This year, the annual Melbourne Writers Festival was reimagined as an online event series – MWF Digital. And Study Melbourne Ambassadors had a front row seat from the comfort of their homes. Here, they share their thoughts on five MWF Digital events.

Finding the Heart of the Nation

Review by Jessica Santos

MWF Digital kicked off on Friday 7 August with a discussion on Aboriginal history, culture and rights. Being online, it was really easy to follow with subtitles. And attending it from home was very comfortable.

‘Finding the Heart of the Nation’ is not just a book with good photos or travel experiences from Torres Strait Islander writer Thomas Mayor. It is the voice of multiple communities that are still fighting to keep their history and traditions.

During this session, Professor Megan Davis, Teela Reed (Wurundjeri community representative) and Thomas Mayor revealed the huge importance of protecting Australia's original heart. They spoke of the influence of highlighting different voices and communities that prevail in their struggle for the recognition and protection of Aboriginal history.

It is not just about knowing the stories. Australia can embrace its spirit full of energy and love for the land through The Uluru Statement from the Heart. It is about living and building together in the present society, with the recognition of the past that can lead to a collective future.

My overall experience at the Melbourne Writer’s Festival has enlightened me in many ways.

Learning about Australia's history in this session has increased my curiosity to understand more about Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander culture. I want to discover those places with the heart that continues to beat with the unique essence.

MWF Gala: Are You Paying Attention?

Review by Denise Hung

On a mild winter August evening, I sat in my living room and listened attentively to six of Australia’s leading female writers.

The topic could not have been more poignant as Melbourne turns back to six more weeks of lockdown. As I hustle back and forth on my priorities with university, work and personal life, it’s difficult to conceptualise what is important.  

It is, however, evident through screenwriter Michelle Law’s reading that I do not want to go back to pre-lockdown. It is also very clear, like award-winning author Jess Hill says, that we need to speak out more than ever. Akin to writer and editor Leah Jing McIntosh, I question how it is we live in 2020 but still fight for racial and gender equality.  

Staying at home and studying from the comforts of my four walls, I blur the lines of work, university and personal life. As poet Alison Whittaker points out, how do we stay focussed?

The Gala ended with Queensland Literary Award winner Ellen van Neerven on how we should connect with the land we stand on once again.  

The evening led to an awakened morning. I now breathe with a new air of freshness and direct my focus to what I should give my energy to. As the world faces political and social-economic turmoil, it is possible to be the change we wish to see.  

Meditations in an Emergency

Review by Ariel West

What better way to break up the monotony of stage 4 lockdown than listening to riveting poetry on a Saturday morning?

I had the pleasure of attending the ‘Meditations in an Emergency’ panel with poets Evelyn Araluen, Toby Fitch, Ursula Robinson-Shaw and Darlene Silva Soberano on August 8. 

There’s something very intimate and lovely about being able to curl up on the couch with a cup of tea and your laptop, listening to the glimmering thoughts of wonderful Australian poets. I found Silva Soberano’s poem ‘Poor Praise’ particularly rousing, especially the lines ‘I have conned people into loving me’ and ‘I behave only for praise’.

Of course each poet’s musings on current crises were strikingly relevant but this event was not only a reflection on tangible events. It was a piercing examination into our social climate and power structures – and a reminder that poetry is inherently political. Araluen’s ‘For Power For Prayer For Promise For Peace’ has reflections such as ‘if there will be no justice, we will not permit peace’ and that ‘there are some things too hallow for forgetting’.

I found this event illuminating, a reminder that we are living in historic times. And as difficult as lockdown is, maybe there’s a poem somewhere in there for us. 

Take It From Me

Review by Kimberly Mitchiko Clemencio

‘Take It From Me’ taught us that humans can’t live without the most beautiful thing – love!

Quarantine has changed how we find love and it’s led to many relationship and dating dilemmas. In this session, Jess McQuire and siblings Michelle and Benjamin Law set out to answers viewers’ questions on love during lockdown.

This is the advice I took away.


Don’t get confused about whether you are ultimately looking for a serious relationship or you’re just bored! Being stuck at home makes you crave affection. And dating nowadays is simpler because of dating apps. But in the long run, are you ready to catch some feelings or will you end up wishing that you were still single?

Long distance relationship

If your ‘love language’ is physical touch then it might be difficult for you to cope. The only thing you want is to be beside your partner but you are stressing about when you will ever see them again. Hang in there – keep the faith, be patient, be loyal and it will surely work. 

Your ‘almost’ love

Some people have that one person in their lives that they can’t forget. They still watch them from afar and cheer that they become the best version of who they can be.

Maybe you can feel the butterflies once again by reconnecting with them? Perhaps the first time wasn’t the perfect timing but give it another shot and get to know each other again.

Watch the session online.

Science Vs Romance

Review by Hyunju An

‘Science Vs Romance’ combined the storytelling of poets (Raelee Lancaster and Kirli Saunders) and scientists (Krystal De Napoli and Karlie Noon).

In the session, these four Aboriginal women created an exchange between the scientific and the literary worlds.

The session helped me to observe both the scientific and literary perspective. Those two might seem very different but eventually fact (science) and emotion (romance) meet together.

Karlie gave a story of facts about the way to survive on Mars for the next generation. While Raelee presented a story of seeing space in a literary way. One saying stuck in my mind: ‘Uncle say look again to the stars my girl, say skies and seas and sand are same same but different’.

Attending Melbourne Writers Festival online was very nice. I was immersed and could focus on listening to the participants. It is a festival, but in a way it felt private because I could fully enjoy it in my room.

Watch the session online.