The Capitol acknowledges the people of the Woi wurrung and Boon wurrung language groups of the eastern Kulin Nation on whose unceded lands we conduct the business of the University. We respectfully acknowledge their Ancestors and Elders, past and present. We also acknowledge the Traditional Custodians and their Ancestors of the lands and waters across Australia where we conduct our business.

Screen Presence 23

Screen Presence 23 celebrates Chinese Australian stories on screen at The Capitol. Everyone is welcomed to share the laughs, learnings, and heartaches of what it means to be Chinese Australian in complex times.

Special guests and leading members of the Australian film industry join filmmaker and host Rosie Lourde in a day featuring screenings, conversations and meditations on their experience, cultures and identity, the hurdles still being faced, and the discoveries being made as the Chinese Australian identity continues to evolve.

Opening with the inaugural Screen Presence In-Conversation, Benjamin Law, Wenlei Ma, Corrie Chen and Adrian Danks talk about representation in storytelling on screens of all sizes.

The film screening program sees:

  • broadcaster and screenwriter, Benjamin Law and actor Fiona Choi introduce Shanghai Express (1932), starring Marlene Dietrich and Anna May Wong, which premiered at The Capitol 90 years ago!;
  • filmmakers Clara Law and Eddie Fong present their film Floating Life (1996) described by Senses of Cinema as ‘a turning point in Australian cinema’;
  • author and artistic director of Queensland Ballet, Li Cunxin AO, speaks with one of Australia’s preeminent writers, Jan Sardi AO about their adaptation of his memoir Mao’s Last Dancer (2009);
  • and to conclude the evening industry icon Tony Ayres presents his autobiographical film The Home Song Stories (2007) and chats with the film’s producer and life-long collaborator, Michael McMahon about championing underrepresented, diverse emerging filmmakers.

The day’s celebrations close with the presentation and screening of the 2023 NEXT GEN Filmmakers Award winning film, presented by Tony Ayres with Mark Wang, Chinese Museum CEO.

View the full program and book here

Proudly sponsored by
VA Digital Hire | Galvaniize Insurance | Soundfirm | Melbourne Chinatown Association | Black Sheep Films

Alexander McCall Smith

RMIT Culture is thrilled to be partnering with the Wheeler Centre for this in-conversation with Alexander McCall Smith. With over one hundred books, McCall Smith is one of the world’s most prolific and beloved writers. His work – which includes the Corduroy Mansions series, the Isabel Dalhousie novels and the world’s longest-running serial novel, 44 Scotland Street – has been translated into over forty-six languages, becoming bestsellers throughout the world. His highly successful No. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency series has sold over 25 million copies alone.

Now, to mark the release of not one but three books in the past year, McCall Smith returns to Australia to reflect on his expansive career over four decades. Join us for one night only, with host Astrid Edwards, and listen to them chat about his extensive body of work and share stories from his varied life in literature.

Melbourne Asia Game Changer Awards 2022

The series brings greater acknowledgement to Australians who are making a meaningful impact across the region in the fields of the arts, health, science, sport, business, media and community advocacy.

Join us for an evening of awards, panel discussions and celebration convened by broadcaster, radio producer and journalist, Beverley Wang.

The event will be followed by a celebratory cocktail reception to celebrate the Game Changers and bring an end to a busy 2022.

Linking Cultures: Connecting the Literatures of Southeast Asia

Hear from a panel of leading Southeast Asian writers as they examine past barriers and explore future connections.

The peoples of Southeast Asia and neighbouring countries have had story and language flow between them for millennia. In a time when colonisation and globalisation have radically shifted those dynamics, this panel of writers and literary scholars discusses how exchanges between countries can lead to reacquaintance and relationships through the sharing of words.

Featuring Mikael Johani; a poet, critic, and translator based in Jakarta, Indonesia; Singaporean writer Alvin Pang, whose work has been translated into more than twenty languages; and Lily Rose Tope from the Philippines, a scholar widely published on Southeast Asian literature in English and Asian literature in translation.

Image credit: Michelle Aung Thin

Ferguson Rises

A special screening of the award-winning film Ferguson Rises – with Director Mobolaji Olambiwonnu and Michael Brown Snr in attendance.

In 2014, Michael Brown Sr’s son was killed by police officer Darren Wilson in Ferguson, Missouri, an event that fuelled the global Black Lives Matter movement. But his personal story seeking justice and healing, and the story of the community, have not been told until now.

A panel of special guests will come together after the screening to discuss the film and the Black Lives Matter movement here in Australia and America.

Queer Flings

A fling can change your life forever. Or it may all be forgotten by the time summer rolls around.

