Winnie Dunn is the editor of and Amani Haydar is a contributor to Another Australia.
Winnie is the General Manager of Western Sydney based literacy movement, Sweatshop. She is a writer of Tongan descent from Mount Druitt, and her work has been published in the Sydney Review of Books, Griffith Review, Meanjin, SBS Voices, The Guardian, Huffington Post, Southerly and Cordite.
Amani is an artist, lawyer, and advocate for women's health and safety based in Western Sydney. Her memoir, The Mother Wound, received the Victorian Premier's Literary Award for Non-fiction and the Matt Richell Award for new Writer of the Year, among many other short- and long-listings. Amani's writing and illustrations have been published in ABC News Online and SBS Life and her self-portrait Insert Headline Here was a finalist in the 2018 Archibald Prize.
ASTRID: Winnie and Amani, congratulations on the new anthology, Another Australia. Winnie, you are the editor, and, Amani, you are a contributor to the anthology. I have spoken to both of you before on The Garret, and it is a pleasure to be able to speak to you together again.
WINNIE: Thanks so much for having us, Astrid.
AMANI: Thank you, Astrid.
ASTRID: Winnie, let's start with you. Another Australia is a companion anthology to the 2020, After Australia, which was a collaboration between Affirm Press, Sweatshop, and Diversity Arts Australia. Can you give me the origin story of Another Australia?
WINNIE: Yeah. Well, the origin story of Another Australia is just like you said, it started off as After Australia, which was the brainchild of Affirm Press, Sweatshop, and Diversity Arts Australia. And it was a look into the future, so what Australia would look like in the future, whether it was full of disaster or full of hope. My vision coming on board for the sequel, Another Australia, was to kind of take a step back and look at our present and how the present is shaped by the people and the realities of Australia – what's beneath what we call Australia, what's on top of what we call Australia, and all the multiple realities that people of colour and Indigenous people in Australia are constantly living through. When I asked writers like, of course, Amani, Sisonke Msimang, Osman Faruqi, Nardi Simpson, Declan Fry, I wanted them to speak to their lived experiences, to speak to their communities, and to speak to what Australia is to them and what Australia could be to them right now in the present.
ASTRID: What was the brief to writers? Because there is poetry, there is memoir, there is fiction in here. What was the goal?
WINNIE: The goal I put forward to the writers initially was a question. So that question is, what is Australia and what does Australia look like to you? Because I have my own personal experiences of Australia, Amani has her own personal experiences to Australia, and all the writers have their own personal experiences. And they also have their own intellectual responses to what that means.
In Amani's piece, she really leaned upon that kind of controversial Australian television ad years ago of where the bloody hell are you? The contributors came up with such nuanced responses and that's what I wanted, that question of what is actually Australia to you and how do our lived experiences and our multiple realities kind of clash together? And that's what the book is. And not only does things clash together thematically, but also structurally and formatting. Another Australia is quite experimental in the fact that it's vignette short stories, poems, poetic essays, essays, everything just kind of clashed together to just kind of show this multiverse of Australia.
ASTRID: And, Amani, what has the experience been like for you? You are known for your artworks, your exhibitions, and of course, your memoir, The Mother Wound, this is a different tack, this is fiction.
AMANI: Yeah. This is my first piece of fiction that I'm having published. And in some ways, it's similar to my previous work in that it still references themes of intergenerational trauma, themes of abuse, gender relations, but I'm basically looking at the huge gap between the hopes and expectations of migrant women who arrived in my parents' generation and what they then experienced as the reality of Australia. I really wanted to highlight a woman's perspective on this huge move from one place to another, which ends up being a displacement, ends up involving some really negative experiences that are sometimes lost when we write from a place of nostalgia and romanticise the migrant experience. And I wanted it to be reflective of some of the stories that I heard older women chatting about when I was a kid. So those things that you overhear, those uncomfortable experiences that women share amongst each other. And I sort of set out to compare that experience to the experience that we present to the international community through our tourism campaigns and things like that.
ASTRID: I don't think Australia is ever going to live down that ad, where the bloody hell are you? The experience for you sitting down at your desk, writing fiction, have you practised fiction by yourself before? This is your first published piece, but in terms of moving into, I don't know, a different way to express your creativity, what was your process?
