It’s a new year and a new decade. This brand new era – starting with the least relaxing Australian summer many of us have experienced in a long time – feels something like a turning point.

The most recent Twenties, the 1920s, were a time of radical creative upheaval. Duke Ellington changed music forever at the Cotton Club. James Joyce published Ulysses. And Georgia O’Keeffe painted those incredible skyscrapers. Perhaps the 2020s will be marked by artistic innovation and momentous intellectual shifts, too; we’ll try to play our part in making that happen.

Right now, we’re working hard on our Season One programme, which we’ll announce on Monday 10 February. We’ll continue to support local writers with our Hot Desk Fellowships – now open for applications. And we’re honouring the best Australian writing through the Victorian Premier’s Literary Awards, too. (You have just a couple of hours left to do the same … voting for the People’s Choice Award ends at 5pm AEDT today!)

The words 'Twenty Twenty' over a purple background

In February 2010, the Wheeler Centre introduced itself – and its programme – to Melbourne with its first ever event: a gala night of storytelling. Wielding an impressive line-up of Australian writers, we invited our speakers and audience alike to reflect on the stories that make us who we are – and to mark the beginning of our own.

We've become many things in the decade since – but we're not immune to a pinch of nostalgia, even as we look to the future. Join us on Tuesday 25 February at the Athenaeum Theatre as we celebrate our tenth birthday with a very special storytelling gala. You’ll hear from ten speakers – one from each storytelling gala of the past decade – sharing stories big and small, tender and rueful, funny and profound, on the topic of hindsight. Because, you know, it’s 2020.

With Eddie Ayres, Cate Kennedy, Archie Roach, Alison Lester, Alice Pung, Jack Charles, Gregory Phillips, Sally Warhaft, Sinead Stubbins and Nevo Zisin.

Illustration of a person working at a laptop, perspective from above

The Wheeler Centre’s Hot Desk Fellowships are back for 2020 – once again made possible by the generous support of the Readings Foundation. Twenty writers will be offered fellowships throughout the year. For the fourth year, an additional Playwright Hot Desk Fellowship will be offered to an emerging female or non-binary playwright supported by the generosity of the Just Pretending theatre group.

These 21 fellowships, which include a $1000 stipend and workspace in the Wheeler Centre over a ten-week period, have been created simply to provide emerging writers with the space to write and create. Applications are open until 5pm, Monday 24 February 2020.

Illustration of two figures kissing, one a pink shadow and one a purple shadow
A 5-minute read

A Thousand Loving Thrusts

Rachel Ang examines the face as a threshold, a portal and a point of exchange.

Illustration of a man without a face against a brick wall, with a glowing signature 'Barry Smith'
A 6-minute read

Inner Beauty

A story about lost property, found faces and literary cachet, by Tiffany Tsao.

Photograph of a blank fragment of parchment
A 7-minute read

Saving Face

Georgia Rose Phillips examines questions of identity and self-image raised by the still experimental field of facial transplants.

Illustration of a virtual face-mapping outline
A 10-minute read

City of Faces

When it comes to 21st Century surveillance, Connor Tomas O’Brien asks, what won’t we countenance?

Photographs of Abdul Aziz Muhamat
29 minutes

#12 Flight from Manus

Aziz is shortlisted for a major international prize, the Martin Ennals Award for Human Rights Defenders. The ceremony is in Geneva, Switzerland. Improbably, the prize’s organisers secretly arrange permission for him to leave Manus Island to attend the event. 

In the penultimate episode of The Messenger, Aziz finally – temporarily – escapes Papua New Guinea, five and a half years after the Australian government took him there against his will. But he has no proper passport or visa, and no idea what to expect.  

After years of exile and captivity, how will it feel to visit Switzerland – one of the richest countries in the world? And can Aziz make any difference for those who remain stuck on Manus Island and Nauru?

An episode of The Messenger.

Photographs of Andrea Goldsmith
53 minutes

Andrea Goldsmith

How do we become estranged from ourselves – and from the people and places that have moulded us? What’s the way back? And how can we begin again?

These questions are at the heart of the new book from award-winning writer Andrea Goldsmith. Invented Lives, Goldsmith's eighth novel, is about a young Russian-Jewish woman who arrives in Australia in the mid-1980s as a refugee. Best known for her 2015 Melbourne Prize-winning novel, The Memory Trap, and for the Miles Franklin-shortlisted 2003 novel, The Prosperous Thief, Goldsmith is also an accomplished essayist and superb short-story writer.

At Montalto, Goldsmith talks to Michael Williams about her latest novel and her body of work.

An episode of Books and Ideas at Montalto.

Photograph of Ellena Savage and Rachel Kushner
62 minutes

Rachel Kushner: The Mars Room

Rachel Kushner's latest novel, The Mars Room, sees her applying her talents to the American prison system. The book follows a woman serving two life sentences for killing her stalker, and it’s the product of years of research, and close collaboration with Americans who have themselves served time.

In conversation with Ellena Savage in April 2019, the extraordinary Kushner talks crime, punishment and American institutions.

An episode of The Wheeler Centre.

Photograph of Tony Birch
62 minutes

Tony Birch

Tony Birch is among Australia’s finest living writers. A poet, activist and academic, as well as an acclaimed novelist and short-story writer, Birch’s writing is concerned with Australians, especially Indigenous Australians, living life on the fringes. He writes, too, about the dark shadow cast by the state in the everyday lives of marginalised people.

His new book, The White Girl, is about the Stolen Generations, set in 1960s rural Australia. It’s the story of Odette, and her fair-skinned granddaughter, who she must protect from authorities at all costs.

At Montalto, he joins Michael Williams for a conversation about writing, research and the politics of prejudice – then and now.

An episode of Books and Ideas at Montalto.


The Wheeler Centre acknowledges that we work on the lands of the Kulin Nation. We pay our respects to their Elders past, present and emerging.