatment of substance use disorders.

Kate Jinx (Australian )

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Kate Jinx is a writer, broadcaster and film curator (mostly). She is the Director of Programming at Golden Age Cinema in Sydney, and appears regularly on ABC TV’s arts and culture programs The Mix and The Critics. Jinx is currently a PhD candidate at UNSW in cinema and cultural history, and has presented performance lectures about important topics like evil cats and teen witches at contemporary art institutions that are really far too reputable for that kind of thing.