AMANI: My process with fiction has really grown out of the way that I approach non-fiction. I think I've started to feel that there is a lot of opportunity and scope for creativity in fiction. It gives me an opportunity to write about things that are removed from my direct lived experience. I'm still speaking to things that are part of my world and part of my experiences generally, but there is scope in fiction for experimentation, there is scope for tying different threads together, there's this freedom from just the strict facts of reality that I find quite exciting. I've been writing a little bit of fiction here and there, and I'm working on developing that so that I can sort of push myself creatively and see what comes up next.
ASTRID: I hope that means there is a long-form work of fiction in whatever medium somewhere in the future, Amani.
AMANI: I hope so too.
ASTRID: Winnie, I'd like to talk about the kind of selection process. There are 12 pieces in the anthology. Did you know which writers you wanted to commission? Was there some form of open selection process? How did you get the writers into the anthology?
WINNIE: Yeah. Well, 12 writers are obviously reminiscent of the 12 writers in After Australia. So, of course, I wanted to keep threads of similarity going as Another Australia is the sequel. I want it to be not a mirror, but kind of a sibling anthology to After Australia. So the selection process of the 12 writers is actually just writers I personally admire, writers that I personally and professionally had a connection to, and of course, writers that I feel have really strong voices, strong craft, and were just kind of ready for the sequel. So in terms of asking Amani, her work in domestic violence, her work in literature, her contribution to nonfiction, and our work together at Sweatshop, not only as a writer, but as a visual artist is a partnership and a collaboration that I deeply admire.
So it's such an honour to have Amani's kind of first public fiction piece out in the world in such a big way. Similarly, once upon a time, I had reviewed Nardi Simpson's, Song of the Crocodile novel, and I absolutely just fell in love with it. I fell in love with the historical nature of the work, the black matriarchy within that novel. I had asked Nardi in particular to kind of carry on the Wiradjuri writer, Hannah Donnelly's legacy in After Australia when she did the prologue, interlude, and epilogue. Nardi Simpson has now taken on that mantle and has written in actual language to showcase that Australia is not this monocultural, monolingual place. It is full of sovereignty and power. Those are the types of writers I asked to contribute, because they're writers I admire, that I work with, and that I feel have the freshest ideas to put to paper.
ASTRID: So moving to you, Amani, you've just heard Winnie say very lovely things about you and the other 11 writers in the anthology. What is it like to work with and be edited by Winnie?
AMANI: I've had quite a bit of experience with this because I joined Sweatshop Women a couple of years ago now, and I was still in the early stages of my manuscript for The Mother Wound. And that was such a valuable experience because in that safe space that Winnie creates, I was able to receive feedback, I was able to learn from other writers, I was able to really cast a critical eye over my writing and grow as a writer. And I don't think I would have written as good a book if I hadn't had that experience. So working with Winnie comes very naturally to me. Now, I can almost anticipate her edits and she's the little voice in the back of my head while I'm writing. And if something's too cliché or too repetitive or not strong enough, I think I can really identify that because of what I've learned from Winnie and from my experiences with Sweatshop.
And I don't think we should ever underestimate the value of that kind of space because as an emerging writer, it's very hard to know where to go, who to go to for advice, how to make sure that you can stick to your authentic voice and say what you want to say but do it well. So for me, that experience of being able to access that kind of mentoring has been really key to my whole writing practise.
ASTRID: A question for both of you, when you look at all of the contributions, yours Amani and the others, everybody got the same question, but of course, was free to interpret that as they chose, what is the feeling created, the combined total, the combined power of the 12 together? And I guess I'm asking your personal feelings, your personal impressions from each of you.
WINNIE: The power, I think, in it is how diverse the interpretation of that question is, what is Australia? What is the reality of Australia? The diversity of genres. There's essays, there's rap lyrics, there's illustrations, intergenerational illustrations, there's poetic essays and pictures to go along with that, there's really superb fiction. So for me, the power is in that diversity because that is the reality of Australia. There is a myth that Australia is quite monocultural and centred on the beach and people in power who are usually White get to say, "We welcome you in," or, "We deport you out." And that kind of myth of Australia is just that, it's a myth. So for me, the power in those 12 contributors coming together is reflecting the reality of Australia, which is completely diverse, not only culturally, but linguistically, stylistically, aesthetically.
