The Di Gribble Argument 2021: Brave Old World

Wheeler-Centre-Dusk-Country-artwork-by-Elizabeth-Close-Pitjantjatjara-YankunytjatjaraHonouring the contribution of an extraordinary powerhouse of Australian public life, the Di Gribble Argument will provide an indelible addition to the national debate at the Malthouse Theatre Outdoor Stage on Sunday 28 March 2021.

The late Di Gribble was a force in Australian cultural and intellectual life. Publisher, editor, businesswoman: her impact on the world of books, writing and ideas cannot be overstated. For the first three iterations, the Wheeler Centre has hosted an Argument in her name to remember Di and her legacy to put a bit of stick about.

Now in its fourth year, the Di Gribble Argument is being reimagined as a full day of events at the Malthouse Outdoor Stage – featuring a broad range of First Nations speakers discussing and reflecting on one of the most pressing issues for Australia – climate change, environment and connection to Country.

Through panels, performance and music, the events will encourage multi-generational public dialogue that empowers individuals to engage with environmental action, while asserting the importance of prioritising First Nations knowledge.

These events are inspired by three especially commissioned creative responses by First Nations writers of different generations – Bruce Pascoe (author of Loving Country, Dark Emu, Young Dark Emu), Victor Steffenson (author of Fire Country: How Indigenous Fire Management Could Help Save Australia), and Teila Watson (aka Ancestress) – to be published on throughout March.

The three essays offer a different generational perspective on climate management and caring for Country. Each writer will speak from a body of knowledge that has been silenced since invasion, at great loss to our ecology, culture and collective knowledge as a nation. First Nations responses to the recent bushfires and the pandemic offer yet more opportunities to reimagine how we rebuild in a radically different time, but are our political leaders smart enough to listen?

The late Di Gribble was tireless in her contributions; co-founder of McPhee Gribble, Text Media, Text Publishing and Private Media, with stints as the deputy chair of the ABC, and board member for Lonely Planet, CARE Australia, the Australia Council for the Arts, the Melbourne Symphony Orchestra, the Melbourne Major Events Company and Circus Oz.

Together with Hilary McPhee, Di Gribble established McPhee Gribble in 1975. McPhee and Gribble were the first to publish such iconic Australian writers such as Helen Garner, Tim Winton, and Kaz Cooke, to name a few. In 1990, Gribble went on to found Text Publishing together with the inaugural Chair of the Wheeler Centre, Eric Beecher, attracting writers like Tim Flannery, Peter Singer, and Shane Maloney.

Not many can say that they founded two iconic publishing houses within their lifetime; suffice to say that Di Gribble’s influence on Australian literature is sure to be felt for a long time to come.

The Di Gribble Argument Events include:

Victor Steffensen on The Present: 12.30pm – 1.30pm
Victor Steffensen will discuss new ways of tackling the environmental challenges of today as we emerge from the ashes of last year’s fires and continue to grapple with the lasting impacts of the pandemic. Hosted by Tony Birch. Victor Steffensen is a descendant of the Tagalaka people through his mother’s connections from the Gulf Country of north Queensland, the co-founder of the National Indigenous Fire Workshops and the author of Fire Country: How Indigenous Fire Management Could Help Save Australia. He’s a writer, filmmaker, musician and consultant applying traditional knowledge values in a contemporary context, through workshops and artistic projects. Much of Victor’s work over the past 27 years has been based on the arts and reviving traditional knowledge values – particularly traditional burning – through mentoring and leadership, as well as on-ground training with Aboriginal communities and many non-Indigenous Australians.

Teila Watson on The Past: 2.30pm – 3.30pm
Join Teila Watson for a discussion on the importance of truth telling, ecological and social governance, and disabling white supremacy within climate change discussions. Teila Watson (aka Ancestress) is a writer, poet, singer, and performer whose art practices revolve around climate change, ecological and social sustainability and therefore the importance of Land Rights and First Nations sovereignty.

Bruce Pascoe on The Future: 4.30pm – 5.30pm
In this very special event hosted by poet and Overland co-editor Evelyn Araluen (Dropbear), Bruce Pascoe will discuss his bold vision for the future of agriculture as outlined in his essay, Brave Old World. Bruce Pascoe is a Yuin, Bunurong and Tasmanian man born in the Melbourne suburb of Richmond. He’s the author of the best-selling Dark Emu, Young Dark Emu: A Truer History, Loving Country: A Guide to Sacred Australia and over thirty other books including the short story collections Night Animals and Nightjar, and academic texts including The Little Red Yellow Black Book with AIATSIS. Dark Emu (Magabala Books) won Book of the Year and the Indigenous Writer’s Prize at the NSW Premier’s Literary Awards in 2016, and has now sold in excess of 200,000 copies.

The Di Gribble Argument will take place at the Malthouse Theatre Outdoor Stage on Sunday 28 March 2021. For more information and to make a booking, visit: for details.

Image: Dusk Country, artwork by Elizabeth Close – Pitjantjatjara, Yankunytjatjara