Australian politics, society & culture

December 2014
Disturbing accounts come to light about conditions in the island’s detention centr
By The Monthly

The following letters, written by asylum seekers on Nauru in the past three months, were provided to the Monthly. They are accounts of conditions in the detention centre on the island and the state of mind of those detained in it.

We are publishing them because we believe the right to be heard is fundamental. It is the least asylum seekers deserve, particularly those detained indefinitely.

These are informal translations of the original texts, which have also been provided to the Moss review.

Current Issue
Gambler and MONA founder David Walsh has written a book
By Amanda Lohrey
The Museum of Old and New Art (MONA) in Hobart is an underground labyrinth, often dimly lit, but its founder’s domestic apartment is a glassy sunlit box, the light so bright I consider killing eye contact and putting on my sunglasses.
December 2014
What drives Tony Abbott's desire to fail?
By Russell Marks
Tony Abbott isn’t the first political leader to be accused of breaking promises made before an election. “By 1990 no Australian child will be living in poverty,” said Bob Hawke during the 1987 election campaign.
‘Serial’ comes to a dubious end
Elmo Keep
[Note: major spoilers for Serial follow. If you haven’t listened to the series, you can find all the episodes here.]
Dan Gilroy’s ‘Nightcrawler’ and Alejandro González Iñárritu’s ‘Birdman’
Luke Davies
“Will this be on television?” Lou Bloom (Jake Gyllenhaal) asks a news stringer who is shooting footage of a woman being freed by police from a burning car. “Morning news,” says the cameraman. “If it bleeds, it leads.”

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November 2014
When the death of an old friend becomes tabloid fodder
By Luke Davies
“One man dead, another in hospital following Redfern double stabbing,” the headline read. I glanced over the story. It sounded seedy, brutal. As the news unfolded during the following days in August, it was revealed that the injured man was in a critical condition in hospital,...
November 2014
Choosing an aged-care home is not easy
By Sarah Day
On the other side of the glass doors, a dozen or so women with the same length neat, bobbed white hair are looking out like a welcoming committee. I pass through the doors, preparing to smile and offer greetings, but rather than meet my eye they look right through me.
October 2014
Contesting Paul Kelly’s ‘Triumph and Demise’
By Robert Manne
Paul Kelly’s The End of Certainty, published in 1992, is probably the most influential book of contemporary Australian political history written in the past 50 years.
Current Issue
Anote Tong, president of Kiribati, on Svalbard.
The president of Kiribati goes on a fact-finding mission in the Arctic
By John van Tiggelen
In the late 16th century, the Dutch mariner Willem Barents spent three consecutive summers in the Arctic Ocean, scouting for a shortcut to the East Indies. The midnight sun, he figured, would surely blaze him a path. Yet he struck only ice beyond the 80th parallel. On top of that, the wildlife proved testy. On Barents’ first voyage, a polar bear ran amok aboard.
November 2014
How World War One came to Broken Hill
By Nicholas Shakespeare
Even in Australian terms, Broken Hill – 850 kilometres north of Melbourne, 1150 kilometres west of Sydney – feels a long way from anywhere. Yet in its boom days, the sweltering main street boasted more hotels than any city in Australia.
September 2014
In Port Augusta, an Israeli linguist is helping the Barngarla people reclaim their language
By Anna Goldsworthy
Umeewarra Mission
In a bluestone former school building in Port Augusta, now a campus of the University of Adelaide, four generations of Barngarla people sit conference-style around a table. Harry Dare, a local elder, wears a snug beanie pulled down to his eyebrows: a ganoo-ganoo moona, or “warm...
October 2014
Gene silencing, miracle cures and Balmain’s biggest biotech company
By Michael Lucy
Early examples of gene silencing in transgenic plants
Mick Graham was working at CSIRO’s plant industry labs in Canberra in the 1990s, trying to genetically engineer virus-resistant potatoes, when he had his big idea about RNA interference. RNA is ribonucleic acid, DNA’s less-famous sibling and a fundamental cog in the machinery of...
October 2014
Truth, fiction and psychotherapy
By JM Coetzee & Arabella Kurtz
JMC “The stories we tell about ourselves may not be true, but they are all we have.”

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December 2014
Lena Dunham’s ‘Not That Kind of Girl’
By Anna Goldsworthy
There are many things people hate about Lena Dunham, the young creator and star of the hit HBO series Girls: her privilege, her chubbiness, her unapologetic nudity, her on-screen sex with better-looking people, the fluffy pink dress she wore to the Emmys.
November 2014
Annabel Crabb’s ‘The Wife Drought’
By Anne Manne
It took me many months to complete my recent book, hunched over the keyboard, eyes glazed with concentration, fingers flying – except, that is, when I paused to sip a cup of tea made by my husband.
November 2014
The perverse attraction of autobiographical fiction
By Ceridwen Dovey
“I was ruthless,” Karl Ove Knausgaard, the now infamous Norwegian author of the volumes of autobiographical fiction, My Struggle, said at last year’s Sydney Writers’ Festival. “All writers are ruthless.”
December 2014
Frank Moorhouse’s ‘Australia Under Surveillance’ and David Horner’s ‘The Spy Catchers: The official history of ASIO, 1949–1963’
By David McKnight
Much of Australia’s secret history lies in the archives of the Australian Security Intelligence Organisation (ASIO). As Australia sharpens its focus on terrorism, two new books trawl through the archives to reach quite different conclusions. In Australia Under Surveillance (...
November 2014
Hamish Hamilton; $32.99
By Guy Rundle
Public-key data encryption depends on one astounding fact: multiply two large prime numbers together and you will get a number so large that there is not enough computer power in the world to reduce the product back to the original primes.