Whistleblowers: The latest on Witness K

Dear All,

The Witness K hearing this week will be held on 3 and 4 June. It seems it will be a sentencing hearing.

I can guarantee that you would find the following YouTube clip very interesting. It is nearly half an hour, but is well worth viewing.  Senator Kim Carr and Senator Rex Patrick engage with the Office of the Commonwealth Director of Public Prosecutions and the Attorney-General in discussing just what the “public interest” is in the cases of Bernard Collaery and Witness K.

You might consider contacting these Senators regarding their dogged pursuit of truth and justice in this matter.


I’ll contact you again after the Witness K Hearing.

Best wishes to all


Timor Sea Justice Forum Facebook

Twitter:  https://twitter.com/TSJForum

Bernard Collaery – Go Fund Me

Petition: Drop the Prosecutions of Witness K and Bernard Collaery

Sister Susan Connelly

14 Yerrick Road

Lakemba NSW 2195

0498 473 341



The most recent hearing for Witness K was held on Monday 29th March. The demonstration was addressed by Alicia Payne, MP for Canberra, Flavia Abduraman, (https://muckrack.com/flavia-abdurahman), and Susan Connelly. A fire truck with a grand display of “Drop the Prosecutions” was provided by Ian Fraser and Ian Melrose, design by Cate Adams. On the same day, there was a demonstration outside the Australian Consulate in Auckland. Hooray for our NZ friends! Thanks to Maire Leadbeater.  Click here for photos.

On Wednesday 31 March the ANU webinar was seen by 400 people, many of whom sent in questions. The speeches by Nicholas Cowdery, Rebecca Ananian-Welsh, Kieran Pender and Pauline Wright were incisive and challenging. Kim Rubenstein did a great job of moderating. Click here for the recording from the ANU. Well worth viewing – an excellent event.

Here are two newspaper reports on the Webinar:

Guilty parties remain free in ‘chilling’ Witness K prosecution

Commonwealth prosecutors wrong on Witness K case, former NSW DPP says    

The ACT  Bar Association has sent out a superb media release: Time to Reconsider the Prosecution of Bernard Collaery

Time to reconsider prosecution of Bernard Collaery

With the announcement that Christian Porter will be replaced as Commonwealth Attorney-General, the ACT Bar Association calls on incoming Attorney, The Hon. Michaelia Cash to review the prosecution of former ACT Attorney-General Bernard Collaery.

Bernard Collaery who, for more than 30 years, had advised the East Timor Resistance movement and leading figures involved in the push for independence, represented Witness K in a legal case brought by the Timor-Leste Government against the Australian Government before the Permanent Court of Arbitration in The Hague in the Netherlands.  Witness K was accused of disclosing secret information related to an operation conducted by Australia’s foreign intelligence agency, ASIS, to bug the office of Timor-Leste’s prime minister during oil and gas treaty negotiations in 2004.

In December 2013, ASIO and the AFP raided the homes of Witness K and Bernard Collaery.  Almost 4½ years passed before, on 30 May 2018, both were charged under section 39 of the Intelligence Services Act 2001.

The maximum penalty for this offence is 2 years imprisonment – the same maximum penalty for failing to pay for a restaurant meal.

Because of the nature of the allegations, the charges brought against Bernard Collaery can only be pursued with the consent of the Attorney-General.  Consent to prosecute was first sought from then Attorney-General George Brandis in September 2015. Having obtained advice from two Commonwealth DPPs and the Solicitor-General Mr Stephen Donaghue SC, by the time Mr Brandis was replaced by Mr Porter in December 2017, no consent was forthcoming.

Mr Bret Walker SC, the former independent monitor of Australia’s national security legislation, and now representing Mr Collaery, told ABC Four Corners in 2019 “I imagine the former attorney, Senator Brandis, didn’t find this a straightforward case to say yes to. That’s a very long time for something to be sitting on an attorney’s desk. I imagine it was not for want of thinking about it, that that time elapsed.”

However, within a few months of taking over the portfolio, Christian Porter gave his consent to prosecute the matter in what was criticised by many, including independent MP Andrew Wilkie and former Victorian Premier Steve Bracks, as a political decision.

The ongoing prosecution of Bernard Collaery has drawn criticism from many quarters, including retired judicial officers and academics.

The prosecution itself has been marked by further controversary with the secret nature of the proceedings and the suppression of much of the evidence that might be given in the case.

In June 2020, Justice David Mossop of the ACT Supreme Court ruled that material identified by the Attorney-General Christian Porter should be suppressed under the provisions of the National Security Information Act.  That ruling was based upon a secret certificate issued by Christian Porter certifying the material as prejudicial to national security. How, and in what respect, that material is said to be sensitive is itself suppressed.

Bernard Collaery is a 76-year-old man who came to Australia as a boy. He has spent his entire adult life serving the people of Australia. He has served as a First Secretary in the Australian Embassy in France, as the first Attorney-General of the Australian Capital Territory Legislative Assembly and has had a long and honorable career both in politics and in private practice as a lawyer.  Bernard Collaery has over decades helped, either for free or at greatly reduced charges, many clients.

There is an available perception that Bernard Collaery is being prosecuted by the Government for his involvement in acting for a man who brought to light allegations of improper and illegal behaviour by the Government.

It is difficult to identify any public, as opposed to political, interest in continuing this prosecution.  It is now eight years since the AFP raided Mr Collaery’s home, and 17 years since the alleged bugging operation. In the interim, the Commonwealth Government has now spent in excess of $3 million pursuing Mr Collaery for his role in acting for Witness K.

