PEN Essay 2014: Freedom of speech and Australia’s Racial Discrimination Act

Freedom of speech and Australia’s Racial Discrimination Act

Dr Tim Soutphommasane


“It is said by many that freedom of expression means nothing if it doesn’t entail a freedom to offend others. The price of having free speech is that one may have to tolerate things that we may not like. As the writer Richard King suggests in his recent book On Offence, ‘the claim to find something hurtful or offensive should be the beginning of the debate, not the end of it’. But what if the burden of tolerance is not borne equally?”

Read this year’s PEN essay in full by clicking here.

‘The politics of who is allowed to say what in Australia today’ – Anne Summers AO Ph.D

Sydney PEN Free Voices Lecture
Sydney Writers Festival 22 May 2014
Melbourne PEN 29 June 2014

Why are we even having this conversation?

The politics of who is allowed to say what in Australia today.

On 29 June 2014, Melbourne PEN were honoured to hear leading writer and columnist Anne Summers AO Ph.D speak to free speech and racial vilification in Australia.

“It the best way to acknowledge and honour the suffering of those who are imprisoned around the world for trying to exercise freedom of expression would be for us to have an open, honest and comprehensive debate in this country about free speech,” she noted.

Read her speech in full by clicking here.

Event: ‘Press Freedom vs. Political Power’

Press Freedom vs. Political Power 

6:15pm Friday 18 July

The Wheeler Centre

176 Little Lonsdale Street

Free event, seats limited: please RSVP by clicking here.


Freedom of the press and the role of a critical media:
what the Peter Greste and Alan Morison cases say about the state of the world.

Peter Greste and Alan Morison are both Australian journalists who, with their colleagues, are subject to judicial action that challenges not only their own freedom but the fundamental principle of freedom of the press itself. In a world that is becoming more and more subject to political propaganda and spin, short media cycles and social media, the existence of a free and critical media is arguably more important than ever. What do the Peter Greste and Alan Morison cases tell us about the state of our media, the value that we place on freedom of the press and the role that we each have in defending those fundamental rights.

PEN MelbourneThe Wheeler Centre and the nonfictionLab RMIT University host a panel of journalists, advocates and academics to discuss the implications of the Peter Greste and Alan Morison cases and what we should do about them.

Please join our panellists in this discussion, Mark Baker Chief Executive Officer of the Melbourne Press Club, Cece Ojany the Writers-In-Prison Officer with PEN Melbourne and Dr Antonio Castillo, Senior Lecturer and Program Manager, Journalism, RMIT University.

News: Trois Rivières International Poetry – PEN Melbourne nomination

Paris-based poet, publisher and PEN member, Nicole Barrière recently requested a copy of THE ATTIC (PEN Melbourne’s 2013 bi-lingual poetry publication of 10 poems by Alex Skovron with translations by Jacques Rancourt)) and, as a member of the jury, submitted copies of THE ATTIC to the other jury members of the 2014 Prix international de Poésie Antonio Viccaro organised by the Trois Rivières International Poetry Festival, Quebec. 

Each year the Trois Rivières International Poetry festival offers this prize to poets from five continents. For the next five years the candidates will be from Oceania (2014), Africa (2015), America (2016), Asia (2017), Europe (20180 and the Middle East (2019). This year’s winner will be announced in June and the author will be a guest of the Quebec festival from 3-12 October.

Event: “Fair Trade and Fair Speech: Feminist Publishing in the 21st Century”

The Wheeler Centre, 6:15PM – 7:15PM, Wednesday 19 March 2014

Spinifex Press opened their doors 23 years ago, in 1991, with a remit of publishing ‘controversial and innovative feminist books with an optimistic edge’. As director of Spinifex Press, Susan Hawthorne has weathered every storm that has threatened the industry, allowing Spinifex to stay the course when many other independent presses have fallen by the wayside.

In conversation with PEN Melbourne’s Cynthia Troup, Susan outlines the directions feminist publishing must take in order to survive.

To book tickets for this event click here.

Event: “A Country Too Far” (19 February) **BOOKED OUT**

Event: “A Country Too Far” (19 February) **BOOKED OUT**

The Wheeler Centre, 6:15PM – 7:15PM, Wednesday 19 February 2014

One of the most hotly debated and pressing moral issues in contemporary Australia surrounds the fate of asylum seekers. A new anthology of work from 27 of the nation’s finest writers examines all aspects of this complex topic.

A Country Too Far features fiction, memoir, poetry and essays that provide an indispensable contribution to the national debate.

The Guardian says, ‘A Country Too Far is part of a literary tradition in which authors attempt to face the social context in which they live… to resist political word games with other words.’

Jointly edited by Thomas Keneally and Rosie Scott, the Wheeler Centre presents Rosie in conversation with several of the anthology’s contributors. Hosted by Chris Kremmer, she is joined in discussion of this controversial and heartbreaking question, by Arnold Zable, Judith Rodriguez and Rodney Hall.

Event: Launch of ‘Writers for Refugees’

Join us for the launch of Writers for Refugees, a Melbourne-based group of writers, journalists and academics who are committed to standing up for refugee rights under the Abbott government.

Thursday, March 13 2014 @ 6pm 2014

Bella Union, Lvl 1, Trades Hall, cnr of Lygon and Victoria Streets, Melbourne

Speakers and readers include Arnold ZableMaxine Beneba Clarke,Abe Ape, Jeff Sparrow and Ali Alizadeh.

Entry is by gold coin donation.

We are also calling on writers to sign on to our statement - ‘Writers for Refugees’