THINKING BIG at the Byron Bay Writers Festival


Whether the topic is terrorism, refugees, the true cost of free speech, war, the Catholic Church, or failing media empires – the Byron Bay Writers Festival is not afraid to tackle major social, ethical and philosophical issues.

With a featured guest list of some of Australia’s brightest thinkers and creative minds joined by a cast of esteemed international writers, Festival Director Edwina Johnson says the Festival will both challenge and excite audiences in conversations, which are destined to be remembered long after the event is over.

This year’s program is as diverse as it is rich and boasts several Big Issue sessions including Dream Boat Refugees; How Vulture Capitalism is Swallowing the World; Secrets and Lies: Should the Catholic Church Confess; Shifting Sands: Lessons from Iraq, Afghanistan and The Cost of Free Speech. Wide-ranging, provocative and probing commentary will underpin this year’s Festival program.

One such session is destined to be Soldiers: Lambs to the Slaughter or Sacred Cows programmed on Saturday, August 2. Featuring James Brown, David Finkel and Rabia Siddique, it will be chaired by the former editor of The Northern Star, Russell Eldridge.

Panellist Rabia Siddique is a woman of many talents. She speaks four languages, has run the London marathon for charity, undertaken human rights and community aid work in the Middle East, South America, United Kingdom and Australia and is a mother to five-year-old triplet boys.

Siddique is also a criminal and human rights lawyer, a retired British army officer, a former terrorism and war crimes prosecutor and published author. In 2006, Siddique was awarded a Queen’s commendation for her human rights work in Iraq, and in 2009, she was the runner-up for Australian Woman of the Year UK. She has recently written and published her memoir, Equal Justice.

Siddique is delighted to be involved in the Festival. “I’ll elaborate on the story told in my memoir and will further explore the issues of equality, resilience, authentic leadership and the need for us all to have courage in our convictions.”

Fellow human rights barrister, Julian Burnside will tackle the emotional topic of refugees in the session Dream Boat Refugees to be held on Friday, August 1. Burnside will be joined by Vietnamese refugee, award-winning author and publisher Carina Hoang and Antony Loewenstein, Guardian columnist and best-selling author who will also feature in another powerful Festival session, How Vulture Capitalism is Swallowing the World.

Then the Big Issues turn to politics and the environment…

Former Prime Minister Malcolm Fraser and Pulitzer Prize winner David Finkel will explore Australia’s relationship with the US, prompted by influential commentator, David Marr, while journalists Mike Carlton, Terry Hayes and Kate McClymont will discuss The State of the State.

They will be preceded by retired politician Bob Brown and Tim Flannery, who will explore their environmental vision for our wide brown land…

‘You may laugh, you may debate and you may even shed a tear or two, but above all you’ll be privileged to hear and discover powerful evocative stories that will echo and ripple into the community and beyond,’ says Johnson.

The Festival runs from 1- 3 August with workshops commencing on 28 July. For more Festival information and feature event tickets, or call 1300 368 552.