With the swearing in of our new Attorney-General Michaelia Cash, an opportunity arises to review the prosecution and, to withdraw consent for it to continue.

The Bar Association of the Australian Capital Territory earnestly calls on the incoming Attorney to undertake such a review.


1 April 2021

Media contact:

Andrew Muller
President ACT Bar Association

Joanne Dean-Ritchie
Executive Officer
0439 990 305


Another Webinar to Come:

Trashing Democratic Rights in Australia – Discussion and Q&A with Bernard Collaery and Greg Barnes SC, online 6.30pm (AEST) Tuesday April 20th,  Register here.

By Kieran Pender

As we reach the end of 2020, four individuals – Bernard Collaery, Witness K, David McBride and Richard Boyle – are being prosecuted by our government. These whistleblowers spoke up in the public interest, and now face the very real prospect of jail time. If we want to live in a transparent, accountable democracy, that should trouble us all.

Collaery and Witness K revealed that Australia bugged Timor-Leste’s cabinet, to help our government in ripping off an impoverished neighbour during tense oil and gas negotiations. McBride blew the whistle on the alleged actions of Australian special forces in Afghanistan – conduct characterised as potential war crimes by the Inspector-General. Boyle called out aggressive debt recovery practices by the Australian Taxation Office, which deliberately targeted vulnerable small businesses.

In each case, these whistleblowers raised their concerns internally first. Witness K articulated their misgivings with the Inspector-General for Intelligence and Security, in consultation with his Intelligence-approved lawyer, Collaery. McBride went to the police. Boyle lodged an internal disclosure. In each case, they were sidelined or ignored.

In desperation, they spoke up. But for these principled people, we might never have known about the misdeeds – potentially illegal, or, at the very least, improper – done in our name. It is only thanks to Collaery, Witness K, McBride and Boyle that we can demand corrective action and take steps to ensure they are never repeated.

We should be praising these whistleblowers. Instead, the Morrison government is prosecuting them. Orwellian? Kafkaesque? Take your pick.

Whether or not Collaery, McBride or Boyle succeed in their defences (Witness K has indicated a willingness to enter a plea of guilty to a single charge of breaching the Intelligence Services Act, subject to a plea bargain), the chilling effect of the prosecutions is severe. What potential whistleblower – having seen the reality faced by the current quartet – would accept these risks and speak up? Staring down the barrel of psychological trauma, professional ruin and financial oblivion, how many prospective truth-tellers will stay silent?

What wrongdoing might be occurring right now that Australians will never know about, because those who witnessed it remain mute? The cost of courage has become too high a price to pay.

It did not have to be like this. In 2013, the Labor government introduced protections for public servant whistleblowers. The Public Interest Disclosure (PID) Act provided a comprehensive regime for the disclosure and investigation of wrongdoing and protections for those who speak up. But while on paper the law was a step in the right direction, it has proven ineffective in practice – no more than a cardboard shield.

In 2016, an independent review by Philip Moss found that “the experience of whistleblowers under the PID Act is not a happy one”. Last year, a Federal Court judge lambasted the law as “technical, obtuse and intractable” and “largely impenetrable”.

On Wednesday, Attorney-General Christian Porter announced that the government was accepting, in part or in whole, 30 of the 33 recommendations made by Moss. This is welcome news, but it is long overdue. Porter and his colleagues have sat on this reform for four and a half years. In the meantime, homes have been raided, charges laid against whistleblowers and secretive trials commenced.

The Attorney-General must reform the PID Act as a matter of urgency. In the government’s official response, it flagged that it intends to go further than the Moss review. This is welcome, although the devil will be in the detail – detail which, for now, remains absent. If Porter is serious about promoting transparency and probity within our democracy, he should commit to legislating stronger protections for government whistleblowers in early 2021. Wednesday’s announcement is a positive step, yet until these changes become law, whistleblowers will continue to suffer.

Recent amendments to the laws protecting Australia’s private sector whistleblowers only underscore Porter’s inaction on public sector reform. Currently, those exposing corporate corruption are better protected than those exposing government misfeasance. That cannot be right. Public servants who speak up deserve protections equal to their private sector counterparts.

Meanwhile, the government has doubled-down on secrecy laws to penalise unauthorised disclosure of official information. It terminates the employment of public servants who dare criticise it online and cuts funding to accountability agencies that were established to keep the government in check. Our freedom of information regime is in tatters. Collectively, these measures guarantee a culture of silence within our public service and make external oversight even harder.

Australia was once a world leader in the field of whistleblower protections. When the first whistleblowing laws were introduced in this country, in 1993, the United States was the only jurisdiction with comparable protections. But as nations across the globe have found innovative ways to protect and empower whistleblowers, Australia has lagged behind. We have failed to shake off the words of a former police commissioner, who once observed that “nobody in Australia much likes whistleblowers”.

Yet any one of us could become a whistleblower. I have met dozens of individuals who have spoken up against wrongdoing. Almost unanimously, they say: “I did not intend to become a whistleblower.”

Many shun the label entirely. They are simply people who did what they believed was right – people who saw cruelty, corruption or abuse of power, and felt morally compelled to do something about it. In their shoes, would we not all hope for the courage to do the same?

Whistleblowers perform a vital democratic function in Australia. They are the canary in the coalmine that is Australian democracy. We must hear their call, not lock them up. The government’s recently-announced commitment to reform the PID Act is welcome, but actions speak louder than words.

Kieran Pender is a senior lawyer with the Human Rights Law Centre, and leads the centre’s work on whistleblower protections.

