Student Sessions 2021

Student Sessions is presented in partnership with the NSW Education Standards Authority (NESA).

Sydney Writers’ Festival is thrilled to offer students and teachers the opportunity to attend our Student Sessions program free of charge.

From introducing students to a fascinating world of ideas to giving them an edge in the HSC, Student Sessions is a unique opportunity to learn from Australia’s best writers and thinkers.  

We believe that Student Sessions is an invaluable learning experience for young people and we would love to welcome your students to the 2021 program. 

We’d like to invite NSW government schools with an ICSEA value of under 1000 to apply for free student and teacher tickets through our Student Sessions Access Program.

About Student Sessions 

Join some of Australia’s brightest minds for a thought-provoking program of talks, specially curated to complement the school curriculum in ways that educate and enlighten.

Coming to you from Carriageworks, the Student Sessions program is a unique opportunity for students to learn from and be inspired by Australia’s best writers and thinkers. 

Student Sessions covers a range of topics linked to the NSW school curriculum for Years 9 to 12 but is suitable for all secondary students. 

Each talk runs for 45 minutes and all sessions are stand-alone. You can book one, two, or three sessions to make a day of it. We recommend students bring their own lunch. 

Student Sessions is presented in partnership with the NSW Education Standards Authority.


10am: Paul Kelly on Poetry 

In a session that explores the transformative combination of poetry and music, hear acclaimed singer-songwriter Paul Kelly recite a selection of poems from his anthology Love is Strong as Death – a number of which he has set to music and will sing live. In conversation with ABC Radio National’s Kate Evans, Paul discusses a collection that spans the ancient and the modern and speaks to two of literature’s greatest themes: love and death – plus everything in between.

Curriculum links: English, Music

10.45–11.45am Break

11.45am To the Point: Short Stories

Short stories conjure up entire worlds of fully formed characters in the space of just a few pages. Accomplished writers of the form, Tony Birch and Adam Thompson join critic Declan Fry to reflect on this singular power, and how it can be used to explore questions of identity, Country and belonging in contemporary Australia. Tony Birch is the celebrated author of four short-story collections: Shadowboxing, Father’s Day, The Promise and Common People. Adam Thompson, an award-winning Pakana writer from Tasmania, had his debut short-story collection, Born Into This, published in February 2021.

Curriculum links: English, Society and Culture, Aboriginal Studies

12.30–1.30pm Lunch break

1.30pm Let Me Persuade You

How can we wield the written and spoken word to convince, cajole and convert an audience? Or detect when we’re being linguistically manoeuvred ourselves? Two masters of persuasion, former Prime Ministerial speech writer Don Watson and Sydney Morning Herald journalist Jacqueline Maley, provide students with a crash course on identifying and analysing the distinct language of persuasion and how it relates to our current media landscape.

Curriculum links: English, Society and Culture


How to book

To book, please use the online booking form

To be eligible, students and teachers must be from schools with an ICSEA value of under 1000.

Bookings close on 20 April but please note that places are limited, so we recommend applying as soon possible. 

For more information or if you have any questions, contact our Education Box Office team at or call 02 9256 4200.  

For more information about Student Sessions, please contact us:

(02) 9256 4200