To close Spring Fling, join us at The Capitol for Queer Fling: an evening of storytelling and performance celebrating – or commiserating – the most indelible flings of some of our favourite LGBTQIA+ guests from Australia and abroad. Whether fleeting or life-changing, romantic or platonic, creative or communal, these are the people and experiences they have never forgotten and can’t wait to share with you.

Through readings, song, burlesque and comedy, our guests will recall the facts and feelings of their own personal flings, whether it be with a person, a place, a piece of art, or a big idea.

Join Pulitzer Prize-winning author Andrew Sean Greer, acclaimed singer and director Robyn Archer, burlesque queen Evana de Lune, multidisciplinary artist and Magic Hands founder Luke King, poet Laniyuk, activist and Trans Sisters United founding member Sasja Sÿdek, and writer Ellen van Neerven as they share stories of their unforgettable flings at this late-night extravaganza hosted by writer and broadcaster Benjamin Law.

Natasha Brown: Assembly

‘Be the best. Work harder, work smarter. Exceed every expectation. But also, be invisible, imperceptible. Don’t make anyone uncomfortable. Don’t inconvenience.’

Bold and provocative, Natasha Brown’s debut novel Assembly cuts to the heart of race relations in modern Britain.

A clear-eyed and harrowing expose of privilege, ambition and the legacies of colonisation, Assembly was shortlisted for the Folio Prize, the Goldsmiths Prize, the Orwell Prize and the Women’s Prize for Fiction.

Don’t miss a wide-ranging discussion about race, class and identity, as Brown joins host Jamila Rizvi for the Wheeler Centre’s Spring Fling.

Kamila Shamsie: Best of Friends

‘I really wanted to take one of those friendships that has existed forever, and then put a lot of pressure on it.’

The author of seven novels, Kamila Shamsie has built an acclaimed career crafting explorations of the personal impacts of political, cultural and historical shadows. Now, the multi-award-winning writer turns her attention to the everchanging nature of female friendship, and the forces that bring people together, or tear them apart.

Following the story of two best friends from Karachi to London, Best of Friends is Shamsie’s first novel since Home Fire, for which she won the Women’s Prize for Fiction, was shortlisted for the Costa Best Novel Award and longlisted for the Booker Prize.

This spring, join Kamila Shamsie live in Melbourne as she speaks with Love and Virtue author Diana Reid about her latest work and explores our shifting perspectives on friendships, from fickle flings to the fiercely faithful.

Andrew Sean Greer: Less is Lost

‘A writer friend once said the hardest thing to write about is joy. I took it as a challenge.’

For American novelist Andrew Sean Greer, the search for joy is a continued source of creative inspiration – as evidenced in his international bestselling and Pulitzer Prize-winning novel Less, and now again in its humorously honest new sequel, Less is Lost.

Warm, witty and profound, Less is Lost sees the lovable Arthur Less return for an unforgettable road trip across America as he confronts his personal demons and attempts to decipher the riddle of love.

For Spring Fling, Andrew Sean Greer makes his own journey to Australia to join writer and broadcaster Benjamin Law in-conversation. Together they will wade through ageing, grief and unavoidable change to find creativity, friendship and love.

Brain Storms: Creativity and Mental Health

In any year, around 1 in 5 Australians will experience a common mental health disorder, but cultural depictions of mental health can fail to grasp the complexities of its felt experience. This panel features creatives who have used their art to explore this issue that is at once ordinary and obscure. With host Stéphanie Kabanyana Kanyandekwe the panel will explore the way their recent work innovatively engages with the reality of complex mental health experiences, whether implicitly or explicitly. 
Discussing the mechanics of representing the lived experience of mental health challenges and creating depictions that are authentic and relatable, yet free from stereotype or reduction, this will be an expansive conversation about the ways in which art can be used to explore and better understand the nuances of mental health. 


Artist Biography


Stéphanie Kabanyana Kanyandekwe is a Rwandan-British composer and multidisciplinary storyteller and broadcaster working between Narrm/Melbourne, and Rwanda. Multiple forms of synaesthesia add a neurodiverse dimension to Stephanie’s identity as a third culture individual. Stéphanie’s research-based practice explores the construction and archiving of culture through transcription into experiential narratives. Stéphanie writes and presents Passenger, a weekly show on the ABC Classic radio station. In Passenger, Stéphanie takes the audience on a journey through matching storytelling with the art music of different destinations and cultures across the world. Stéphanie has held residencies across multiple disciplines, including with Torika Bolatagici’s Community Reading Room project as Reader In Residence, and as part of the Forum of Sensory Motion’s series of travelling residencies. Stéphanie has been commissioned to work with organisations such as NGV, Liquid Architecture, Arts Centre Melbourne, Musica Viva, MONA, ArtsHouse, ArtPlay, Next Wave Festival, Seventh Gallery, Noir Darkroom and Gaffa Gallery. 