Fundraiser for PEN Myanmar. Readings by and with Myanmarese writers and poets. Saturday 22 May 2021, 2pm LaMama Courthouse 349 Drummond St, Carlton

Poets for Myanmar: 111 Days of Protest

Fundraiser for PEN Myanmar.
Readings by and with Myanmarese writers and poets.

Saturday 22 May 2021, 2pm
LaMama Courthouse
349 Drummond St, Carlton




International PEN Melbourne Centre




International PEN Melbourne Centre condemns the Myanmar Military Regime’s deadly use of force against its own citizens including poets and journalists since the coup of 1 February 2021. The Military junta has ramped up surveillance of opponents and arrests, including of journalists, writers, and creative artists; and increased violence against protesters. The junta has brought in legal measures and emergency powers to silence and intimidate and to justify its human rights abuses.

Intentional and ongoing internet shutdowns have severely diminished journalists’ ability to do their jobs on the ground.

“When a government turns off the internet, it means that it knows the truth is its enemy.”

We call for the immediate release of all detained journalists.  The junta must cease these violent attacks on press freedom, the silencing of its opponents and the brutal murders of citizens. PEN urges the junta to reinstate the elected government and to respect the fundamental rights of expression, freedom of peaceful assembly and rightful access to information.

On 6 April Myanmar’s most famous satirist and an outspoken critic of the military regime, Maung Thura (known publicly as Zarganar) was reportedly arrested at his home and taken to an undisclosed location by junta forces.


PEN condemns his arrest and the targeting of media figures by the military junta and we continue to call for the immediate and unconditional release of all those arrested following the military coup.

Statement from PEN Myanmar: 17th March, 2021

Since the Myanmar military seized power from the elected government on 1 February, millions of people across the nation have protested against this illegitimate regime. The demonstrations have brought the young and old out onto the streets. The creativity of their protests has garnered worldwide attention.

Actors, directors, musicians, artists, poets and writers have all lent their talents to strengthen the movement that we call Myanmar‘s Spring Revolution. We have voiced out and performed online and on the street. Myanmar people have called for respect for our votes, release of our leaders, and an end to military dictatorship.

For the last two or three weeks, the military – which refuses to negotiate a solution, in defiance of the wishes of the international community, including the UN Security Council – has clamped down violently on peaceful demonstrators, including shooting them in the head with live rounds. Democratic leaders have been taken away, and their tortured bodies returned to their families. Armed soldiers wander the streets of our cities at night, shooting at random, terrorizing the residents. None of us is safe.

Myanmar’s artistic community has been at the vanguard of these protests: some have been killed and many others arrested. PEN Melbourne is not printing names as there is fear of retribution in Myanmar.

PEN Myanmar has said:

“We know that the situation must ultimately be solved by the people of Myanmar. But we call on the international community to do what they can to support us in our fight for democracy. As creative professionals from Myanmar, we call on our creative brothers and sisters across the world, and from all artistic communities, to stand up and show solidarity with us in our struggle and support those in need!”

Do you want to take Action for Myanmar?

PEN Myanmar and PEN Melbourne suggest that you:

  1. Write to the Australian Government and;


  • Urge the Australian government to continue its initial condemnation of the violent attacks on civilians in Myanmar
  • Request the Australian government not to recognise the military regime known as State Administrative Council but to recognise the Committee Representing Pyidaungsu Hluttaw, Assembly of the Union (CRPH) as the only leading authority of people of Myanmar.


Write your letter of concern to the Minister for Foreign Affairs

Senator the Hon Marise Payne


Email: senator.payne@aph.gov.au

Parliament Office

PO Box 6100
Parliament House
Canberra ACT 2600

Electorate Office

Postal address

PO Box 1420
Parramatta, NSW, 2150


  1. Spread the news and information widely about what’s going on in Myanmar to your networks and the general public.

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Defend Freedom of Expression/Support persecuted writers/Promote literature and writing

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Fundraiser for PEN Melbourne Screening of The Dissident, Tuesday 18 May 2021, 6.40pm.

Fundraiser for PEN Melbourne
Screening of The Dissident

Supporting our work on behalf of persecuted writers.
Tuesday 18 May 2021, 6.40pm.


You are doubt be familiar with the horrific story of Washington Post journalist, Jamal Khashoggi. Mr Khashoggi disappeared after entering Saudi Arabia’s consulate in Istanbul on 2 October, 2018. He  never came out. His fiancée, Hatice Cengiz, waited outside for 12 hours.

Hatice Cengiz and dissidents around the world are left to piece together the clues to a brutal murder and expose a global cover-up perpetrated by the very country Khashoggi loved.

‘It’s an astonishing piece of work, both fearless and artful in the way it encompasses and orders layers of information. If our world needs new forms to encompass the complexity of modern life, The Dissident points a way forward.’   Sydney Morning Herald.

1 March, 2021

Arrest and imprisonment of Arash Ganji in Iran.


A court of appeal in Iran on 28 February confirmed that writer, translator and secretary of the Iranian Writers’ Association, Mr Arash Ganji will be imprisoned for 11 years. His arrest and imprisonment are imminent.


Arash Ganji is a well-known Iranian writer and translator, and currently serves as Secretary of the Iranian Writers’ Association (IWA). On December 22, 2019, authorities raided Mr Ganji’s apartment and confiscated his belongings, including his laptop, books, and notes, and then arrested him on undisclosed charges. An IWA member close to this case has said that Mr Ganji’s arrest was in connection with his translation of a book about a Kurdish-led uprising in northern Syria, A Small Key Can Open A Large Door: The Rojava Revolution.


In January 2021 Branch 28 of the Revolutionary Court in Iran sentenced Mr Ganji to 11 years imprisonment – conspiracy five years, propaganda against the system five years and membership in illegal organisation one year.

