With talks led by acclaimed writers, award-winning artists, respected social commentators and the world’s keenest thought-leaders,  Student Sessions is rich in opportunities for secondary school students to build on their classroom learning, extend their capacity for critical thinking and be stimulated by thoughtful discussion and meaningful debate.

Each talk runs for 45 minutes and all sessions are stand-alone – we invite you to create your own schedule of sessions.

10am Akala: Hip-Hop & Shakespeare – BOOKED OUT

Award-winning hip-hop artist and founder of the Hip- Hop Shakespeare Company, Akala is more recently known as the bestselling author of the searing polemic Natives: Race and Class in the Ruins of Empire. In this interactive session, which includes spoken word and a student ‘call and response’, Akala explores the social, cultural and linguistic parallels between the works of William Shakespeare and contemporary hip- hop. This session encourages students to develop an alternate view of the arts, and ultimately themselves, by showing how the culture and language of hip-hop and Shakespeare have the power to transgress race, class and iambic pentameter.

This session is booked out.

10am Herstory

Breaking open Australia’s foundation myths, Clare Wright’s research offers a timely corrective to exclusively male-told accounts of key historical moments. Author of the Stella Prize-winning The Forgotten Rebels of Eureka and You Daughters of Freedom, Clare has worked as an academic, political speechwriter, historical consultant, and radio and television broadcaster. In conversation with historian Anna Clark, Clare shares her passion for uncovering stories within historical silence, gives a fresh perspective on primary sources and explains how she goes about filling the gaps in the national narrative.

10.45–11.15am Book signing

11.15am The World AI Made

Could robots really become conscious? Could we ourselves one day become immortal machines, uploading our brains to the cloud? Professor Toby Walsh is a world leader in Artificial Intelligence and one of the 100 ‘rock stars’ of Australia’s digital revolution. In this mindbending session, Toby takes on the big questions about technological life on earth that makes us humans feel very small. Join Toby as he considers the impact of AI on work, war, human life and, by extension, human death. In conversation with novelist and editor of The Griffith Review, Ashley Hay.

11.15am Write What You Know – BOOKED OUT

The writer of one of Australia’s most beloved novels, Looking for Alibrandi, Melina Marchetta has time and again created characters and settings inspired by her life and home in Sydney’s inner-west, including in her newest book, The Place on Dalhousie. In this session, she shares how placing fiction in intimately familiar locations can be a great starting point for any creative writing, and how her own Italian-Australian upbringing has been central to the lives she’s imagined for her characters. In conversation with fellow author Sarah Ayoub.

This session is booked out.

12–1pm Book signing and lunch break

1pm Find Your Voice, Write Your Story

Join three of Australia’s most exciting young writers for a conversation about finding the courage to speak up and tell your own story – even when it is uncomfortable. Memoirist Bri Lee talks about her journey as a woman through the Australian legal system, from judge’s associate to complainant. Fiji-born feminist Zoya Patel offers her perspective on coming to terms with a migrant child’s split subjectivity. And poet and Fulbright Scholar Alison Whittaker shares her experience on writing as a Gomeroi woman and legal researcher. In conversation with Maeve Marsden, editor of Queerstories.

1pm Bringing History to Life

Join two-time Walkley Award winner Trent Dalton as he discusses the in-depth research that brought his latest book, By Sea & Stars: The Story of the First Fleet, to vivid life. In conversation with ABC’s Michaela Kalowski, Trent shares the tools and techniques, combined with records, letters and journals, that uncovered the lives and experiences of the people who – willingly or unwillingly – took part in this epic journey across the world.

1.45–2.15pm Book signing and finish



Student Sessions Livestream

As well as the live program taking place at Carriageworks, we are proud to present the Student Sessions Livestream, broadcasting the magic of Sydney Writers' Festival to regional schools based outside greater metropolitan Sydney. 

For a single booking of $60, tune into the following sessions as they take place in real time on Wednesday 1 May:

  • 10am Akala: Hip-Hop & Shakespeare
  • 11.15am The World AI Made
  • 1pm From Your Voice, Write Your Story

Download our Digital Brochure to find out more and make your booking.


For more information about Student Sessions, please contact us:

(02) 9256 4200