Daniel Regan is a UK based photographic artist exploring complex emotional experiences, focusing on the transformational impact of arts on mental health, building on his own lived experience. His work focuses on themes of wellbeing and brokers dialogue around often taboo topics. He shoots commissions, personal works, delivers socially engaged projects and provides consultancy in arts & health. Daniel is Founder and Executive Director of the Arts & Health Hub, a UK non-profit organisation supporting artists that work in the arts and health sector. His particular interest and focus is on practitioner support for artists with lived experience of mental health difficulties. Previously Daniel worked as the Director of an arts and health charity in the National Health Service in London. 

Poetic Solidarities: Claudia Rankine and Evelyn Araluen

Join two highly celebrated poets and thinkers, Claudia Rankine and Evelyn Araluen, as they hold a rigorous and collaborative live conversation that expands on their co-written essay “Poetic Solidarities” from The Big Anxiety: Taking Care of Mental Health in Time of Crisis.

This is a thrilling opportunity to witness a deeply-considered and far-reaching discussion of the potential of poetry for political resistance. Through the shared lens of their work as poets and academics, Rankine and Araluen will consider the ways Western psychiatry and conceptions of mental health can enable institutional racism, colonialism, and operate as extensions of oppressive structures like the medical and industrial prison complex.   

Claudia Rankine will join Evelyn Araluen and the audience via live cross. 


Artist Biography


Claudia Rankine is the author of five books of poetry, including Citizen: An American Lyric and Don’t Let Me Be Lonely; three plays including HELP, which premiered in March 2020 (The Shed, NYC), and The White Card, which premiered in February 2018 (ArtsEmerson/ American Repertory Theater) and was published by Graywolf Press in 2019; as well as numerous video collaborations. Her recent collection of essays, Just Us: An American Conversation, was published by Graywolf Press in 2020. She is also the co-editor of several anthologies including The Racial Imaginary: Writers on Race in the Life of the Mind. In 2016, Rankine co-founded The Racial Imaginary Institute (TRII). Among her numerous awards and honors, Rankine is the recipient of the Bobbitt National Prize for Poetry, the Poets & Writers’ Jackson Poetry Prize, and fellowships from the Guggenheim Foundation, the Lannan Foundation, the MacArthur Foundation, United States Artists, and the National Endowment of the Arts. A former Chancellor of the Academy of American Poets, Claudia Rankine will join the NYU Creative Writing Program in Fall 2021. She lives in New Haven, CT. 

Evelyn Araluen is a poet, researcher and co-editor of Overland Literary Journal. Her widely published criticism, fiction and poetry has been awarded the Nakata Brophy Prize for Young Indigenous Writers, the Judith Wright Poetry Prize, a Wheeler Centre Next Chapter Fellowship, and a Neilma Sidney Literary Travel Fund grant. Born and raised on Dharug country, she is a descendant of the Bundjalung Nation. Evelyn’s debut collection Dropbear won the 2022 Stella Prize.   

Leslie Jamison: Examining Empathy

Leslie Jamison is the award-winning author of essay collections The Empathy Exams and Make it Scream, Make it Burn as well as the memoir The Recovering, which challenged the glorification of addiction within the creative process. Whatever her subject matter, Jamison is known for emphasising feeling in her writing, searching for the connections that will better facilitate a shared understanding of empathy.  

At this event, Jamison joins host Rebecca Harkins-Cross via live-cross to unpack the themes of her work within the broader context of mental health. She’ll explore the uncertainty of connection, the link between physical and mental health, the challenges of living with addiction and the journey towards recovery.   

At this not-to-be missed conversation, the preeminent contemporary writer on empathy will discuss her approach to writing about creativity and mental health.  


Artist Biography


Leslie Jamison was born in Washington, DC, and grew up in Los Angeles. She has worked as a baker, an office temp, an innkeeper, a tutor, and a medical actor. A graduate of Harvard College and the Iowa’s Workshop, she is the author of the essay collection The Empathy Exams, a New York Times bestseller, and the novel The Gin Closet, a finalist for the Los Angeles Times Book Prize. Her work has appeared in the New York Times Magazine, Harper’s, and the Oxford American, among others, and she is a columnist for the New York Times Book Review. She teaches at Columbia University and lives in Brooklyn with her family.

Rebecca Harkins-Cross is a writer and cultural critic from Naarm/Melbourne. Her work has been published widely in journals and periodicals across Australia and the world. Rebecca is currently a Fulbright Scholar at Columbia University’s Writing Program in New York City and finalising her PhD in Creative Writing at Monash University. Past roles include theatre critic at The Age, film editor at The Big Issue and long-running film columnist at The Lifted Brow. Her book The Headless Woman will be out soon via Fireflies Press.