Professor Marcia Langton delivers powerful keynote address for Byron Writers Festival

One of Australia’s most eminent Indigenous academics and advocates, Professor Marcia Langton, will deliver the Byron Writers Festival 2020 Thea Astley Address. The address, named in honour of one of Australia’s most influential and distinctive novelists has been presented annually at the Festival since 2005 by some of Australia’s best writers and most interesting minds.

Professor Langton states, “I hope Thea Astley in the other world has watched the last few weeks of the Black Lives Movement and pondered on the history of Palm Island. When she wrote The Multiple Effects of Rainshadow, published in 1996, she could not have imagined that the injustices meted out to the Palm Islanders from 1918 when the settlement was established, to 1957 when the Palm Island strike was savagely put down, and which she fictionalised in her second last novel, would result in a telling instance of how Black Lives Matter in history, in the present and for our future.

“She passed on in 2004, the same year as Mulrunji (or Cameron) Doomadgee who died in a police cell on Friday 19 November in an encounter with Sergeant Chris Hurley. Chloe Hooper’s The Tall Man, published in 2009, is an account of the events that followed. It seems that every generation needs to be told why Black Lives Matter. Here we are again.”

Byron Writers Festival will release Professor Langton’s Thea Astley Address as a podcast this week, together with a series of newly curated podcasts and video presentations to mark what would have been the 24th annual Festival, regrettably cancelled due to Covid restrictions.

“Ordinarily at this time, we would all be gathering on Bundjalung Country in beautiful Byron Bay for three days of storytelling, conversation and ideas,” said Edwina Johnson, Festival Director. “But of course these are not ordinary times and sadly we will not be able to gather together until August 2021.”

“However, for what would have been Festival week, we are delighted to share with you a range of online offerings we have created for people to enjoy at home, including Prof Marcia Langton’s powerful and important Thea Astley Address.”

Byron Writers Festival’s free digital program also includes new Conversations from Byron podcasts to add to those already released over the past couple of months, featuring interviews with writers who would have attended the 2020 Festival. Writer, director and performer Maeve Marsden has curated a special compilation of Queerstories, a national LGBTQI+ storytelling project she has been curating for nearly five years. The Byron edition features tales from local writer Hayley Katzen, activist and Executive Director of Sally Rugg, journalist and Junkee cultural editor Michael Sun, and award-winning author, playwright and poet Ellen van Neerven.

Also in Conversations from Byron, guest curator Sunil Badami talks with playwright S. Shakthidharan about his acclaimed play Counting and Cracking, which swept the prestigious Helpmann Awards in 2019, as well as winning the Victorian Premier’s Literary Award. He also talks with political correspondent Annika Smethurst about her book On Secrets, which details her terrifying ordeal of being raided by the AFP and charged under obscure national security laws, and what this might mean for all of us. The digital program also features comedians and writers Jean Kittson and Mandy Nolan discussing Kittson’s latest book: We Need To Talk About Mum And Dad.

These podcasts are available along with previously released Conversations from Byron podcasts featuring authors Evie Wyld (The Bass Rock), Chris Flynn (Mammoth), Yumna Kassab (The House of Youssef) and Christos Tsiolkas (Damascus) amongst many others.

The Festival, in partnership with Southern Cross University is making its popular Secondary and Primary Schools Programs publicly available for the first time. In a series of entertaining sessions filmed for the Festival, audiences can explore talks with Clare Bowditch, Craig Foster, Matt Okine, Vivian Pham, Sally Rugg, Christos Tsiolkas and Ellen van Neerven. These topical and captivating conversations are facilitated by authors Sunil Badami, Zacharey Jane, Benjamin Law, Maeve Marsden and Story Factory executive director Cath Keenan.

There is plenty to keep younger kids entertained as well with beautifully crafted video presentations by Deborah Abela, Tristan Bancks, Dub Leffler and Kirli Saunders.

The Byron Writers Festival 2020 Thea Astley address by Professor Langton is supported by The Conversation and the Copyright Agency’s Cultural Fund. It will be available via podcast from Wednesday 5 August via and the full transcript will be published by The Conversation here.

The new Conversations from Byron podcasts will be available from Wednesday 5 August. The Schools Programs content is available to the public on Saturday 8 and Sunday 9 August only.

Visit here to access the full program.

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