Many individuals, communities and nations are grappling to come to terms with past events and experiences. Whether doing so is joyful or tragic, satisfying or disquieting, it’s necessary if we hope to imagine and create a future worth living in. In our spellbinding Opening Night Address, extraordinary writers discuss the different ways our past is prologue. Booker Prize winner Bernardine Evaristo, writer and broadcaster Benjamin Law and Miles Franklin Award winner Alexis Wright take the stage followed by a performance from acclaimed poet Madison Godfrey.

Supported by the City of Sydney.

This event is Auslan interpreted and open captioned.

Bernardine Evaristo (International)

Bernardine Evaristo

Bernardine Evaristo won the Booker Prize 2019 with her eighth book, Girl, Woman, Other, the first black woman and black British person to win it. A #1 Sunday Times bestseller for five weeks, it spent 44 weeks in the Top 10, has sold over a million copies and been a bestseller in many other languages. In 2021, she published a memoir, Manifesto: On Never Giving Up, her first non-fiction book. As an arts activist she has set up many arts inclusion projects and curates a black British literature publishing series with Penguin UK. She is Professor of Creative Writing at Brunel University London, an Honorary Fellow of St. Anne’s College, University of Oxford, an International Member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, and President of the Royal Society of Literature – the first person of colour to hold the position since it was founded in 1820.

Madison Godfrey (Australian)

Madison Godfrey

Madison Godfrey is a writer, editor and educator who lives on Whadjuk Noongar land, with a rescue cat named Sylvia. They have performed poetry at Sydney Opera House, the Royal Albert Hall, and Glastonbury Festival. Madison is a previous recipient of the Kat Muscat Fellowship, the Varuna Flagship Fellowship, and a WA Youth Award. Their new poetry collection Dress Rehearsals was published by Allen & Unwin in March 2023 and “sounds like the score of a rebellion” (Nakkiah Lui).

Benjamin Law (Australian)

Benjamin Law

Benjamin Law is a journalist, columnist, TV screenwriter and author of The Family Law, Gaysia: Adventures in the Queer East and Quarterly Essay 67: Moral Panic 101. The Family Law is an award-winning TV series for SBS that Benjamin created and co-wrote over three seasons. He co-host’s ABC Radio's Stop Everything! with Beverley Wang, and is a weekly columnist for Good Weekend magazine.

Alexis Wright (Australian)

Alexis Wright

Alexis Wright is a member of the Waanyi nation of the southern highlands of the Gulf of Carpentaria. The author of the prize-winning novels Carpentaria and The Swan Book, Wright has published three works of non-fiction: Take Power, an oral history of the Central Land Council; Grog War, a study of alcohol abuse in the Northern Territory; and Tracker, an award-winning collective memoir of Aboriginal leader, Tracker Tilmouth. Her books have been published widely overseas, including in China, the US, the UK, Italy, France and Poland. She held the position of Boisbouvier Chair in Australian Literature at the University of Melbourne between 2017–2022. Wright is the only author to win both the Miles Franklin Award (in 2007 for Carpentaria) and the Stella Prize (in 2018 for Tracker). Her third novel, Praiseworthy, will be published by Giramondo in April 2023.