Australia’s romantic attitude to farming has done untold damage to the land.
The powerful ideological connection between Australia and agriculture is being increasingly scrutinised. A spate of recent books have recast basic assumptions about our relationship to the land.
Surrounded by Angels, by Carl Schweninger der Jungere, 1912.
Notions of heaven have changed through the ages, from an eternity centred on God to a more secular place where loved ones will reunite.
The courts are, or can be, theatres of remorse.
In many legal jurisdictions of the world, including Australia, an offender’s remorse is a mitigating factor at sentencing. And yet how judges evaluate such expressions is unclear.
A sculpture of William Ricketts looms over those of Arrernte and Pitjantjatjara men at the sanctuary in Victoria’s Dandenong Ranges.
A mossy sanctuary in Victoria's Dandenong Ranges houses 92 sculptures, mostly of Arrernte and Pitjantjatjara men, women and children. They are steeped in primitivism, yet the park is a popular tourist attraction.
Parliament House is a citadel — the practices and representations of democracy have been segregated from the community.
Why not turn the moat of parkland enclosing Parliament House into a new inner-city?
Australian pulp fiction: these works can be read as a symptom, laying bare the unspoken fears, desires, dreams and nightmares of the time.
Mid-20th century pulp fiction was trashy, tasteless, exploitative and lurid. There’s a lot there to love. You might read pulp as a cultural Freudian slip, loony bulletins from the collective Id.
The battle for the Franklin River runs far deeper than simply providing the backdrop for a political tug-of-war.
PETER DOMBROVSKIS/ LIZ DOMBROVSKIS/AAP
Essays on Air: how archaeology helped save the Franklin River.
The Conversation 23.2 MB (download)
The battle to save the Franklin River - an exhilarating story of politics, cultural heritage and passionate environmentalism - captivated the nation in 1983.
Four of the six shortlisted books for the 2018 Stella Prize were from smaller presses, as was the winner, Alexis Wright’s Tracker.
As major publishers chase bestselling books, small ones are leading the way in publishing Australian literary fiction. And of late, they have been sweeping our major literary awards.
Before the outsiders arrived in Wurundjeri country this billabong enjoyed a vital ecological connection with other waterways.
At 14, writer Tony Birch had rarely travelled two miles out of the centre of Melbourne. Encountering a billabong on the Birrarung River was the first time that country spoke to him.
Popular sitcoms like Modern Family avoid reflecting on wider economic realities: Roseanne has filled a void.
When it debuted in 1988, Roseanne was a breath of fresh air against the conservative middle class family sitcoms then on air. Its reboot in 2018 feels just as relevant.
Ben Quilty, Life vest, Lesbos. 2016, oil on polyester, 60 x 50cm.
Australian War Memorial
Essays on Air: can art really make a difference?
The Conversation 26.8 MB (download)
Art has always depicted the crimes of our times throughout centuries of wars and humanitarian crises. Can we really expect it to truly make a difference in the real world?
Thylacine joey, from the collections of the Natural History Museum, London.
More than 160 thylacine specimens lie in museum collections in the UK. The sight of their bodies is a shocking reminder of loss.
The Loch Ness Monster and other folk tales might not be pure fiction, but actually based on memories of events our ancestors once observed.
Essays On Air: Monsters in my closet - how a geographer began mining myths.
So you think the Loch Ness Monster never existed? Think again. Traditional myths from our ancestors might actually reveal important clues about the geological history of the world.
Still from Human Flow, directed by Ai Weiwei.
Artists have long tackled global issues, from war to human rights. While Picasso's celebrated Guernica may not have stopped the Spanish Civil War (or any war), art still holds value, as witness and as truth teller.
Detail from Emily Kam Kngwarray, Anmatyerr people.
Yam awely 1995
synthetic polymer paint on canvas
150 x 491 cm
National Gallery of Australia, Canberra Gift of the Delmore Collection, Donald and Janet Holt 1995 © Emily Kam Kngwarray.
Today, beauty counts for little in the judgement of works of art. But our felt experience of beauty connects us with an object's maker, revealing a pure moment of humanity.
Detail from Caravaggio’s Mary Magdelene, painted circa 1594-1596.
For centuries, Mary Magdalene was wrongly depicted as a repentant whore, diminishing her vital role as witness to the resurrection. A new film portraying her life does much to restore her character.
Why did this woman, so devoted to her political cause and to her vision of a united France, chose to be burnt at the stake at the age of 19 instead of acquiescing to her judges’ directives?
Essays On Air: Joan of Arc, our one true superhero.
The Conversation 22.1 MB (download)
Joan of Arc has been depicted as a national heroine, nationalist symbol, a rebellious heretic and a goodly saint. Forget Wonder Woman and Batman – Jeanne d’Arc may be our one and only true superhero.
Eva Blue/Flickr, Southern Cross Austereo
The personal is now commercial – beauty, fashion and feminism.
The Conversation 22.2 MB (download)
Sometimes I want to cheer online publications that combine politics, fashion and beauty for the way they are mainstreaming feminism. On closer inspection, though, it has produced some odd results.
A fragment of a wall painting showing two lovers in bed from the House of L Caecilius Jucundus in Pompeii, now at Naples National Archaeological Museum.
From phallus-shaped wind chimes to explicit erotica on lamps and cups, sex is everywhere in ancient Greek and Roman art. But our interpretations of these images say much about our own culture.
Marchers at the 1978 Mardi Gras parade.
Sally Colechin/The Pride History Group
On the Sydney Mardi Gras march of 1978.
The Conversation, CC BY 31.7 MB (download)
On a cold Saturday night in Sydney on June 24, 1978, a number of gay men, lesbians and transgender people marched into the pages of Australian social history. I was one of them.