Alexis Wright on censorship and telling the untold stories

  • Date recorded: 3 Dec 2018

  • Duration: 52:01

'In this scenario of imagining a world without books, this wonderful State Library of Victoria, a national treasure, is doomed to become a tomb. It will be a forbidden place of abandoned books.'

– Alexis Wright

About this video

What would happen if all books were banned and writers were censored from telling stories?

In her inspiring 2018 Stephen Murray-Smith Memorial Lecture, award-winning novelist Alexis Wright not only imagines this scenario but also discusses its reality for Indigenous Australians, refugees and other people whose voices have been silenced.

A member of the Waanyi nation of the southern highlands of the Gulf of Carpentaria, Alexis centres her lecture on the experience and ancestral stories of her people, safeguarded in the world's oldest library – the land, seas, skies and atmosphere of this country.

She also touches on the vitally important issues we are failing to deal with in the modern world, including climate change and global warming. Alexis asks the question: if the state-approved truth is the only story we hear, are we already being controlled to the point where we don’t recognise that we are being censored?

Alexis argues that for the writer of stories, the dilemma is how to fight your way through imposed boundaries of indifference, ignorance and political interest. For readers of stories, it's recognising that the fate of the world is at risk from being dominated by hollow stories that suit the short-term interests of the more powerful.

About the speaker

Alexis Wright is a member of the Waanyi nation of the southern highlands of the Gulf of Carpentaria. The author of the prize-winning novels Carpentaria and The swan book, she has published three works of non-fiction: Take power, an oral history of the Central Land Council; Grog war, a study of alcohol abuse in the Northern Territory; and Tracker, an award-winning collective memoir of Aboriginal leader Tracker Tilmouth. Her books have been published widely overseas, including in China, the US, UK, Italy, France and Poland.

Alexis is the Boisbouvier Chair in Australian Literature at the University of Melbourne.

About the Stephen Murray-Smith Memorial Lecture

This annual memorial lecture commemorates the contribution to Australian intellectual life made by Stephen Murray-Smith, founding editor of Overland magazine. The lecture promotes research and debate in the broad areas of Stephen's interest and influence.