You can download a copy of the full program here.






The BARN GALLERY, MONTSALVAT, 7 Hillcrest Avenue Eltham

Montsalvat and the Nillumbik Reconciliation Group again invite you to join a gathering of Australia’s best writers, poets, historians, journalists and thinkers as they explore Australia’s Indigenous past and give voice to its present.

  Opening Night: Friday 6 May, 7pm for 7.30

The  Barn Gallery, Montsalvat,

Welcome  by Nillumbik Shire mayor, Councillor Bronnie Hattam

 Session one, Alexis Wright, Miles Franklin award-winning novelist for Carpentaria, and writer of celebrated non-fiction, talks with Jack Waterford, former Editor and Editor-at-large of The Canberra Times, onetime Freedom Rider, and one of Australia’s finest journalist-commentators on Indigenous affairs. They will be joined by poet and land-rights activist-lawyer, Campbell Thomson and a panel of writers and journalists.

This opening event is presented in conjunction with Australian Book Review.

 Saturday Morning

Session two, in The Barn Gallery, Montsalvat

10.30am Gathering, tea and coffee. Welcome to country and introduction.

11.00am Honouring – and illuminating – the past

Spotlight on Tom Griffiths

Hear one of Australia’s most celebrated – and readable – historians, Tom Griffiths, Professor of History and Director of the Centre for Environmental History at the Australian National University, in a discussion of his forthcoming book, The Art of Time Travel, Historians And Their Craft (Black Inc.) In a series of eloquent essays on Australia historians and historical novelists, Tom Griffiths sets a new benchmark for the discussion of Australian Indigenous history, transcending the polarities and divisiveness of the so-called ‘history wars’.

 12.15pm Lunch and conversation in the Barn gallery and Barn courtyard

(Cost of lunch is included in the full festival ticket.)

  Saturday Afternoon

Session three, in The Barn Gallery, Montsalvat

1.15pm Return of the Millennial Generation – young scholars from the University of Melbourne’s Australian Indigenous Studies program discuss The Oombulgurri Project, their recently published study of the history and contemporary reality of Oombulgurri, a community in East Kimberley, W.A, co-authored with head of Australian Indigenous Studies, Philip Morrissey.

 Session four, in The Barn Gallery, Montsalvat

2.30pm Spotlight on Alex Miller

One of Australia’s best loved and most celebrated novelists, and twice winner of its highest literary accolade, the Miles Franklin Award, Alex Miller, in conversation with Morag Fraser, will discuss the sources and genesis of his writing, and his decades-long Indigenous connections and friendships, as revealed in his most recent book, The Simplest Words, A Storyteller’s Journey, and given fictional life in his novels, Journey to the Stone Country, Landscape of Farewell and Coal Creek.

 3.45pm Afternoon Tea in the Barn Gallery, scones, jam, tea and conversation

 4.30 pm Session five, in The Barn Gallery, Montsalvat

Readings from and by Past Matters guest speakers,

including readings from the recent book, Laughing Waters Road, Art, Landscape and Memory in Eltham, by Nillumbik writer, dramatist and local identity, Jane Woollard. Laughing Waters Road details the way local Indigenous history and cultural activity came alive for one particular writer.  

5.30pm Session six, in The Barn Gallery, Montsalvat

Plenary Session

An opportunity for festival guests and audience to exchange ideas and to build new connections.

 6.00pm – 7pm Festival reception in the Barn Gallery

 Bookings are essential and must be made by Wednesday 4 May.

Cost of the full festival (six sessions) includes tea and coffee, lunch, afternoon tea and a glass of wine at the evening reception.

Festival ticket: Adults $45 Concession $30

Single session $15 Concession $10 (single session prices do not include lunch).

 RSVP and ticket sales to  Tel: 03 94397712

Montsalvat’s the Past Matters Festival acknowledges the generous support of the Nillumbik Shire Council in mounting this year’s festival, and Philip Morrissey, Head of Australian Indigenous Studies at the University of Melbourne, for his ongoing support and help with programming. The Festival is hosted by Montsalvat in conjunction with the Nillumbik Reconciliation Group, and is generously assisted by Australian Book Review, ELTHAMbookshop and the University of Melbourne’s Australian Indigenous Studies Program.

The Past Matters