A Human Rights Guide to Melbourne Festival

By Madeleine Dore

Hailed as one of the world’s leading arts festivals, Melbourne Festival returns with its annual feast of dance, theatre, circus, music, visual arts, multimedia and outdoor events.

Now in its 29th year, the diverse events program aims to have a lasting effect on the City of Melbourne. “Almost all involve international collaborations of some sort, providing invaluable opportunities to artists of today and tomorrow, ensuring that the Festival’s impact is not over in 17 days,” says Festival Director, Josephine Ridges.

With over 100 events that celebrate arts and culture from across the globe, Right Now shares its picks for the festival: a selection of events that explore themes of politics, freedom, protest, human rights and equality – and will hopefully have a lasting impact on your relationship with the world around you.


Murru – Music (AUS)murru_cr_belinda_smullen
MURRU is a musical tribute to John Pat, a young Yindjibarndi man who died in custody 30 years ago, sparking a royal commission and shining a spotlight on the increasing rates of Indigenous incarceration in our country. Co-written by inmates from the Roebourne prison, MURRU is an exuberant and heartbreaking celebration of our country – a hymn to the land and its people, a remembrance of those we’ve lost and a paean of hope for the future.
Performers include Angus Smith, Archie Roach, Bryan Retter, Cho Cleary David Hyams, Dudley Billing, Emma Donovan, Harry Hookey, Jae Laffer (The Panics), John Bennett, Josie Alec, Kevin Murphy, Lucky Oceans, Mel Robinson, Nate Gilkes, Roy Evans, Trevor Jamieson, Tyson Mowarin, Patrick Churnside and Wendy Matthews.

When: Fri 10 Oct, 7.30pm; Where: Federation Square; FREE


Hipbone Sticking Out – Theatre (AUS)
When 16-year-old Yindjibarndi man John Pat died in a Roebourne lockup in 1983, it was more than a singular tragedy – it was part of a longer story, one that for 150 years had denied Indigenous people in the Pilbara the power to speak. Set against a backdrop depicting Murujuga – the world’s largest outdoor rock art gallery – this stellar cast create a tour de force story that places the Pilbara at the centre of world history.

When: Fri 17 – Tue 21 Oct; Where: Arts Centre Melbourne Playhouse; Tickets from $39


!Women Art Revolution – Film (USA)women-art-revolution

Meet the activists, performers, painters and dancers who put their art on the line for their ideals. From director Lynn Hershman Leeson comes this history of one of the most significant art movements of the late 20th century: the struggle to break down the barriers facing women in the art world.

When: Thu 16 – Fri 17 Oct; Where: ACMI; Tickets from $15


Team of Life – Dance, Theatre (AUS)
Critically acclaimed Melbourne dance theatre company KAGE combines sport, theatre, dance and music in an uplifting new work. Informed by workshops with young refugees and Indigenous youth, Team of Life tells of their search for different kinds of freedom, dissolving the boundaries between sport, theatre and identity.

When: Thu 16 – Mon 20 Oct; Where: The Coopers Malthouse, Merlyn Theatre; Tickets from $29


Salma – Film (UK / India)salma_cr_kim_longinotto_02
When Salma turned 13, her Tamil family locked her up for 25 years, forbidding her to study and forcing her into marriage. Kim Longinotto (Pink Saris) charts the remarkable journey that saw Salma become one of India’s most famous poets and an ardent activist, challenging the injustice of deep-seated traditions.

When: Sat 18 and Wed 22 Oct; Where: ACMI; Tickets from $15


Through A Lens Darkly – Film (USA)through_a-lens_cr_ncs_03

In this award-winning documentary, Thomas Allen Harris uses photos from his own family album to show how images of “blackness” have affected his family and sense of self-worth as an African-American, making for a powerful testament to the redemptive powers of creativity.

When Fri 17 and Sun 19 Oct; Where: ACMI; Tickets from $15


Playing With Fire – Film (Greece)

Being an actress in Afghanistan is a tenuous profession, as Greek director Anneta Papathanassiou discovers when she visits Kabul to teach ancient Greek theatre. Facing harsh criticism, exile and worse, the actresses are caught in the crosshairs of a fundamental struggle between art and culture.

When: Wed 22 and Fri 24 Oct; Where: ACMI; Tickets from $15


The Sheik and I – Film (USA/United Arab Emirates)the_sheik_and_i_cr_amanda_field_01

When asked by the Emirate of Sharjah to make a film about “art as a subversive act”, filmmaker Caveh Zahedi was given one rule: don’t make fun of the sheik. So he did, a lot – making for a satirical, blasphemous frolic through free speech in the Middle East.

When: Sat 18 and Fri 24 Oct; Where: Acmi; Tickets from $15


One in Two: Juvenile Injustice – Talks (AUS)
Every second young person in detention in Australia is Indigenous. The human impact of this confronting statistic is the destruction of families, the weakening of communities and the inadvertent creation of a training ground for young criminals. This forum looks at the work of arts company Big hART, using its practical approach as a jumping-off point for a discussion of effective ways to tackle the tragic reality of juvenile incarceration.

Presented in partnership with The Wheeler Centre, Art and Change series

When: Thu 16 Oct, 6.15pm; Where: The Wheeler Centre; FREE (bookings essential)


Complexity of Belonging – Theatre, Dance (GER /AUS)complexity_of_belonging_cr_sarah_walker
A darkly humorous exploration of identity in the age of social media, Complexity of Belonging peers into the lives of nine interconnected individuals as they grapple with an essential question: how and where do I belong? Nationality, gender, sexuality and history collide in this audacious, theatrical exposé of the daily trials of surviving in a hyper-connected, globalised society.

When: Mon 6 – Sat 25 Oct; Where: Southbank Theatre, The Sumner; Tickets from $40


Images courtesy of Melbourne Festival.


Review – Renewal: Five Paths to a Fairer Australia

By Georgia Cerni

Sophie Cousins’ book Renewal: Five Paths to a Fairer Australia is, in many respects, a proposal. For Cousins, the COVID-19 pandemic has provided Australians with an opportunity to reconsider the ways our society currently functions. Cousins aptly makes her case – while in some ways the pandemic reinforced burgeoning inequalities, it also presented us the chance to apply collectivist values to solve systemic problems.