The Wheeler Centre

Subscribe to the Wheeler Centre's podcast to hear full recordings of our talks, featuring the best in books, writing and ideas from Melbourne, Australia.


  • Words for Now: Poetry as Processing

    May 25 2020

    not in Aus, matebad things don’t happen hereour beaches are openthey are not places where bloodied mattresses burn Ellen van Neerven writes fiction, poetry, plays and non-fiction. An award-winning Mununjali Yugambeh writer and editor, their highly celebrated books include the experimental fiction collection, Heat and Light, and a book of poems, Comfort Food. This month, they released their second poetry collection, Throat, which explores love, language and land, and interrogates the colonial imp...more

  • Rebecca Traister: Good and Mad

    May 11 2020

    Clare Wright, left, and Rebecca Traister, at the Athenaeum Theatre in Melbourne — Photo: Emily Harms ‘The stories aren’t simple. They’re nuanced. And it’s our job to insist on that nuance – and not let everything get turned into a t-shirt.’ Rebecca Traister Rebecca Traister is an American journalist, polemicist and New York Times-bestselling author who writes at the intersection of feminism, politics and culture. Her latest book, Good and Mad: The Revolutionary Power of Women’s Anger, inve...more

  • 2019 Emerging Writers’ Festival Programme Launch: The Awkward Stage

    May 04 2020

    What, exactly, is an ‘emerging’ writer? At what point do you come out of the chrysalis? The 2019 Emerging Writers’ Festival launched with a night of readings from Kat Clarke, Vidya Rajan, Sumudu Samarawickrama and Ahmed Yussuf – who each told us about the first time they considered themselves a writer. Hosted by the 2019 artistic director of the Emerging Writers' Festival, Izzy Roberts-Orr and program coordinator Aïsha Trambas. We're joining forces for the 2020 Emerging Writers' Festival launch...more

  • Meg Wolitzer: The Female Persuasion

    Apr 27 2020

    Brodie Lancaster, left, and Meg Wolitzer, right Meg Wolitzer’s latest novel, The Female Persuasion, is about public pedestals and feminist friction. Wolitzer herself is a feminist powerhouse who wrote her first novel, Sleepwalking, while still at university. A precocious talent, she was mentored by the famous essayist and screenwriter Nora Ephron. Today, she’s the author of 12 acclaimed novels, including The Interestings and The Uncoupling. Three of her novels have been adapted to screen, mo...more

  • A Walk in the Park: Jessica Friedmann with Fiona Wright

    Apr 20 2020

    Jessica Friedmann, Fiona Wright and our walking, listening audience at A Walk in the Park, 28 October 2017 — Photo: Amita Kirpalani In the first of our Walk in the Park mini-series, writers and friends Jessica Friedmann and Fiona Wright come together for an intimate, ambling conversation about bodies, expectations and the pleasures and complexities of moving. Friedmann’s recent book, Things That Helped, chronicles her postnatal depression through a series of essays which reference theory, po...more

  • Andrew Sean Greer: The Less We Know

    Apr 20 2020

    When his novel Less won the 2018 Pulitzer Prize for Fiction, Andrew Sean Greer tweeted, he ‘had just persuaded a dog to let me put her into polka dot pajamas (not my dog)’. He literally didn’t believe the news. Readers clearly feel otherwise. Less tells the story of Arthur Less – a writer fearing his own mediocrity and middle age, who takes on a series of far-flung literary engagements in order to avoid the wedding of a significant ex. With understated eloquence, the book’s narrator is generous ...more

  • A Walk in the Park: Lisa Dempster with Leah Kaminsky

    Apr 14 2020

    There’s walking, and then there’s walking. When Lisa Dempster set out to tackle the Shikoku Pilgrimage – a 1200km, 88 temple route through regional Japan – she was at a nadir of mental and physical health; desperate for something to bring major change to her life. 'People really do see walking now as a solution, and an answer to things.' Lisa Dempster As she describes the gruelling journey, laid out in her travelogue Neon Pilgrim (2009; re-launched in 2017), it surprised her with unexpected sp...more

  • A Walk in the Park: Damon Young with Ruth Quibell

    Apr 06 2020

    Ruth Quibell, Damon Young and an audience of walkers in Princes Park — Photo: Jon Tjhia This instalment of our 2017 series A Walk in the Park features two writers, Damon Young and Ruth Quibell, who know walking – and each other – well. They’re married. 'Our culture of exercise is stupid, it is mechanical, it is … concerned with tuning up our bodily engines – and not with having a richer intellectual or ethical life.' Damon Young Young, a philosopher and writer of numerous books and genres,...more

