From 29 April—5 May, some of the world's leading literary luminaries and public intellectuals will come together to examine this year's theme, 'Lie to Me'. From white lies to grand deceptions — what are the fictions we tell ourselves, to each other, as a collective? And, as writers and readers, what is our power to cut through them?

Coining the phrase "The Lucky Country" as the title of his series of essays published in 1964, Donald Horne went on to become one of Australia's most misquoted authors. The phrase, still a much-loved catch-cry of Australian politicians, was intended in irony; a critique of a nation "run by second-rate people who share its luck".

Over fifty years later, are we still falling for it? Showcasing the sessions that ask us to consider, "lucky for whom, and at whose expense?", we've curated our favourite sessions that challenge this lexicon of Australian identity. 

The Right Way Up: Populism in Australia, 3 May, 10am

While most think of Australia as a successful democracy underpinned by liberal values, it’s increasingly clear that we may not be immune from the global rise of xenophobic and nativist forces. Some are concerned that populism is pulling the Liberal Party and sections of our media to the right and will have implications for years to come. Associate Professor David Blaazer speaks with The Rise of the Right author and one-time Liberal Party adviser Greg Barns, writer for the ABC and Guardian Australia Jennine Khalik, former Greens senator Scott Ludlam and political writer George Megalogenis about the issue.

Sticks and Stones: Defamation Law, 3 May, 1:30pm

Australian defamation law has been called a ‘Frankenstein’s monster’ of poorly adapted legislation that offers insufficient protection for journalists and is ill-equipped to safeguard ordinary citizens in the digital age. Is it time we scrap the law or give it a dramatic rewrite? David Marr puts these questions to former Melbourne University Press CEO Louise Adler, Professor David Rolph, and ABC Life’s Osman Faruqi (who successfully sued Mark Latham in a high-profile defamation case).

David Marr: My Country, 3 May, 4:30pm 

My Country confirms David Marr’s place as one of Australia’s most unflinching and forensic reporters of political controversy, and one of its most subtle and eloquent biographers. This definitive collection of David’s writing spans from the 1978 Mardi Gras police bashings all the way to Patrick White, Pauline Hanson and Cardinal Pell. A perennial Festival favourite, David joins Sally Warhaft to share insights into his illuminating reportage and storied career.


Stan Grant: Australia Day, 3 May, 8pm

Since publishing his Walkley Award–winning, bestselling memoir Talking to My Country, Stan Grant has been travelling across Australia, talking to huge crowds about how racism is at the heart of our history and the Australian dream. But he knows this is not where the story ends. Stan returns to the Festival to discuss his much-anticipated follow-up, Australia Day, in conversation with George Megalogenis. This is an extraordinarily powerful and personal book about reconciliation, the Indigenous struggle for belonging, and what it means to be Australian. 

Finding the Lost Arabs, 4 May, 3pm

Over the past two decades, media representations of Arab–Australians have been dominated by news headlines about gangs, drugs, sexual assaults and terrorist conspiracies. In this urgent public dialogue, four of Australia’s most exciting Arab–Australian authors, Michael Mohammed Ahmad, Omar Sakr, Sarah Ayoub and Randa Abdel-Fattah, discuss the role that literature plays in reshaping our understanding of contemporary Middle Eastern identity.

Teacher: Gabbie Stroud, 5 May, 3pm

Teacher is a powerful memoir by Gabbie Stroud detailing how the current education system is letting down children and parents, and breaking dedicated teachers – including herself. Inspired by her essay in the Griffith Review, it has been praised as an “achingly heartfelt personal reflection” by Noni Hazlehurst and “as important as anything I’ve ever read about education” by Jane Caro. Gabbie joins Nicole Mockler to discuss this brilliant and heartbreaking book that cuts to the heart of a vital matter for our nation.