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Things My Mother Never Told Me

Let’s hear it for mothers: the ones we choose, the ones who chose us, those who birthed us, mothers-in-law, step-mothers, foster mothers. There for us, before us, showing the way. But sometimes we learn as much from the absences and silences as we do from the considered advice and life lessons. All the guidance and care, rants and  sympathetic sit–downs in the world can still leave us unprepared for what life throws at us.

In a powerful evening of readings and performances, reflections and song, our all-star gala line-up will fill empty spaces in their own pasts with the conversations they wish they had and the things they needed to hear. This airing of unspoken truths may be funny, complicated, angry, vulnerable, messy, or tender. But they’ll all leave you vowing to speak up, over–share, and probably call somebody you love.

With Aretha Brown, Ariel Levy, Bhenji Ra, Clare Wright, Courtney Barnett, Curtis Sittenfeld, Fran Kelly, Maria Tumarkin, Mehreen Faruqi, Nayuka Gorrie, Nicole Lee, Patricia Cornelius and Raquel Willis.

This event will be Auslan interpreted.


$35 and $30 concession, plus a one-off $4.00 transaction fee


Melbourne Town Hall



Curtis Sittenfeld

'Sometimes, there can be a slightly condescending assumption that anything unlikable about a female character is a mistake, as if they’re a contestant in a beauty pageant and have to seem charming and upbeat all the time.'

Curtis Sittenfeld is the bestselling author of five novels – the cult-classic Prep, The Man of My Dreams, American Wife, Sisterland and Eligible – and one story collection, You Think It, I’ll Say It.

Her books have been selected by the New York Times, Time, Entertainment Weekly and People for their ‘Ten Best Books of the Year’ lists, optioned for television and film, and translated into 30 languages. Her short stories have appeared in the New Yorker, the Washington Post, and Esquire, and her non-fiction has appeared in the New York Times, Time, Vanity Fair, the Atlantic, Slate, and on This American Life.

Nayuka Gorrie

Nayuka Gorrie is a Kurnai/Gunai, Gunditjmara, Wiradjuri, and Yorta Yorta writer. Gorrie’s work explores black, queer and feminist politics. They wrote and performed in season three of Black Comedy. In 2018 they were named as a Wheeler Centre Next Chapter recipient, and are currently working on a book of essays.


Ariel Levy

‘I wanted what we all want: everything. We want a mate who feels like family and a lover who is exotic, surprising. We want to be youthful adventurers and middle-aged mothers. We want intimacy and autonomy, safety and stimulation, reassurance and novelty, coziness and thrills. But we can’t have it all.’

While Ariel Levy’s writing effortlessly moves between hulking subjects like sex, love and loss, her most familiar theme is freedom. From her bestselling debut, Female Chauvinist Pigs, which chronicled the rise of raunch culture, to her National Magazine Award- winning piece ‘Thanksgiving in Mongolia’ in the New Yorker (where she’s been a staff writer since 2008), Levy’s work explores and subverts expectations around what a woman’s life should look like. These intentions were crystalised in her 2017 memoir, The Rules Do Not Apply.

Bhenji Ra

‘I think if we’re talking about popular feminism’s inclusion of trans and gender-diverse people, non-binary people, we’re not even scratching the surface.’

Bhenji Ra is an interdisciplinary artist. Her practice combines dance, choreography, video, installation and club events. She is the Mother of ‘Slé’, a young, Western Sydney-based Vogue house, where she hosts events and Balls at the intersection of community and performance.

Ra’s work is often concerned with the dissection of cultural theory and identity, centralising her own personal histories as a tool to reframe performance. Collaboration and consultation are key to her work, and the voices of her own community remain central to her critical practice.

Courtney Barnett

‘I’m not your mother, I’m not your bitch.’

Since her debut album Sometimes I Sit And Think, And Sometimes I Just Sit, Courtney Barnett has been celebrated as one of the most distinctive and compelling voices in rock, an artist who mixes insightful observations with devastating self-assessment. Her second solo record, Tell Me How You Really Feel, was released in 2018; a profoundly realised and politically astute rock-record which had both the Sunday Times and Rolling Stone hailing her as the ‘voice of a generation’.

She is the first female artist ever to win the ARIA for Best Rock Artist (she’s won five ARIAs now), she was APRA’s Australian Songwriter Of The Year in 2016. Barnett has also received the Australian Music Prize and Triple J’s Australian Album of the Year. In 2015 she was nominated for a Grammy Award. Barnett is the founder and owner of Milk! Records.