Mr Ganji suffers from a serious heart condition that requires medical care and which his family fears is being denied.

PEN Melbourne stands in solidarity with our Iranian colleagues – writers unjustly harassed and persecuted for their writing and peaceful activism. We call for the immediate and unconditional release of all prisoners of conscience, that is all individuals imprisoned solely for the peaceful exercise of their right to freedom of expression or other human rights; and drop all charges that are pending against any individuals which stem solely from their peaceful exercise of the right to freedom of expression or other human rights.

PEN Melbourne calls for the Iranian authorities to immediately drop the unjust charges against Arash Ganji.  Mr Ganji has committed no crime and he should be released immediately, and provided with all necessary medical attention he requires.

New Honorary Member of PEN Melbourne

Nedim Türfent

New Honorary Member of PEN Melbourne

PEN Melbourne has nominated imprisoned Kurdish writer Nedim Türfent as an Honorary Member, and we are pleased that Nedim has accepted.

Nedim Türfent is a journalist and poet currently imprisoned in Turkey. In December 2017, more than 18 months after his arrest, Türfent was handed an eight-year-and-nine-month prison sentence on trumped-up terrorism charges. He has now spent more than 1,500 days in detention.  Naming Nedim as an honorary member means that PEN Melbourne will energetically prosecute his case and continue our correspondence with him.

If you would like to join our work with Nedim Türfent please contact our Writers in Prison Team.

PEN Melbourne members have written to Nedim on several occasions since his arrest, and we have received spirited and enthusiastic replies written from his prison cell. Here is a letter we received earlier this year.


TURKEY: ACTION Write to Selahattin Demirtaş

International PEN Melbourne Centre



WRITE to Selahattin Demirtaş, a writer in prison

Throughout the year PEN Melbourne members and friends write to persecuted writers in prison around the world.

We send our best wishes, and our hopes that they are staying well and in good spirits.

We do this in the spirit of solidarity and to let them know that they are not alone and not forgotten.

We try by this means to allow a light into their lives in prison.

The letters are not political, but a gesture of friendship and a way of connecting across the cultural divides.


Send a letter to show solidarity with prominent Kurdish politician and writer Selahattin Demirtaş.

Writer and opposition politician Selahattin Demirtaş turned 48 on Saturday 10 April – the fifth birthday he has spent behind bars and away from his loved ones.

Demirtaş has been held in pre-trial detention for over four years, on dubious terrorism charges. The European Court of Human Rights twice ruled for his release, to no avail.

It is time that Turkey abides by its obligations under international law and release Demirtaş once and for all.


Backround information:

Former co-chair of the pro-Kurdish Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP), Selahattin Demirtaş was arrested on 4 November 2016 on dubious terrorism charges. The Turkish authorities have so far failed to implement a landmark ruling of the European Court of Human Rights issued in November 2018, which found his detention to be politically motivated and ordered his immediate release – a call reiterated by the Court’s Grand Chamber in December 2020.

PEN International calls for his immediate and unconditional release.

Please send messages of solidarity to:

Mr Selahattin Demirtaş

Edirne F Tipi CİK B1-38




We encourage anyone with a love of writing and literature to join PEN Melbourne. We are an entirely voluntary and not-for-profit organisation and our members sustain and bring vitality to our work.

PEN Melbourne International Women’s Day, 2021 Judith Rodriguez IWD Presentation Claire G. Coleman

Photo credit: Di Cousens

I would like to acknowledge that we are gathering tonight on the stolen unceded land of the Wurundjeri people of the Kulin nation. I pay my respects to their Elders past, present and future and all Indigenous people gathered here tonight.  This land was taken by force, in a violent war. Every inch of Australia is unceded Aboriginal land.


These are not the sort of times I thought I would be living through in my 40s, with democracy on the decline around the world, with the United States of America, who have always presented themselves as the world’s paragon of democracy and freedom dropping downwards in almost every metric or democratic freedom. The election of a reality TV star as President of the United States over 4 years ago was a symptom of a deeper malaise, not the cause of the problems.


People are scared and scared people vote for strong-man leaders, it might be that democracy is not the default state of the world but, rather, something we need to work to maintain.


Women’s rights seem to be going backwards, the religious right, so called men’s rights activists and men who identify as “Incels” (involuntary celibates), men who can’t get sex and blame women for their situation, are fighting to remove the equal rights we have fought for. Many far-right men in what some people call the “manosphere” believe that women’s rights have gone too far, that women should not be able to choose our sexual partners, have careers, remain unmarried or childless, they don’t believe we should be allowed to vote.  These men want women’s rights reversed, want the patriarchy to regain power.


They have ignored what Margaret Attwood said, “The Handmaid’s Tale is not an instruction manual”.


Worse even that that, many of these men believe that there is no patriarchy, that women are really in control despite all the overwhelming evidence.


I didn’t want to talk about rape but frankly in these times it seems appropriate and necessary.


In Australia we have a party in power who seem keen to cover up alleged rape by staffers and ministers, who have shown nothing but contempt and hate for victims of rape.  Our prime minister had to be told by his wife, Jen, to “think of their daughters” when considering rape victims. Firstly, he should not have needed to have been reminded of his daughters, secondly a man should not need daughters to know that rape is bad; you already know that – I guess our prime minister doesn’t.


Rape has always been a weapon of war, a tool of settler colonialism, in the early days of colonisation there is always a lack of women, the men seek indigenous women for sex, making mixed race children. We have to assume that men who don’t see the local women as human would not always ask for consent.  This has not changed, women are seen as second-class citizens, the majority of rapes don’t get reported, even when rapes are reported the majority of rapists get away with the crime.


