‘Listening to Truth Telling’: First Nations stories highlighted

In celebration of NAIDOC week, we shine a light on the voices of Australia’s eminent and emerging First Nations writers who will share and amplify their stories at the Festival site on Arakwal country, where stories have been told for thousands of years.


Friday guests include (clockwise from top left): Delta Kay, Archie Roach, Julie Janson, Jazz Money, Veronica Heritage-Gorrie and Daniel Browning.

The Festival kicks off with the always memorable Welcome to Country with Delta Kay and the Bunyarra Dancers on the Festival grounds.

Friday’s program will feature national treasure and ARIA Hall of Fame Inductee Archie Roach in conversation with Daniel Browning to share his life-story as told in his memoir Tell Me Why – an unforgettable story of love and heartbreak, family and community, survival and renewal – and music.

Burruberongal novelist, playwright and poet Julie Janson will be joined by Bundjalung author Professor Judy Atkinson and Aminata Conteh-Biger on the panel ‘Strong: Racism and Reslience’.

Gunaikurnai writer Veronica Heritage-Gorrie, will discuss her debut memoir, Black and Blue that shares her story of working as a police officer and fighter for justice both within and beyond the Australian police force.


Saturday guests include (clockwise from top left):Judy Atkinson, Tony Birch, Fiona Foley, Mia Thom, Melissa Lucashenko and Evelyn Araluen.

Professor Judy Atkinson will deliver the Festival’s annual Thea Astley Keynote Address entitled ‘Listening to Truth Telling’. Atkinson’s ground-breaking book Trauma Trails, Recreating Song Lines: The Transgenerational Effects of Trauma in Indigenous Australia offered a pathway to healing through the listening and telling of stories.

Award-winning author, poet, historian and activist Tony Birch features as one of the Festival’s first Guest Curators. Birch’s sessions include ‘Get Ready for a Blak-Out: First Nations Creative Practice’ featuring ABC Radio National’s Awaye! Presenter Daniel Browning, 2020 NSW Aboriginal Woman of the Year Kirli Saunders and celebrated visual artist and academic Fiona Foley, as well as the poetry panel ‘Weaving Words for Country: Poetry for a Story of Place’ with Goorie-Koori woman Evelyn Araluen, Wiradjuri woman Jazz Money and Māori-Australian Anne-Marie Te Whiu.

Acclaimed Goorie novelist, Melissa Lucashenko will add insight to the theme ‘stories that heal’ on Saturday’s panel, ‘The Power of Words’.

Young Bundjalung climate activist Mia Thom will present a powerful and hopeful view on the panel ‘I Want to Change the World.’


Sunday guests include (clockwise from top left): Marcia Langton, Victor Steffensen, Rhoda Roberts, Grace Lucas-Pennington, Kirli Saunders and Mitch King.

Author of the best-selling guide to Indigenous Australia, Welcome to Country, Professor Marcia Langton will explore the Festival’s overarching theme of ‘stories that heal, connect and create change’ on Festival Sunday; first in conversation with Erik Jensen, then on the illuminating panel ‘Trailblazers: Women Who Have Made a Difference’ with Eva Cox.

Environmental consultant Victor Steffensen is co-founder of the National Indigenous Fire Workshops and his recent book, Fire Country, explores how Indigenous fire management could help save Australia. Steffensen will appear throughout the Festival, and features on Sunday’s panel ‘Small Green Shoots; Nature and Healing’.

Bundjalung Yaegl hip-hop artist and writer Mitch King will join NORPA’s Creative Director Rhoda Roberts and Artistic Director Julian Louis to discuss the creation of their recent theatre work Flow in collaboration with Yaegl elders.

For children, Gunai woman and award-winning children’s author, poet, teacher and artist, Kirli Saunders will discuss her works during Sunday morning’s Kids Big Day Out including The Incredible Freedom Machines, Bindi and Kindred.



Byron Writers Festival