Fran Kelly

'Let me remind any women of any generation still worried by the tag ... feminism is about equality, political equality, economic equality, cultural equality, personal equality, social equality. That’s it, it’s as simple as that.'

Fran Kelly is one of Australia’s leading political interviewers and commentators. She has earned a reputation as an intelligent, informed and balanced journalist who has been a key contributor to the nation’s political and social debates for the past 25 years. In that time she’s been the ABC’s Europe Correspondent based in London, the political editor for The 7.30 Report and the political correspondent for the prestigious AM program. 

Clare Wright

Professor Clare Wright OAM is an award-winning historian, author, broadcaster and public commentator who has worked in politics, academia and the media. Clare is currently a Principal Research Fellow and ARC Future Fellow at La Trobe University. In 2020, Clare was awarded a Medal of the Order of Australia in the Australia Day Honours list for “services to literature and to historical research”.

Nicole Lee

‘We can’t get away from the fact that women with disabilities are vulnerable. Society is slowly changing, but as much as people hate hearing it women are already on the back foot and then you add a disability ... we’re so much further behind.’

Nicole Lee is a family violence survivor and passionate public advocate who has played a major role through her appointment to Victim Survivors’ Advisory Council. Lee, who also uses a wheelchair, focuses on family violence perpetrated against those who have a disability, or who depend on carers or family members for support. After suffering a decade of abuse at the hands of her former husband, Lee now uses her lived experience of family violence to speak out for those who don’t yet have a voice.

Mehreen Faruqi

‘I see an unashamedly feminist country where the patriarchy is dismantled, where access to abortion is unambiguously legal, where the safety of women is of the utmost importance and violence against women is confronted as the crisis that it is.’

Mehreen Faruqi is the Greens’ Senator for New South Wales, and the first Muslim woman to become senator in Australia. Faruqi has been involved in feminist and anti-racist activism throughout her life. She introduced the first ever bill to decriminalise abortion while an MP in New South Wales Parliament and won the closure of pregnancy discrimination loopholes. Faruqi’s work for reproductive rights was recognised with the feminist Edna Ryan Grand Stirrer award in 2017 ‘for inciting others to challenge the status quo’. Her ‘Love Letters to Mehreen’ series has highlighted the online harassment, bullying and toxicity experienced by women of colour in public life.

Patricia Cornelius

‘You pay a price to be able to talk about your own country in the works in a really truthful and brutal way. A lot of people don’t want to hear that.’

Patricia Cornelius is a playwright of rare courage and power. As a founding member of Melbourne Workers Theatre, Patricia Cornelius has spent her career drawing attention to marginalised lives and issues surrounding class. Cornelius has written more than 35 plays, including Slut, The Call, Shit and Savages. She also co-wrote the Australian classic, Who’s Afraid of the Working Class? Cornelius is the recipient of the 2019 Windham Campbell Prize for Drama. 

Maria Tumarkin

Maria Tumarkin writes books, essays, reviews, and pieces for performance and radio; she collaborates with sound and visual artists and has had her work carved into dockside tiles. She is the author of four books of ideas. Her fourth (and latest) book Axiomatic won the 2018 Melbourne Prize for Literature and was shortlisted for the National Book Critics Circle Award (US), the Stella Prize, and the Prime Minister’s, NSW and Victorian Premiers’ Awards. Axiomatic was named a New Yorker Top 10 Book of 2019.

Maria is a recipient of the 2020 Windham Campbell Prize in the category of nonfiction. She holds a PhD in cultural history and is a senior lecturer in the creative writing program at the University of Melbourne.

Raquel Willis

‘As we commit to each other to build this movement of resistance and liberation, no one can be an afterthought.’

Raquel Willis is a Black queer transgender activist, writer and speaker dedicated to inspiring and elevating marginalized individuals, particularly transgender women of color. She is currently the Executive Editor of Out Magazine. In 2018, she was named a Jack Jones Literary Arts Sylvia Rivera Fellow. She's also a part of Echoing Ida, a national Black women and nonbinary writers' collective. She is a former National Organizer for Transgender Law Center.

Aretha Brown

In 2017, Aretha Brown delivered an impassioned speech at the Invasion Day Rally in Melbourne, fighting to make Indigenous history education mainstream. Her delivery and ideas led her to be elected as Prime Minister of the National Indigenous Youth Parliament, the youngest ever person — and the first woman — to hold this position. An accomplished artist, Brown is currently studying painting at the Victorian College of the Arts.