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Guy Pearce as the Chandleresque private investigator Jack Irish: in the early years of Australian crime fiction, convicts and bushrangers featured prominently. Lachlan Moore

Friday essay: from convicts to contemporary convictions – 200 years of Australian crime fiction

Australia's rich tradition of crime fiction is little known – early tales told of bushrangers and convicts, one hero was a mining engineer turned amateur detective – but it reveals a range of national myths and fantasies.
A curry-themed shoulder bag: ‘Curry’ is a word that no self-respecting subcontinental would own without a thousand caveats attached. shutterstock

Friday essay: the politics of curry

Whether being called 'curry munchers' or pigeonholed as authorities on a dish largely invented by the British, diasporic South Asians are emulsified in a deep pool of curry.
Australia’s romantic attitude to farming has done untold damage to the land. Shutterstock.com

Friday essay: Dark Emu and the blindness of Australian agriculture

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. Wikimedia Commons

Friday essay: what might heaven be like?

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. Shutterstock

Friday essay: how do you measure 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. Chris Haych/flickr

Friday essay: William Ricketts Sanctuary is a racist anachronism but can it foster empathy?

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.
Australian pulp fiction: these works can be read as a symptom, laying bare the unspoken fears, desires, dreams and nightmares of the time. Author provided

Friday essay: the complex, contradictory pleasures of pulp fiction

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

Essays on Air: how archaeology helped save the Franklin River. The Conversation23,2 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. Stella Prize

Friday essay: the remarkable, prize-winning rise of our small publishers

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.
Ben Quilty, Life vest, Lesbos. 2016, oil on polyester, 60 x 50cm. Australian War Memorial

Essays On Air: can art really make a difference?

Essays on Air: can art really make a difference? The Conversation26,8 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?
The Loch Ness Monster and other folk tales might not be pure fiction, but actually based on memories of events our ancestors once observed. Shutterstock

Essays On Air: Monsters in my closet – how a geographer began mining myths

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. IMDB/Amazon Studios

Friday essay: can art really make a difference?

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.

Friday essay: in defence of beauty in art

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.

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