Imagine how bad it was during colonisation, if men get away with rape now how can we even imagine how many men would have gotten away with rape in the black war times.  I think it’s safe to assume that most of the mixed-race children were the after effect of rape.  I am not however, as far as I know every generation back to the dawn of colonisation in my family were in consensual relationships.


Then we get to greater complexities, what really is consent when the power imbalance is so extreme?


Aboriginal women who married white men had protection, sometimes the women married to white men were the only Aboriginal women who did not die in the blak war, they survived the apocalyptic spasm of colonisation.  Being married to white men was protective but it’s impossible to determine whether or not they married white men for that reason.  It’s possible that an Aboriginal girl offered protection would do anything to keep that protection, even marry a man she has no feelings for but fear of him; and perhaps her fear of the other white men being far greater.  It’s hard to imagine this being actually a choice, it was the colonial apocalypse, a long ongoing war.


This could be my family, some of the earliest recorded marriages in the south coast of Western Australia were the women in my family, whose husbands kept them safe.


They were aware of rape, in the 1880s a girl of my Country was raped by a whitefella, her family killed that whitefella and nearly all our family were killed in reprisals.


Australia is not the country it thinks it is, not the country you might think it is.


Australia is not a happy-go-lucky, lucky country, equal and friendly and gregarious. Australia is racist and sexist and homophobic; the way the country gets away with this is by hiding what it is in plain sight.  The world, and most of Australia, believes the country’s propaganda, believes the story not the truth; some of us can see it but those of us are abused for speaking the truth.


Australia falls short of jailing people for being critical of the government but it is my belief we are not far from there. There are people in government who seem hell-bent on totalitarianism, on fascism or a theocracy.


I have to admit Australia has some things right, it’s not a particularly homophobic nation, this is perhaps one of the nations where lesbian, gay, bi and trans rights have progressed the furthest.


Except that the “gay panic defence”, converting murder to manslaughter if a straight man is hit on by a man, was only abolished in South Australia in November 2020.


Until then a straight man who thought a gay man was attracted to him could say that made him scared and, if he killed the gay man, it was a reaction to fear, a manslaughter, not cold-blooded murder.  As has been often pointed out women who fear they are in danger from men are unlikely to respond with violence and if we did we would not be able to use “I thought he was attracted to me” as a defence.


In fact, women have little right to safety from sexual assault, for we don’t have rights if those rights are only theoretical. It’s estimated that as many as one in 6 women are victims of sexual assault.  Most rapes go unreported, most reported rapes do not result in prosecution of the rapist.  Women will be safe from rape once a report of rape to the police can be made with a reasonable expectation of prosecution, when reporting a rape has no consequences for the victims of rape.


Things are even worse for trans women and women of colour. If Aboriginal women come to the attention of police even as victims of crime we tend to be punished for it.  Current statistics suggest that rather than the one in six cis women who are sexually assaulted, with trans women it’s more like one in two.


As things stand right now women are constantly accused of making false accusations of rape when, frankly, in rape reports, the loss of reputation and damage to status is worst for the accuser than it is for the accused.  Few women who are raped report it because of the consequences, such as slut shaming, and yet the myth that women lie about rape persists.


This is part of the silencing of women, particularly rape victims. It has always been the aim of settler colonialism, hegemonic systems and patriarchy, which are frankly the same thing.  That too they want to silence, the knowledge that the patriarchy and settler colonialism are hand in hand.  This is why we need to keep intersectionality in mind, the oppressive systems walk with their fingers entwined, when someone experiences more than one vector of oppression they tend to compound. It’s hard to choose which oppression to fight.


Intersectionality matters because erasure of voices is hierarchical, white, cis, straight male abled voices are the loudest, then white cis straight abled women, the entitled voice called out as “Karens”, then down the ladder, white cis gay men, white cis gay women, etc. then black, straight men, etc etc.


At the bottom of this theoretical ladder are Indigenous, trans, gay or queer disabled women. From that far down the ladder it’s pretty much impossible to even see the top.  Affirmative action, what prejudiced people call “positive discrimination’ is needed to give intersectionally disadvantaged people a chance in this society.  When affirmative action is attempted we are accused of “reverse racism” or some such thing, but reverse racism is itself a racist term and everybody using it is racist.


If you think about it anything that can be reversed has a correct direction, therefore the term “reverse racism” implies that racism has a correct direction.  That direction is, of course, from white people towards people of colour. Racism, to someone invoking the concept of reverse racism, is something that should be correctly applied by them to others.


Now, in the last few days we have been faced with the disclosure of the racism of some members of the British Royal family to Meghan Markel. If you missed it somehow an unidentified royal when told by prince Harry that Meghan was pregnant apparently mused aloud wondering how dark the child will be.


Should we have been shocked that the royal family of an empire that brought us racist colonialism are racists? Of course not. It’s not well known, these days, that the entire concept of “race” as we know it was invented to more easily distinguish the slave classes from the slave owners.  Racism did not always exist, it is nothing more or less than a tool of settler colonialism


It’s time to bring an end to racism, to bring an end to sexism, to what some people call misogynoir, the unique hate society holds for blak and Indigenous women; that potently energetic hate that has earned its own portmaneau.  Intersectionally disadvantaged women can’t do it alone but we don’t want everybody else fighting for us, Blak women want you to stand with us shoulder to shoulder.  It’s time for everybody to understand that the minorities in power need us divided, they are out-numbered.



Worldwide PEN International Annual Women Writers Committee Meeting

“Empowering women’s voices: Praise, solidarity and longing”,

which will be held by Zoom on March 20 and 21, 2021.