  • The Invisible Crime

    Apr 06 2020

    This discussion includes topics that some listeners may find confronting.  Left to right: Nicole Precel, Katrina Marson, Rena Ou Yang and Greg Barns at the Wheeler Centre. The Invisible Crime: Are We Failing Victims of Sexual Violence? is an award-winning multimedia feature documentary made in 2019 by a team of investigative and data journalists from the Age and Sydney Morning Herald. The documentary explores why sexual assault is under-reported and examines the myriad barriers to successful...more

  • How on Earth: Christiana Figueres and Ross Garnaut on Climate Solutions Now

    Mar 30 2020

    Christiana Figueres and Ross Garnaut at the Wheeler Centre Christiana Figueres, the architect of the 2015 Paris Agreement, sees the 2020s as a critical moment of opportunity – the ‘golden decade’ – in the future of our species and our planet.  Earlier this year, the former executive secretary of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change said: ‘If we do the right thing this decade, we can continue to design the future but if we don’t, we are really condemned to a world of incr...more

  • SAIGON: Between Life and History

    Mar 23 2020

    Photograph of Helene Embling, Nguyen Duc Duy, Benjamin Law and Beverley Wang at the Wheeler Centre — Photo: Jon Tjhia People – families – of diaspora carry the traces of change: new circumstances, different languages, uncertainty and often trauma. How do the ghosts of history and geography affect the everyday experiences and identities of people today? And what happens when the places where your parents and grandparents lived no longer exist – or you don’t share a language with your parents ...more

  • Alexander Chee: How To Write An Autobiographical Novel

    Mar 02 2020

    Leah Jing McIntosh and Alexander Chee at the Athenaeum Theatre — Photo: Sophie Quick ‘Novels are accidents at their start,’ Alexander Chee has written. What causes these productive accidents? Who do they happen to? And what do novels become next? Chee, the author of two masterful, award-winning novels – and a distinguished teacher, essayist and critic – has given a lot of thought to these questions. His acclaimed, reflexive autobiographical first novel, Edinburgh, was about a Korean-American...more

  • Kamila Shamsie: Home Fire

    Feb 28 2020

    Sonia Nair and Kamila Shamsie at the Wheeler Centre With her seventh novel, Home Fire, Pakistani-British author Kamila Shamsie has pulled off an improbable feat. Home Fire is a work of great ambition (it's a rigorously researched story of global terrorism, drawing its structure from Sophocles' Antigone) and it's also a gripping page-turner. It's a stinging, and often funny, indictment on our facile political debates about terror, security and religious extremism. And it calls on us to recogn...more

  • National Agitators: Confronting Australian Theatre

    Feb 24 2020

    Alison Croggon, Susie Dee, Patricia Cornelius and Nicci Wilks at the Wheeler Centre Warning: This recording contains some repeated coarse language. Patricia Cornelius, Susie Dee and Nicci Wilks have been making radical and confronting theatre together for decades. ‘I’ve never believed the bullshit about how audiences don’t like risk,' Cornelius has said. 'They actually really do. I’ve seen it.' Long-term collaborators, their work has more often found a home in innovative independent companie...more

  • Double Booked Club: Tony Birch and Tara June Winch

    Feb 24 2020

    In this edition of Double Booked Club, hear from two outstanding First Nations literary voices discussing dispossession and the ties that bind generations. Tara June Winch is a Wiradjuri author, now based in France, whose debut novel, Swallow the Air, and short-story collection, After the Carnage, have won many awards, critical acclaim – and the affection of readers. Her second novel, The Yield, is about an Aboriginal elder and his granddaughter. It’s a story about returning to country and recla...more

  • Right Time: Why We Need an Australian Charter of Human Rights

    Feb 21 2020

    Lee Carnie, Kristen Hilton, Teela Reid and Gillian Triggs at the Wheeler Centre Australia is the only western democracy without a Charter of Human Rights or an equivalent legal protection. What’s holding us back? For this discussion, we brought together three panellists – Kristen Hilton, Teela Reid and Gillian Triggs – to discuss the push for a federal Charter of Human Rights. Hosted by Lee Carnie, they outline glaring problem areas in Australia’s human-rights record and make a case for lega...more

  • Pass it On: Preserving Australian Indigenous Languages

    Feb 17 2020

    From left: Daniel Browning, Vicki Couzens, Fay Stewart-Muir, Aaron Fa'aoso, Kelrick Martin and Brendan Kennedy, with Auslan interpreter — Photo: Jon Tjhia ‘Budgerigar’, ‘quandong’, ‘Torana’, ‘Canberra’ – there are many Aboriginal words in everyday use by both non-Indigenous and Indigenous Australians. What do we gain from knowing and learning First Nations words? And how can we embed more traditional language into the daily lives of all Australians? At least 250 Indigenous Australian languag...more

