Australian politics, society & culture

August 2016
Cover of The Art of Time Travel
Tom Griffiths’ ‘The Art of Time Travel’ is a thoughtful look at some of Australia’s most prominent historians
By Barry Hill

This is not so much a history, as an epic poem; and notwithstanding, or even in consequence of this, the truest of histories.
– John Stuart Mill, ‘Carlyle’s French Revolution’

August 2016
Ciro Guerra’s ‘Embrace of the Serpent’ brings together two Amazonian encounters
By Luke Davies
A still from Embrace of the Serpent
“You devote your life to plants?” an ancient shaman asks his young American visitor. “That’s the most reasonable thing I’ve ever heard a white say.” The shaman is Karamakate (Antonio Bolívar Salvador), the last of his tribe, living in isolation deep in the Amazonian rainforest.
August 2016
Tony Abbott’s speech to the Samuel Griffith Society reveals the contradictory mess of entitlement and resentment in the Australian right
By Dominic Kelly
“These are vexing times for conservatives,” declared Tony Abbott in his dinner address to the Samuel Griffith Society in Adelaide on Friday nig
A region returns to earth
Hamish McDonald
To get the optimistic view in Port Hedland, 1600 kilometres north of Perth, you go to the little park at the end of Wedge Street and look out to the harbour channel at high tide. That’s when it’s deep enough for ships fully loaded with iron ore. One night recently, tugboats nudged four ore carriers around the sharp turn in the channel and out to the Indian Ocean.
Nobel Prize–winning journalist Svetlana Alexievich brings together an extraordinarily diverse group of Russian voices
Anna Goldsworthy
In Svetlana Alexievich’s book Voices from Chernobyl: The oral history of a nuclear disaster (1997), a photographer discusses the strange pull of the Exclusion Zone. “Mankind had abandoned these places forever,” he says. “And we were the first to experience this ‘forever’.” A soldier posted to the Zone describes what “forever” looks like:

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Scott Morrison’s class warfare
Sean Kelly

Crisis on high “Deep in the Himalayas sits a remote research station that is tracking an alarming trend in climate change, with implications that could disrupt the lives of more than 1 billion people and pitch the most populated region of the world into chaos. The station...

Evidence of ‘torture’ of children in Darwin detention centre uncovered “Video of the tear gassing of six boys being held in isolation at the Don Dale Youth Detention Centre in Darwin in August 2014 exposes one of the darkest incidents in the history of juvenile justice in...

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July 2016
Bruce Munro’s ‘Field of Light’ brings 50,000 LED spheres to Uluru
By Ashley Hay
In the new-moon black of early winter, a coach draws up on a hillside just outside the Northern Territory town of Yulara, and four dozen or so of us clamber down into the night. The sky is cloudy and the air cold. But something special shimmers in the land’s wide dip below. Some...
June 2016
Trackside at a 24-hour ultramarathon
By Paul Connolly
“Are we there yet?” quips first-time ultramarathon runner Angelo Portelli, 46, at 10.01 am. He is one minute into the Coburg 24 Hour Track Championships being held at the Harold Stevens Athletics Track in suburban Melbourne.
June 2016
Australia’s changing place in Britain’s EU deliberations
By Stuart Ward
This month, the British people will finally cast their vote in the long-anticipated “Brexit” referendum, to decide whether the United Kingdom should stay in the European Union.
Current Issue
Image of Sydney University graduate
Where has demand driven our universities?
By Thornton McCamish
Earlier this year Professor Glyn Davis, vice-chancellor of the University of Melbourne, published an essay in which he warned that Australia’s public universities should heed the fate that befell the monasteries in England under Henry VIII. Like the ancient monasteries, he wrote, universities are places apart, places that can become preoccupied with their own concerns.
Current Issue
The new managing director’s vision isn’t clear
By Margaret Simons
In the early weeks of her tenure as managing director of the ABC, Michelle Guthrie took her executive team “off site”, away from the public broadcasting palace in Sydney’s Ultimo, to think big about the future of Australia’s most important cultural institution.
May 2016
On Stan Grant’s radical hope
By Anne Manne
Stan Grant
Stan Grant strides towards me. It is easy to see why the television camera so loves his face. We meet at the plush Sofitel Hotel in Melbourne, where tea is poured from an elegant pot. Halfway through our conversation, the NSW honorary consul for Mongolia comes up for a chat. He...
July 2016
An indigenous leader reflects on a lifetime following the law of the land
By Galarrwuy Yunupingu
Galarrwuy Yunupingu
Our song cycles have the greatest importance in the lives of my people. They guide and inform our lives. A song cycle tells a person’s life: it relates to the past, to the present and to the future. Yolngu balance our lives through the song cycles that are laid out on the...
June 2016
On the road with Bill Shorten
By Chloe Hooper
Bill Shorten is in the passenger seat of a Comcar being driven west of Brisbane along the Warrego Highway.


September 2016
Still from Captain Fantastic
Matt Ross’ ‘Captain Fantastic’ is a portrait of a family in the wilderness
By Luke Davies
The opening moments of Matt Ross’ Captain Fantastic (in national release 8 September) introduce us to the rugged, pine-forested world of an ideal – or idealised – family living far off the grid in the woods of Washington State.
July 2016
Puzzling out the singular Degas at the National Gallery of Victoria
By Sebastian Smee
Whether it was more difficult to be friends with Edgar Degas or simply to be him is impossible to say. But isn’t it often like that with brilliant, prickly people? There is so much static around them that we struggle to see the doubt, the fear, their yearning to make contact.
June 2016
Beyoncé’s powerful ‘Lemonade’
By Anwen Crawford
Beyoncé in Lemonade
“The most disrespected person in America is the black woman,” said Malcolm X, on 5 May 1962. It was part of a wide-ranging speech on racism that he gave at the funeral service of Korean War veteran and Nation of Islam member Ronald Stokes, who was shot in the back by Los Angeles...
August 2016
The Avalanches’ ‘Wildflower’ isn’t the comeback we needed
By Anwen Crawford
Image of The Avalanches
Who can but marvel at the 16 years of work that has gone into creating Wildflower, the second album by The Avalanches? Nations are built in less time. Children born at the turn of the millennium, when the Melbourne-based electronic group first charted, are now hale teenagers. No...
July 2016
‘Play School’ celebrates 50 years of preschool education and entertainment
By Russell Marks
Allan Kendall, an Australian Open quarterfinalist, university dramatist and qualified teacher, returned to Sydney from the European tennis circuit in the mid 1960s and was given the task of bringing Play School, a BBC show for preschoolers, to the ABC.