All PIWWC people are invited to take part. We hope that a virtual conference will permit more attendance than ever as we had a last year. There are many events scheduled over the two days of the conference and we will be able to see one another, and everyone will have a chance to speak as well.


General information about the meeting:

WWC Annual Meeting Online

Empowering women’s voices: Praise, solidarity and longing

20 and 21 March 2021

PEN International Women Writers Committee is organising an online meeting on women writers’ response to the anxiety that crept into our lives during and after the pandemic. We would like to put praise and solidarity, universal love, and peace into the spotlight of our meeting. Seeing democracies crumbling and human rights stripped away from us, we can show that PEN is mightier than a sword.

In two sessions, we will focus on exchange of views and ideas on the way forward, with a focus on collaborative approaches.


Meeting Agenda

Saturday, March 20, 2021

Day I

13:30 GMT (London time) – Opening the meeting (practice room and free chat)

14:00 – Empty Chair #1 Regina Martínez Pérez (Mexico)

14:05 – Opening keynote speech by Ma Thida (PEN Myanmar)

14:25 – WWC Chair report + Q&A

14:40 – PEN VIDA count: presentation of the project

15:00 – Center updates (3 mins per Center) with comfort break

17:00 – Closing the meeting


Sunday, March 21, 2021

Day II

13:30 – Opening the meeting (practice room and free chat)

14:00 – Empty Chair #2 Myint Myint Zin (Myanmar)

14:05 – WWC in Centenary Archive:

“The WWC Committee’s secret pages in the PEN Digital Exhibition” by Ginevra Avalle

WWC memories by Lucina Kathmann



Women writers in exile live a double life. One part of their mind is in their homeland, another in the land where they are building a new existence. How is it to live a double life? How can writers in exile help to advocate for the rights in their homelands? Can literature overcome the distance? We will hear about their experience of life in exile from three amazing writers.

Panellists: Maria Saba (PEN Canada-Humber College Writers-in-Exile), Choman Hardi (Kurdish PEN), and Stella Nyanzi (PEN Uganda)

Moderated by Tanja Tuma (PEN Slovene)

Live on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/peninternational

15:25 – Empty Chair #3. Volha Kalackaja (Belarus)



The pandemic has shaken the roots of our democracies and annihilated societies that were built over decades. Freedom of speech and human rights are threatened more than ever all over the world. As a rule, writers particularly women are the first targets of the autocratic regimes. What are the methods of the autocrats trying to silence women’s literary voices? Moreover, what are women writers’ ways to persevere and fight back?

Panellists: Nadezhda Azhgikhina (PEN Moscow) and Dr Ma Thida (Myanmar PEN)

Moderated by Zoe Rodriguez (PEN Sidney)

Live on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/peninternational

16:30 – POETRY SESSION Free the Word: Empowering Women’s Voices. Poems of Celebration, Solidarity & Longing

Empty Chair #4. Gulmira Imin (Uyghur)

Every Silence Broken Buys Another Their Voice!

OPEN Link: https://us02web.zoom.us/j/89636911672

Live on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/judyth.hill


Practical information

The sessions will be held online as a closed, invitation-only meeting. Further details and technical information will be communicated to confirmed participants closer to the meeting.

The sessions will be recorded by the Secretariat for reporting purposes only and will not be broadcast or published later. The public portion (public events and literary reading) will be streamed on YouTube and Facebook and recordings can be used for promotional purposes.

The consultation is organised under the Chatham House Rule, and participants are not allowed to record.


The sessions will be held in English only. Unfortunately, no interpretation can be provided.

We apologise for this inconvenience.


Link for the meeting

Don’t worry, we will resend you the invitation link 24 hours before the event.

Registration is closed.


2021 International Women’s Day Event, with Claire G Coleman

PEN Melbourne, IWD Judith Rodriguez Presentation.

About this Event

Claire G. Coleman is a Wirlomin-Noongar woman who writes fiction, poetry and essays. Her debut novel Terra Nullius, won a Black&Write! Fellowship and a Norma K Hemming Award, and was shortlisted for the Stella Prize and an Aurealis Award. The Old Lie is Claire’s second novel and this year her first non-fiction book, Lies, Damned Lies will be out in September 2021.

Book your tickets at this link:


Date and Time

Wed., 10 March 2021

6:30 pm – 9:00 pm AEDT

Add to Calendar


Kathleen Syme Library and Community Centre

251 Faraday Street

Carlton, VIC 3053

View Map

Refund Policy

Contact the organiser to request a refund.

Eventbrite’s fee is nonrefundable.

ACTION: Support for a Voice to Parliament to be Enshrined in the Constitution

International PEN Melbourne Centre

ULURU Statement from the Heart:


Support for a Voice to Parliament to be Enshrined in the Constitution

The International PEN Melbourne Centre works on the lands of the the Boon Wurrung and Woi Wurrung peoples of the Kulin Nation and we recognise that the sovereignty of these lands has never been ceded.

PEN Melbourne acknowledges that Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples have suffered historic and ongoing silencing since the colonisation of Australia beginning in 1788.  The continuing exclusion of the voices of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples from the government and legislative bodies of the Australian nation does incalculable harm in disadvantaging First Nations peoples in matters of education, justice, employment, welfare, and social and political participation. This exclusion deprives public discussion and parliamentary debate of an essential and fundamental element – the voices of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples on laws that will affect them and that will enrich the lives of all Australians.

The Australian constitution, since its inception, has served to benefit white Australians at the expense of the country’s Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples. Enshrining the Voice for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples in the Constitution will contribute to a just recognition for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples and progress the struggle for sovereignty and self-determination.