  • Double Booked Club: Melanie Cheng and Omar Sakr

    Feb 17 2020

    Khalid Warsame, Melanie Cheng and Omar Sakr at the Wheeler Centre Omar Sakr and Melanie Cheng are two very different voices with very different styles, but over the past few years both have blasted welcome fresh air into the Australian literary scene. Melanie Cheng is a GP as well as a writer and her debut short-story collection, Australia Day, won the 2018 Victorian Premier’s Literary Award for Fiction. Her new book, Room for a Stranger, is a novel set in Melbourne, about the unlikely frien...more

  • Group Texts: Hit List: Australian Crime Writing

    Feb 03 2020

    Left to right: Emma Viskic, Mark Brandi, Sulari Gentill, Laura Elizabeth Woollett, Rachael Brown and Garry Disher It’s no mystery that Australian crime writers are on some kind of a rampage – some kind of a spree – filling bookshops, racing up bestseller lists and taking over big and small screens across the globe. Liane Moriarty's Big Little Lies has been a major TV hit. The series’ executive producer, Reese Witherspoon, is now working on a movie adaptation of Jane Harper's The Dry. Local a...more

  • Rachel Kushner: The Mars Room

    Jan 20 2020

    Ellena Savage and Rachel Kushner on stage — Photo: Scott Limbrick ‘This is a story that gets to the root of how my society is structured right now … There’s a way that prison is invisible to a middle-class person. It’s not a conspiracy, but it may be by design in certain regards. It’s a serious subject for a novelist.’ Rachel Kushner is among America’s brightest literary stars. With her previous, highly acclaimed novels, Telex from Cuba (about American expatriates in 1950s pre-Castro Cuba) a...more

  • The Show of the Year 2019

    Dec 16 2019

    Content note: This podcast episode contains some strong language, and mentions violence and child sexual abuse. As the decade turns, The Show of the Year marks 2019 in style – with host Casey Bennetto and a glittering line-up of writers, comedians and musicians. Paul Kelly, Nath Valvo, Alice Bishop, Sista Zai Zanda, Margot Morales Tanjutco, Laura Jean, Alice Gorman, Evelyn Araluen, The Merindas, Brodie Lancaster, Louise Milligan and Bill Shorten share their thoughts on subjects as various as the...more

  • Claire G. Coleman: The Old Lie

    Dec 16 2019

    Tyson Yunkaporta and Claire G. Coleman at the Wheeler Centre Claire G. Coleman believes speculative fiction is a powerful political tool. ‘It’s a genre in which there’s great scope for Aboriginal literature … It’s able to sneak politics into places people don’t expect to see it.' Coleman's revelatory 2017 debut novel, Terra Nullius, depicted an alternative Australia – a continent of either the distant past or the distant future – with an entire, brutal ‘future history’ constructed in meticul...more

  • Mirror Mirror: Beauty, Body Image and the Self

    Dec 16 2019

    Bri Lee, Nikki Stamp, Abbey Mag and Frances Cannon at the Wheeler Centre Bri Lee's Beauty is a deeply personal treatise on body image, discipline and perfectionism. For this discussion, hosted by Lee herself, our panellists take the essay as a jumping-off point for a broader conversation about beauty standards in the 21st Century. Together, they consider the beauty lies we tell ourselves and each other, and explore the impossible standards amplified through social media. What impact is our o...more

  • We Are Here: Stories of Home, Place and Belonging

    Dec 09 2019

    Homelessness can take many guises – sleeping rough, yes, but also couch-surfing, squatting, or staying in a refuge, boarding house or caravan park. The same can be said of the people who experience homelessness. Not defined simply by their predicament, they’re a diverse group. They may be siblings, parents, grandparents; people who study or work; people who’ve moved or migrated, yet to find their feet. People with full lives, and much to offer.  A new profit-for-purpose book from Affirm Press, W...more

  • Double Booked Club: Peter Polites and Christos Tsiolkas

    Dec 06 2019

    Peter Polites and Christos Tsiolkas at the Wheeler Centre For our last Double Booked Club of the year, Christos Tsiolkas was joined by Peter Polites. Tsiolkas is the internationally acclaimed author of The Slap, Barracuda and Dead Europe. He's also a celebrated playwright, critic and short-story writer. His new novel, Damascus, is perhaps his most ambitious work yet, based on the gospel and letters of St Paul and concerned with the early days of the Christian church. Peter Polites is among t...more