AMANI: I think I'd echo everything that Winnie just said. And I think I'd also emphasise the importance of having narratives that disrupt the myths that Australia tells itself about itself because not only does it allow us to challenge institutions and power structures, but it also allows us to honour the real experiences of the people who came before us. In my case, I'm constantly thinking about what the experiences of migrant women have been in being displaced from their homelands and then having to navigate really complicated social, financial, and practical day-to-day life challenges. So for me, it's about also preserving the truth and preserving those narratives that really make us who we are and allowing them to be represented in literature because I don't know if the next generation is going to have access to those stories directly. And I really believe that they deserve to be honoured in that way.
ASTRID: Winnie, this is not the first anthology that you've worked on. Is it the fourth anthology that you have edited?
WINNIE: It's probably the fifth or sixth one. So we're on a role, I'll say.
ASTRID: You are definitely on a role. And my question is, the first time experience being in that role as editor and kind of in charge of, and responsible for, to a degree, other people's works and stories and thoughts that go out into the world, how have you changed as an editor? Take that as you will, but what's it like this kind of fifth time around?
WINNIE: Yeah, well, this anthology, Another Australia, in particular is probably the biggest anthology that I've made to date, not only in terms of just the length of it, but also the kind of powerhouses that are in the anthology. This is my first time working with very established writers who have a novel or two out, a book or two out, or who have been writing for long periods of time. It's also the first time I'm working with artists who are not necessarily writers like L-FRESH The LION, for instance, who's a rapper. This is his kind of debut piece of work, but he's such a force to be reckoned with in Australia's music industry, so balancing that, working with award-winning journalists like Osman Faruqi. So working with established writers is so much different than working with emerging writers that I have been working with in my kind of six or seven years at Sweatshop because with emerging writers, they kind of come to you very fresh-eyed and very eager to learn.
They also just don't know technically the craft of writing quite well yet. So it's about kind of building them from the ground up and that's where the kind of grassroots movement of Sweatshop comes in to kind of take those emerging voices and really grow them into their own form. But I came into Another Australia with that training, but then it was just so refreshing to just have established writers who already knew what they were doing, who were already award-winning and successful in their own right. And just having an exchange of ideas, an exchange of thoughts, and learning from them as much as they were learning from me.
So working with people like Amani just felt like an equal exchange rather than me having to teach a young person from the ground up how to do it. It was just incredibly refreshing to have people who just knew the craft already. And we were just kind of going back and forth until we just had a piece that felt ready for both of us. So that exchange of ideas, I think, was really important. And I learned so much from the writers in the anthology who I really respect.
ASTRID: Amani, I'd like to ask you about creativity. We've kind of briefly mentioned that you are an artist, you exhibit your work, and you have published a very successful and awarded memoir, but you as a person, as a creative person, how many different outlets are there that you can choose or might choose to explore and express your creativity? We kind of joked about a novel before, but do you write poetry when you have spare time? And I don't imagine you have a lot of it, but if you have spare time, are you playing with fiction or where do you go? What makes you happy?
AMANI: So for me, it's about being able to choose whatever feels the most important and urgent and effective at the time. So at the moment, I'm actually working on book illustrations, one set for a kid's book and another set for a book that's for an older demographic. And that's been challenging and a bit of a learning curve because it's a bit more technical than the type of drawing and painting that I usually do. But for me, the writing process and the process of creating visual art, those two things are so interrelated for me. And I don't consciously decide what's going to be writing and what's going to be art. It's just a matter of what fits with the message that I'm talking about or the things that I'm thinking about. And I similarly don't have a very strict separation between writing nonfiction and writing fiction. It feels organic to move into fiction at this point. I feel like I have stories to tell that need to be told in fiction. And I think I will always use both visual art and writing to tell stories and engage with people in different ways.
And it's really about digging into the things that make me curious, first and foremost, and then sharing that with others. So I really just have a very organic approach to my work. And I know there's a lot of privilege as well in being able to pick and choose what you're working on at any given time. And I find that I get bored with repetitive things. So that suits me perfectly, being able to change and see a project through to completion and then do something new. That's what I really love doing most.