READ the Uluru Statement from the Heart




Make a submission to the Indigenous Voice co-design process


The closing date is 30 April 2021


Upload your submission at:



For assistance with creating your submission go to:



We encourage anyone with a love of writing and literature to join PEN Melbourne. We are an entirely voluntary and not-for-profit organisation and our members sustain and bring vitality to our work.

International PEN Melbourne Centre CHINA ACTION – YANG Hengjun

International PEN Melbourne Centre

Defending persecuted writers, freedom of expression and promoting cultural understanding through literature



YANG Hengjun

Yang Hengjun is an Australian novelist, blogger and political commentator who is committed to the advancement of human rights and political reform in the People’s Republic of China (PRC).

A keen commentator on Chinese politics and the virtues of democratic pluralism, Yang’s writing has been regularly featured in The Diplomat and his blog posts garnered a significant following on Chinese social media, earning himself the nickname of ‘Democracy Peddler’. As a novelist, he has authored a fictional spy trilogy known as the Fatal Series.

Yang was abducted by the security services when visiting the PRC with his family in January 2019, and on 7 October 2020 he was formally charged with espionage. If convicted, Yang faces a potential sentence ranging from three years’ imprisonment to the death penalty.

PEN International considers Yang Hengjun’s detention to be a clear breach of his right to freedom of expression and calls for his immediate and unconditional release.

Take Action by:

  1. Sending an appeal to the Chinese authorities
  2. Telling others: share Yang’s case and his work via Twitter (see below)

In your letter request that the authorities:

  • Release Yang Hengjun immediately and unconditionally.
  • Allow Yang Hengjun’s family to leave the PRC without any restrictions.
  • Provide Yang Hengjun with unrestricted access to legal representatives of his choosing and to representatives of the Australian government.
  • End all policies that contravene the PRC government’s international human rights obligations.

Write to:

President Xi Jinping

General Secretary of the Chinese Communist Party and President of the People’s Republic of China.

Address: General Secretary Office, Central Committee of the Communist Party of China, Zhongnanhai Ximen, Fuyou Street, Xicheng District, Beijing 100017

People’s Republic of China

Twitter: https://twitter.com/mfa_china

Ambassador CHENG Jingye

Ambassador of the People’s Republic of China to the Commonwealth of Australia

Address: 15 Coronation Drive, Yarralumla, ACT 2600, Australia.

Email: chinaemb_au@mfa.gov.cn

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/China…

Ambassador ZHANG Jun

Permanent Representative of the Permanent Mission of the People’s Republic of China to the United Nations.

Address: 350 East 35th Street, New York, NY 10016, USA.

Email: chinamissionun@gmail.com

Twitter: https://twitter.com/chinaambun

Tell others: share Yang Hengjun’s case and his work on Twitter:

#YangHengjun’s detention is a breach of his right to freedom of expression. I call for his immediate and unconditional release.


We encourage anyone with a love of writing and literature to join PEN Melbourne. We are an entirely voluntary and not-for-profit organisation and our members sustain and bring vitality to our work.

World Poetry Day, PEN Campaign for 4 Poets: Maryja Martysievič, Katherine Bisquet,  Varavara Rao, Innocent Bahati

On this year’s World Poetry Day (March 21), PEN International highlights the case of four poets who risks their life, daily, through their work: Maryja Martysievič (Belarus), Katherine Bisquet (Cuba), Varavara Rao (India) and Innocent Bahati (Rwanda). PEN International calls on its members to take action so that governments fulfil their duty to guarantee freedom of expression.


Please find in attachment materials produced for this international day and campaign (action page, a piece by Jennifer Clement, social media messages for Sunday 21 and accompanying visuals for Twitter, Facebook and Instagram). Please do support this campaign and ask your members to take action on behalf of our poets, as follows.


Maryja Martysievič-Monday 22

Katherine Bisquet – Tuesday 23
Varavara Rao- Wednesday 24
Innocent Bahati-Thursday 25


Please note that attached materials are EMBARGOED until 00:01 GMT on 21 March 2021 and should not be published before then.

Links to the action page can be found here (these will be live on Sunday morning UK time)

ENG: ENG: https://pen-international.org/campaigns/world-poetry-day

SP: https://pen-international.org/es/campaigns/Día-Mundial-de-la-Poesía

(EMBARGOED until 00:01 GMT on 21 March 2021).

World Poetry Day 2021

“We know, for poets who are incarcerated, the sun is cold and there are months between months, days between days and hours between hours. Even in the months, days, and hours, which are not on the calendar, we are working for their freedom of expression and for their freedom. Everyday members of PEN think of these poets and their suffering”.  Jennifer Clement, PEN International President.

March 21: Adopted in 1999 during the UNESCO’s 30th General Conference, World Poetry Day,  is an opportunity to celebrate cultural and linguistic diversity through poetic expression, as well as an opportunity to honour poets, revive oral traditions of poetry recitals, promote the convergence between poetry and other forms of arts, and raise the visibility of poetry in the media.

While poetry has the power to bring people together across continents, many poets worldwide face threats, intimidation and violence for simply speaking up, for using their voice in a way that makes governments feel uncomfortable. On this year’s World Poetry Day, PEN International highlights the case of four poets who risks their life, daily, through their work: Maryja Martysievič (Belarus), Katherine Bisquet (Cuba), Varavara Rao (India) and Innocent Bahati (Rwanda). PEN International calls on its members to take action so that governments fulfil their duty to guarantee freedom of expression.


