I’ve just come back from Perth, a week full of school visits underneath a late Summery sky. I loved jogging up and down the Swan River in the evenings. But last Friday was only the beginning for me, as I packed my bags to the Katherine Susanne Pritchard Writers Centre in Greenmount. You’re only an hour or so from Perth but it feels semi-rural already. I stayed in one of the cosy little cabins and you can see why it’d make the perfect writers retreat.

You feel so isolated and away from it all. It reminds me of my time in Norwood for the May Gibbs Fellowship. The festival of Asian-Australian voices started off with an open-mike event. Hosted by Jazz poet Jake Dennis, it was a variety night of poets, music and a little bit of comedy from myself haha. I had a few seconds to re-adjust my material after one joke fell flat, but I pulled it off in the end…I earnt my can of soft drink for sure hehe

But I love performance poetry/poetry slam, and it’s nice to know that the scene is thriving in Perth. The real highlight of the weekend was Benjamin Law’s keynote address at the literary dinner. He spoke about what it meant to be ‘Asian-Australian.’ I guess for me, I’ve always been comfortable about that term, when I made it to Alice Pung’s Growing Up Asian in Australia anthology, I was introduced to a whole variety of voices that were kinda like mine.

I liked how Ben said, you can be a whole variety of things at one time. Being asked if you’re more Asian or Australian is like asking someone if they’re more of a woman or a mother. It made sense. Ben’s own upbringing, which is featured in his Family Law book, brought those identity questions to the forefront. I’m proud to have a culture that is the best of both worlds, it echoes in my books, especially Thai-riffic! (plugplugplug)

I also met Lily Chan for the first time too. She wrote her grandmother’s memoir, called Toyo. From what she’s read out loud, it sounds like an interesting migrant tale and also one about living in Japan back in the olden days. I snapped up a copy before they sold out hehe. She grew up in a small country town in Western Australia, not quite Western Suburbs but I’m sure we shared some experiences. But I’m keen to read her book and see what else she has up her sleeve 🙂

The festival was capped off with a 3 hour discussion panel on Australian identity. Though I was on the panel, I felt like I was there as the audience too, taking down notes as each person spoke. It’s fascinating how other Asian countries such as China view Australia. It’s pretty limited in some aspects, yet it’s always growing as we continue to become a major tourist destination. For me, I feel like every migrant brings their tale and while we’re seeing a lot more Asian-Australian voices now, I can’t wait to hear other people’s stories down the track, once they’ve had a taste of living in Australia 🙂


About the author

I'm an author, stand-up comedian and teacher. My books include Thai-riffic!, Con-nerd, Punchlines and The Other Christy. I'm a massive Nintendo fan and love eating burgers. Follow me on Twitter or Instagram @oliverwinfree

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