ASTRID: I am so excited that you are illustrating a kid's book and then a book for older readers. There are very few creatives in Australia who both write and illustrate in book form in Australia. There is Maxine Beneba Clarke, there is Omar Musa, who has done his own work and is also in Another Australia. There aren't that many people. That is really exciting.
AMANI: Oh, thank you. It's been a challenge, I have to say. I'm learning a lot as I go through the process of illustrating for kids and the technical challenges that come up with that have been really interesting for me. Making sure things fit on a page. Working within particular briefs and restraints can be a little bit foreign when you're used to just picking up a canvas and doing whatever you want. I'm excited to see how the book turns out, and I think it's going to be a great read for young people like my own kids.
ASTRID: Talking about art, the cover of Another Australia is fantastic. And if I remember correctly, After Australia had a fantastic cover that got quite a bit of media attention, don't know how to describe it exactly, but it was kind of a sepia-coloured sketch of a typical White beach-going family with their faces scribbled out. And this cover-
WINNIE: The cover actually got taken to the Royal Commission.
ASTRID: Oh God.
WINNIE:... by somebody because they thought... After Australia's cover was so controversial that somebody took it to the Royal Commission of Australia. It got thrown out, obviously, but a lot of people were very confronted by the scribbling out of White faces, which I find so funny because when you go to school in Western Sydney, that's all you do, you do face books all day. There was just a lot of nuance there race-wise and class-wise that I found quite fun.
ASTRID: I don't even know what to say to that. Very glad it got thrown out. I would like to say that the cover of Another Australia is also beautiful. And I wanted to ask who illustrated it and what you think of this cover? Not many covers stand out that well.
WINNIE: Thank you. The illustration was done by the brilliant team at Affirm Press. I think the illustrator is named Josh, from memory, but in the same way that in the editorial process of exchanging ideas with the writers, I also kind of went through a bit of an exchanging of ideas and editorial process for the cover of Another Australia because how do you live up to a cover that got taken to the Royal Commission? So for me, as a Tongan woman, there isn't a lot of representation of Pacific Islanders in Australian literature. Could barely name any books and the writers that are coming up like myself are still very emerging.
So there's still time for that, but what I will say is that I really took this opportunity with Affirm Press to really centre a kind of gender-fluid, strong Pacific Islander figure at the centre because as a writer and an editor, obviously, I didn't contribute to the book that I edited, but I did in terms of the cover. I was like, "Let's just put a beautiful gender-fluid Pacific Islander figure at the cover, and then let's see where the designer takes it from there." So there's a woman in a hijab holding a flag eating ice cream. There's another figure in the background doing the West Side sign because I'm from Mount Druitt, I'm from Western Sydney. So you got to represent. And then I don't know if anybody would notice, but in the corner, there's a little hand that's drowning and no one notices. And everyone in the cover is just nonchalant. So I feel like when people see the cover of Another Australia, it's kind of really fresh, really vibrant in contrast to the cover of After Australia. I definitely think it lives up to the hype.
ASTRID: I hope it does not go to the high court, but I also hope that everybody sees this kind of bright yellow, bright red image with a beach on the front. I think it's going to get attention in bookstores. Will there be a third instalment of this anthology series?
WINNIE: Yeah. Well, if you're looking at the pattern, there's After Australia, there's Another Australia, but then what about Before Australia? What does the past look like? If we've looked at the future and the present, what does the past look like? And obviously, as a Tongan woman living on stolen land, those are the stories that I or others can't edit. That's definitely for a First Nations editor to come on board for that third instalment. And we'll see where that goes. But I think a third instalment would definitely be on the way. And I think another really important conversation about Australia's past will be addressed, which I think will be really phenomenal when it comes out.
ASTRID: The idea of that makes me very, very happy. Amani and Winnie, it is an utter pleasure to talk to you albeit by Zoom. I hope Another Australia sells many, many copies and goes into reprint like After Australia.
WINNIE: Thank you so much, Astrid.
AMANI: Thanks so much for having us, Astrid.