Maryja Martysievič, © Ivan Besser


Maryja Martysievič


Maryja Martysievič is a Belarusian poet, writer, and literary translator, who for years has been facing repression for speaking out. She is amongst the many cultural figures in Belarus who have publicly expressed their dissent following the widely disputed presidential election of August 2020, which saw tens of thousands of people taking to the streets in peaceful protests. Since then, the Belarusian authorities have unleashed an unprecedented crackdown on human rights. Many writers and artists have been targeted, suffering arrests, beatings, destruction of instruments, and loss of jobs. As a member of the cultural resistance movement, Martysievič uses her creativity to resist oppression, by writing poetry and holding public readings and performances. PEN International calls on the Belarusian authorities to immediately end attacks against writers, artists, and cultural workers in retaliation for their attempts to raise their concerns and combat injustice.


Take action

Support Belarusian poets by organising poetry readings and celebrating their work on your social media channels. A video of Maryja Martysievič performing alongside fellow writers is available here.

Katherine Bisquet, © Héctor Trujillo

Katherine Bisquet


Katherine Bisquet is one of the most prominent young Cuban writers, as well as a poet, editor and activist. She writes for El Estornudo, among other media outlets, and has recently won the Antonia Eiriz 2021 scholarship, awarded by the Instituto Internacional de Artivismo Hannna Arendt. Bisquet was harassed, detained and placed house arrest for her ideas. In November 2020, alongside other artists and activists, she gathered at the headquarters of the San Isidro Movement (MSI) to protest the arbitrary detention of musician Denís Solís. The MSI is a group of Cuban artists that has fought for freedom of expression and artistic freedom since 2018, when the Cuban government introduced Decree 349 which penalizes artists who work without approval by the Ministry of Culture. Bisquet is the author of books such as Something Here is Out-of-Order and Depleted Uranium.


Take action

Support Cuban writers, journalists and artists asking authorities to stop harassment against them and San Isidro Movement, and to repeal the Decree 349, sending letters of concern to the Cuban embassies.


Varavara Rao, image courtesy of Wikipedia (Creative Commons License)

Varavara Rao
Varavara Rao is a celebrated writer, poet, and Marxist activist who has been detained without trial in India since 2018. An important figure in Telugu literature, Rao is a founder of the Virasam – the Revolutionary Writers Association. Rao was among five activists who were arrested in August 2018 for their alleged role in inciting violent unrest. He has completely rejected all charges, with many viewing his detention as being politically motivated and part of a wider crackdown on activists across India. Despite falling gravely ill with COVID-19 and other health complications while detained in abhorrent conditions, Indian authorities have repeatedly denied his requests for medical bail throughout 2020. On 22 January 2021, the Bombay High Court finally granted Rao six months’ medical bail. While PEN International welcomes the court’s ruling, we remain deeply concerned over the strict conditions imposed on Rao’s temporary release, which includes prohibiting him from speaking with media and restricting his location to Mumbai despite his home being in Telangana, located over 750 kilometres away.

Take action
Ask the Indian authorities to nullify the punitive conditions attached to Varavara Rao’s temporary medical bail, and to grant Rao indefinite compassionate release.

Narendra Modi

Role: Prime Minister of India
Address:  E Block, E Block, Central Secretariat, New Delhi, Delhi 110011, India
Twitter: https://twitter.com/narendramodi
Contact: https://pmopg.gov.in/pmocitizen/Grievancepmo.aspx

Amit Shah

Role: Union Home Minister of India, Ministry of Home Affairs, Government of India
Address: Ministry of Home Affairs, North Block, New Delhi 110001, India.
Email: contact@amitshah.co.in


Innocent Bahati © Andrea Grieder

Innocent Bahati

Innocent Bahati is a popular Rwandan poet known for his open and critical expression on social issues. He publishes his poetry on YouTube and Facebook and regularly performs at poetry events. Bahati has been missing since 07 February 2021. After two days of trying to establish his whereabouts, his friends reported Bahati’s disappearance to the Rwanda Investigation Bureau who said Bahati was not in their custody and that they were investigating the matter. Friends and associates of Bahati believe that his disappearance is in relation to his critical poetry, particularly his recent poems: ‘Hunger’; ‘Poverty’; and ‘Long Regulations’. It is reported that before Bahati went missing, a prominent pro-government public figure had posted a comment on Facebook linking Bahati’s views to President Paul Kagame’s critics who continue to face repression for their dissenting voices. In 2017, Bahati had similarly disappeared after he posted a poem on Facebook only to reappear in police custody. PEN is investigating what appears to be Bahati’s enforced disappearance. A video of ‘Rubebe’, one of Innocent Bahati’s poems, is available here.


Take action

Ask the Rwandan authorities to disclose the whereabouts of Innocent Bahati and to guarantee his safety, wellbeing and right to life. Send a message to President Paul Kagame and to the Secretary General of the Rwanda Investigation Bureau, Jeannot K. Ruhunga.


Paul Kagame

Role: President of the Republic of Rwanda

Twitter: https://twitter.com/PaulKagame

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/PresidentPaulKagame/

Email: info@gov.rw


Jeannot K. Ruhunga

Role: Secretary General of the Rwanda Investigation Bureau (RIB)

Twitter: https://twitter.com/RIB_RW

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/Rwanda-Investigation-Bureau

Email: info@rib.gov.rw


Notes to PEN Centres:

  • The images used for this campaign can be re-used and shared by PEN Centres.

Notes to editors:

  • PEN International activities to celebrate World Poetry Day, are part of a series of events planned throughout 2021 to mark PEN International’s Centenary. Founded in 1921 by English writer Catherine Amy Dawson Scott, PEN International has spent 100 years celebrating literature and protecting freedom of expression. You can stand up for persecuted writers by making a donation