Byron Writers Festival reveals first guests

Byron Writers Festival 2021 (6-8 August) opens an exciting new chapter – earmarking its 25th Anniversary – with popular and provocative strong voices, familiar names and new talents guaranteed to entertain and spark vibrant conversations.

Award-winning journalist and ABIA Book of the Year Phosphorescence author Dr Julia Baird, former Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull, and activist, historian and acclaimed author Tony Birch are some of the leading lights headed to Byron Bay to provoke and inspire audiences. The Festival also announces best-selling writer, essayist and lawyer Alice Pung, poet and co-editor of Overland Literary Journal Evelyn Araluen and Northern Rivers author Hayley Katzen, whose brilliant memoir Untethered has made waves on the local literary scene.

Festival Director Edwina Johnson says “We are delighted to be welcoming our guests and audiences back to the beautiful Festival grounds at Byron Bay for three days of stimulating conversation, ideas and shared experiences. Our 25th anniversary is a significant milestone for the Festival and we cherish this opportunity to come together to reflect, connect and celebrate with such incredible literary talent.”

Dr Julia Baird’s Book of the Year Phosphorescence is indeed a book for our times – an intimate and inspiring investigation into how we can find within ourselves an ‘internal light’ which will sustain us even through the darkest times. Baird, host of ABC’s The Drum, spoke to forest therapists, jellyfish scientists, Indigenous elders, storm chasers, ocean swimmers, street artists and priests to explore the ways we can pursue awe, wonder and purpose. Don’t miss one of Australia’s most perceptive writers and commentators when she appears in a number of sessions at this year’s Byron Writers Festival.

Festival-goers will be treated to a fascinating insight into Australia’s political machinations by our 29th Prime Minister, Malcolm Turnbull. He will tell the remarkable story of his life and his time in politics as captured in his page-turning memoir A Bigger Picture. Expect robust discussions on the Canberra bubble, climate change policy and Australia’s future.

Tony Birch’s searing and powerful novel The White Girl about the devastating government policy of taking Indigenous children from their families won the 2020 NSW Premier’s Award for Indigenous Writing and was shortlisted for the 2020 Miles Franklin Literary Prize. Birch is coming to Byron Writers Festival following the release of two new books in 2021, a poetry collection, Whisper Songs, and a new short story collection, Dark as Last Night. 

Tony Birch describes Goorie/Koori poet and writer Evelyn Araluen as a “dynamic voice that needs to be heard”. John Kinsella in The Sydney Morning Herald said her fierce debut Dropbear, a collection of poems and prose, “can teach us all if we are willing to learn how to read, to listen, to comprehend”. Born and raised on Dharug country, Araluen is a descendant of the Bundjalung Nation and is an exciting, vibrant young voice in Australian writing.

Alice Pung is a bestselling author of the memoirs Unpolished Gem and Her Father’s Daughter as well as the editor of the anthology Growing Up Asian in Australia. Her much anticipated new novel One Hundred Days, a fractured fairytale exploring the fault lines between love and control, will be released in June.

When South African Jewish lawyer Hayley Katzen moved to her girlfriend’s cattle property in the Northern Rivers, she hoped at last to find home. Replacing lecture halls, law reform and the arts with castrating calves, shovelling manure, fire-fighting and anti-gas blockades, Hayley’s journey as told in her powerful memoir Untethered crosses the divide between city and country, and connects communities that are so often kept separate by experience, politics and interest.

Thanks to partners Stone & Wood, Byron Writers Festival is thrilled to once again be offering Sunday Locals’ Passes. The discounted ticket is for entry to the Festival on Sunday 8 August and is priced at $90, a saving of $45 on the full ticket price. The offer is exclusively available to residents of the Byron, Ballina, Kyogle, Lismore, Richmond Valley and Tweed council areas.

“Byron Writers Festival is such an awesome cultural event for the Northern Rivers region and we feel it’s important that as many people from the local community are able to attend as possible,” said Stone and Wood’s General Manager, Nick Boots. “We hope that these Sunday Locals’ passes bring familiar faces young and old to enjoy a day of deep thinking and conversation.”

Byron Writers Festival Sunday Locals’ Passes are now available for purchase online at, over the phone or in person at Byron Writers Festival’s office. This is a limited release offer and will be available until sold out, so get in quick! Purchasers will need to present proof of address at the Festival Box Office and are limited to a maximum of two tickets per person.

Byron Writers Festival Full Program will be announced on 23 June when tickets to all Festival days, Satellite Events and Workshops will go on sale. Byron Writers Festival runs 6-8 August, 2021. Sunday Locals’ Passes now on sale at Full Program announced and all tickets on sale: 23 June, 2021

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