Program Highlights

Take a fresh look at some of today’s most pressing issues, challenge the traditional ways of thinking and be inspired to change the world! UNSW Arts & Social Sciences is proud to support the following events as part of the 2017 Sydney Writers’ Festival.

For a full of list of festival events, please visit

Roxane Gay

Wednesday 24 May 6.00pm – 7.30pm

Sydney Writers’ Festival comes to UNSW, Professor Emma A Jane from UNSW's School of the Arts & Media chats with the New York based author about her contribution to the contemporary feminist debate and her latest collection of stories Difficult Women and the success of her previous work The Bad Feminist.

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Thinking Globally

Thinking Globally is supported by UNSW Arts & Social Sciences.

Take a fresh look at some of the most pressing issues facing the world today. What does Britain’s exit from the European Union mean for employment, the economy, immigration and art? What does the legacy of 1917 mean for Russia a century on? In the world of the 24-hour news cycle, how much permission can you give yourself to tune out? Featuring Russian journalist and author Mikhail Zygar, The Guardian US data editor Mona Chalabi, leading economist Sebastian Mallaby, Shanghai Correspondent for NPR Rob Schmitz and bestselling author Thomas Friedman.


May 25, 11.30am
Ros Packer Theatre

An international panel weighs in on Britain’s exit from the European Union and what it means on a local and global scale. The Guardian US Data Editor Mona Chalabi, Man Booker Prize-winner Anne Enright, Washington Post columnist and leading economist Sebastian Mallaby talk to Anton Enus about how Brexit will affect employment, the economy, immigration and art. Guests consider the view that Brexit will slow growth, and the ‘Leave’ campaign’s counterarguments that Britain will prosper.

Stop the World I Want to Get Off

May 27, 10.00am
Pier 2/3 Club Stage

Burnt out by the 24-hour news cycle with its constant updates on Trump tweets, Middle Eastern crises and bitter Brexit disputes? You’re not alone. But should you give yourself permission to tune out? Don’t miss a panel discussion with Michael Willams, British Poet Laureate Carol Ann Duffy, NPR’s Shanghai correspondent Rob Schmitz, acclaimed author Tara June Winch and award-winning journalist John Zubrzycki about the dilemma of looking away. Who will keep fighting on the information front line?  

Globalisation and Inequality in the Age of Trump

May 27, 1.30pm
Pier 2/3 Main Stage

In 2005, as globalisation flourished, writer Thomas Friedman said the ‘world is flat’, suggesting it offered a level commercial playing field. Over a decade later, Thomas is joined by economist Richard Holden, Washington Post columnist Sebastian Mallaby and ACTU’s Ged Kearney to discuss globalisation and inequality in a new world of walls, trade barriers and immigration control. Moderated by ABC’s Emma Alberici, the panel will examine globalisation in the era of Trump and Brexit, and will consider where today’s political climate may take us.

From Russia, With Love

May 28, 3.00pm
Pier 2/3 The Loft

It’s 100 years since the Russian Revolution but there is still no official version of events. In Russia, it is feared that Putin will use the revolution’s centenary to further push his agenda. Journalist Mikhail Zygar (All The Kremlin’s Men) believes it is crucial for the Russian ‘national consciousness’ to understand the communist uprising and what it means for Russia today. He joins Soviet-born cultural historian and writer Maria Tumarkin and Sally Warhaft to discuss the legacy of 1917.  

System Breakdown

May 26, 1.30pm
Philharmonia Studio 10

In The End of Patriarchy: Radical Feminism for Men Robert Jensen asks, ‘How do we create and maintain stable, decent human communities that can remain in a sustainable relationship with the larger living world?’ Robert helps plot the societal changes needed in our changing world with Tim Flannery (leading writer on climate change), Dr Penny Griffin (Popular Culture, Political Economy and the Death of Feminism: Why Women are in Refrigerators and Other Stories), Professor Mark Moran (Indigenous expert and author of Serious Whitefella Stuff). Moderated by Melanie Joosten.

Other events not to be missed

The following events are presented as part of the 2017 Sydney Writers’ Festival and feature staff from UNSW exploring the world of creative writing, inspiring stories and critical social issues.

Human Baggage: The Hate Politics of Immigration

May 26, 1.30pm
Sydney Dance 1

Why has the word “immigrant” become such a slur in the US? When did Australia roll up the welcome mat for refugees? In an era of Executive Orders and strict immigration policies, an unprecedented number of people try to move across international borders to flee war and economic insecurity. Our panel gets to grips with changing community attitudes around the world. Data Editor of Guardian US, Mona Chalabi, Palestinian-born Australian playwright Samah Sabawi, writer Roanna Gonsalves and Canadian playwright Stephen Orlov join Claudia Tazreiter from the Forced Migration Research Network for a frank and fearless conversation on the political and personal consequences of border control policies.  

Strong Female Characters

May 25, 10.00am
Ros Packer Theatre

Kathryn Heyman, Zoë Morrison, Jacqueline Rose and Laura Elizabeth Woollett talk to Bianca Fileborn about the challenges and nuances of bringing complex female characters to the page.   

Business Bites: Michael Traill in Conversation with Anthony Zwi

May 25, 1.00pm

Matthews Folbigg Lawyers, Parramatta

Michael Traill’s candid memoir Jumping Ship takes readers from ‘the millionaire’s factory’ of corporate Australia to the heart of social investment. He talks about his work, social justice and writing his critically-acclaimed memoir with Anthony Zwi.


May 25, 3.00pm
Sydney Dance 1

Hear Annabel Abbs, Carmel Bird, Alexandra Joel and Jacqueline Rose discuss their latest works on the lives of women who transgressed the social norms – and the shocking prices they paid. With Helen Pringle.