Rebecca Huntley is one of Australia’s foremost social researchers, who roamed the continent to find answers to some of the biggest social questions of today. David Marr called her resulting book, Still Lucky, ‘A lucid and intimate portrait of the nation today.’ Rebecca brings a healthy dose of optimism to the Festival, with a series of events that examine why Australians are Still Lucky.  

— Michaela McGuire, Artistic Director

2016 was a pretty terrible year if you believe the internet. Bowie and Prince died just to avoid seeing Donald Trump become President. Books were written about the horrors of 2016. I wrote my latest book Still Lucky: why you should feel optimistic about Australia and its people in that terrible year as a kind of pep talk to the nation. I am not an optimistic person by nature. Spending a lot of time with Australians, travelling this country has made me more hopeful, most optimistic than I might usually be.

So I was thrilled to be asked to be one of the co-curators of the Sydney Writers' Festival this year and Michaela and I thought it natural that my theme be ‘optimism’. The events I’d helped put together reflect some of the themes of my book, my areas of interest, and are all aimed at making you feel better about our country than ever before. And The Full Catastrophe might be about telling stories about when everything went badly, but at least those stories are funny as well as tragic.

On Arrival
There is so much focus on how asylum seekers make their way to Australia and nowhere near as much attention to what happens to them once they have arrived. I wanted this session to focus on the post-arrival experience, what asylum seekers contribute to this country. Writers, activists and asylum seekers will share their stories and perspectives.

Who the Bloody Hell Are We?
George Megalogenis and I have been exchanging ideas and thoughts about national identity and social and economic trends for close to a decade. George is all about big numbers and prime ministerial confessions. I am anecdotes about conversations in lounge rooms. We make it work though. We are bound to discuss immigration.

The Full Catastrophe
Sarah Macdonald and I can’t wait to bring our regular storytelling event to Sydney Writers' Festival. The idea is that well-known writers recount a short and funny incident when, well, everything went horribly, laughably wrong. Book tour adventures are very likely to feature in the stories of the evening.

Still Lucky
Jane Hutcheon’s gentle intelligence is bound to get all the best insights out of me as I talk about my recent book, Still Lucky. Hopefully you will feel better afterwards, more optimistic about this country and even more thankful you don’t live in the United States.

You’re Doing It Wrong: A Guide to Modern Parenting
Modern parents get a raw deal, always criticised for being too attentive or not attentive enough, required to navigate a million choices every day, hold down a job and still do those crucial pelvic floor exercises. It’s all so exhausting. After this session, if you are a parent you will realise you are in fact doing a good job, not matter what the internet tells you.


— Rebecca Huntley, Guest Curator