Short audio essays by Australia's best academic writers
Join us as we read aloud fascinating, meticulously researched essays penned by academics who are experts in their fields.

Latest Episodes

Nimbin before and after: local voices on how the 1973 Aquarius Festival changed a town forever

Nimbin before and after: local voices on how the 1973 Aquarius Festival changed a town forever.

In the north-east corner of Australia's most populous state of New South Wales is a small former dairying and banana farming community. Today, however, that village is unrecognisable. Nimbin is now widely acknowledged as Australia's counter-cultural capital, a sister city to both Woodstock in New York State and Freetown Christiania in Denmark. Among Nimbin's tourist attractions today are its Hemp Embassy…

1 Host: Jeanti St Clair

Essays On Air: the politics of curry

The politics of curry. The Conversation30.4 MB (download)

Opening Night, Melbourne Comedy Festival 2018. Dilruk Jayasinha’s introductory salvo: This is so exciting. I honestly… Sorry, it’s unbelievable — that I get to do stand-up comedy here at the Palais in Melbourne. Because I… I’m from Sri Lanka! And I used to be an accountant. Yeah. A Sri Lankan accountant!!! So — not just a money cruncher, but a curry-munching money cruncher! Thaaat word … is it back…

1 Host: Mridula Nath Chakraborty

Essays On Air: The female dwarf, disability, and beauty

The female dwarf, disability, and beauty. The Conversation, CC BY23.2 MB (download)

For centuries, women with dwarfism were depicted in art as comic or grotesque fairytale beings. But artists are challenging these portrayals and notions of beauty and physical difference. Essays On Air, a podcast from The Conversation, brings you the best and most beautiful writing from Australian researchers. Today, Western Sydney University researcher Debra Keenahan is reading her essay, titled The…

1 Host: Debra Keenahan

Essays On Air: Australia's property boom and bust cycle stretches back to colonial days

Essays On Air: Australia’s property boom and bust cycle stretches back to colonial days. The Conversation, CC BY58.7 MB (download)

Australia's property market is slowing and many people are contemplating a possible bust. But today's episode of Essays On Air reminds us that even since colonial days, Australia's property market has had its ups and downs. Essays On Air, a podcast from The Conversation, brings you the best and most beautiful writing from Australian researchers. Today, University of Sydney urbanism researchers Alistair…

2 Hosts: Dallas Rogers and Alistair Sisson

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)

On 1 July 1983, in a dramatic four-three decision, the High Court of Australia ruled to stop the damming of the Franklin River. It ended a long campaign that helped bring down two state premiers and a prime minister, as well as overseeing the rise of a new figure on the political landscape – the future founder of the Greens, Bob Brown. But the battle for the Franklin River runs far deeper than simply…

1 Host: Billy Griffiths

Essays On Air: can art really make a difference?

Essays on Air: can art really make a difference? The Conversation26.8 MB (download)

Before the early 19th century, war was commonly depicted as a heroic venture, while death was both noble and surprisingly bloodless. Then came Goya with his collection of etchings called Disasters of War to show the full horror of what Napoleon inflicted on Spain, during the Peninsular War from 1808 to 1814. The art showed, for the first time, the suffering of individuals in the face of military power…

1 Host: Joanna Mendelssohn

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. The science of "geomythology" is breathing new life into such stories. The Loch Ness Monster and other folk tales might not be pure fiction, but actually based on memories of events our ancestors once observed. On today’s episode of Essays On Air, the audio version of The Conversation’s Friday essay series, I’m reading my essay on the geographical…

1 Host: Patrick D. Nunn

Essays On Air: Joan of Arc, our one true superhero

Essays On Air: Joan of Arc, our one true superhero. The Conversation22.1 MB (download)

One need not be a parent of a young child, as I am, to be conscious of the full-blown resurgence of the superhero in contemporary popular culture. But there is more to a hero than courage and strength. On today’s episode of Essays On Air, the audio version of The Conversation’s Friday essay series, I'm reading my essay on Joan of Arc, our one true superhero. She’s been depicted as a national heroine…

1 Host: Ali Alizadeh

Essays On Air: The personal is now commercial – beauty, fashion and feminism

The personal is now commercial – beauty, fashion and feminism. The Conversation22.2 MB (download)

Second wave feminists protested against women's magazines and beauty pageants. Today, however, beauty and fashion editors such as Elaine Welteroth (recently of Teen Vogue) are some of the most high profile voices of a resurgent feminist movement. On my most Pollyannaish days, I want to cheer online publications that mix politics with fashion and beauty for the way they are mainstreaming feminism. On…

1 Host: Kath Kenny

Essays On Air: On the Sydney Mardi Gras march of 1978

On the Sydney Mardi Gras march of 1978. The Conversation, CC BY31.7 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. On today's episode of Essays On Air, the audio version of The Conversation's Friday essay series, Conversation editor Lucinda Beaman is reading my essay on the Sydney Mardi Gras march of 1978. On the eve of the 40th anniversary…

1 Host: Mark Gillespie

Essays On Air: When did Australia’s human history begin?

When did Australia’s human history begin? The Conversation, CC BY16.6 MB (download)

In July 2017, new research was published that pushed the opening chapters of Australian history back to 65,000 years ago. It is the latest development in a time revolution that has gripped the nation over the past half century. In today's episode of Essays On Air - the audio version of our Friday essay series - we're reading you Billy Griffiths, Lynette Russell and Richard "Bert" Roberts' essay When…

3 Hosts: Billy Griffiths, Lynette Russell, and Richard 'Bert' Roberts

Essays On Air: Why grown-ups still need fairy tales

Why grown-ups still need fairy tales. The Conversation, CC BY22.8 MB (download)

Originally for adults, many fairy tales can be brutal, violent, sexual and laden with taboo. When the earliest recorded versions were made by collectors such as the Brothers Grimm, the adult content was maintained. But as time progressed, the tales became diluted, child-friendly and more benign. Adults consciously and unconsciously continue to tell them today, despite advances in logic, science and…

1 Host: Marguerite Johnson

Essays On Air: Reading Germaine Greer’s mail

Essays On Air: Reading Germaine Greer’s mail. The Conversation24.4 MB (download)

From the initial avalanche of mail triggered by Germaine Greer's book The Female Eunuch grew a collection of 50 years of letters, emails, faxes, telegrams and newsletters from academics, schoolchildren, radicals and housewives all over the world. They're now stored in 120 grey, acid-free boxes at the University of Melbourne Archives. Lachlan Glanville, assistant archivist of the Germaine Greer Archive…

1 Host: Lachlan Glanville

Essays On Air: Why libraries can and must change

Essays On Air: Why libraries can and must change. The Conversation, CC BY23.3 MB (download)

In the age of the globalisation of everything – and the privatisation of everything else - libraries can and must change. In fact, it's already underway, as new technologies take books and libraries to places that are, as yet, unimaginable. That's what we're unpacking today on Essays On Air, where we bring you fascinating long form essays in audio form. Today, Camilla Nelson, Associate Professor of…

1 Host: Camilla Nelson

Essays On Air: The cultural meanings of wild horses

The cultural meanings of wild horses. The Conversation18.6 MB (download)

While Australia debates how to reduce our wild horse numbers, other countries are working to re-establish wild horse herds in Europe and Asia. Could Australia's attempts to "manage" brumbies be an act of hubris? That's the question asked in the latest episode of Essays On Air, where we read to you the best essays penned by Australian researchers. Today's moving and deeply personal essay, titled The…

1 Host: Michael Adams

Essays On Air: Journeys to the underworld – Greek myth, film and American anxiety

Journeys to the Underworld – Greek myth, film and American anxiety. The Conversation36.9 MB (download)

A central convention of Greek mythological narratives is katabasis, the hero’s journey to the underworld or land of the dead -- and it's a theme modern directors return to again and again. That's what we're exploring today on our first episode of Essays On Air, a new podcast from The Conversation. It's the audio version of our Friday essays, where we bring you the best and most beautiful writing from…

1 Host: Paul Salmond

Essays On Air: a new podcast from The Conversation bringing the best writing to you

Essays On Air 01: Introducing Essays On Air.

The Conversation is launching a new podcast, Essays On Air. It's the audio version of our Friday essays, where we bring you the best and most beautiful writing from Australian researchers. In each 10 to 15 minute episode, we’ll read aloud fascinating, meticulously researched essays penned by academics who are experts in their fields. These authors bring real knowledge, depth and love to the topics…

1 Host: Sunanda Creagh