Quarterly Essay covers issues affecting Australia in the political, economic and cultural arenas. Four essays are published each year.
''In every religion I can think of, there exists some variation on the theme of abandoning the settled life and walking one's way to godliness. The Hindu Sadhu, leaving behind family and wealth to live as a beggar; the pilgrims of Compostela walking away their sins; the circumambulators of the Buddhist kora; the Hajj. What could this ritual journeying be but symbolic, idealised versions of the foraging life? By taking to the road we free ourselves of baggage, both physical and psychological. We walk back to our original condition, to our best selves.'
'After many thousands of years, the nomads are disappearing, swept away by modernity. Robyn Davidson has spent a good part of her life with nomadic cultures. In this fascinating and moving essay she evokes a vanishing way of life, and notes a paradox: that even as classical nomads are disappearing, hypermobility has become the hallmark of contemporary life. In a time of environmental peril, she argues, the nomadic way with nature still offers valuable lessons. No Fixed Address is part lament, part evocation and part exhilarating speculative journey.' (Publication summary)Melbourne : Black Inc. , 2006
'In the first Quarterly Essay for 2011, David Malouf returns to one of the most fundamental questions and gives it a modern twist: what makes for a happy life? With grace and profundity, Malouf discusses new and old ways to talk about contentment and the self. In considering the happy life - what it is, and what makes it possible - David Malouf returns to the "highest wisdom" of the classics, looks at how, thanks to Thomas Jefferson's way with words, happiness became a "right", and examines joy in the flesh as depicted by Rubens and Rembrandt.
'In a world become ever larger and impersonal, he finds happiness in an unlikely place. This is an essay to savour and reflect upon by one of Australia's greatest novelists.' (From the publisher's website.)Melbourne : Black Inc. , 2011
'Once the country believed itself to be the true face of Australia: sunburnt men and capable women raising crops and children, enduring isolation and a fickle environment, carrying the nation on their sturdy backs. For almost 200 years after white settlement began, city Australia needed the country: to feed it, to earn its export income, to fill the empty land, to provide it with distinctive images of the nation being built in the great south land. But Australia no longer rides on the sheep's back, and since the 1980s, when "economic rationalism" became the new creed, the country has felt abandoned, its contribution to the nation dismissed, its historic purpose forgotten.
In Fair Share, Judith Brett argues that our federation was built on the idea of a big country and a fair share, no matter where one lived. We also looked to the bush for our legends and we still look to it for our food. These are not things we can just abandon. In late 2010, with the country independents deciding who would form federal government, it seemed that rural and regional Australia's time had come again. But, as Murray-Darling water reform shows, the politics of dependence are complicated. The question remains: what will be the fate of the country in an era of user-pays, water cutbacks, climate change, droughts and flooding rains? What are the prospects for a new compact between country and city in Australia in the twenty-first century?' Source: www.quarterlyessay.com/ (Sighted 21/07/2011).Melbourne : Black Inc. , 2011
'The leading Catholic in the nation and spiritual adviser to Tony Abbott, Cardinal George Pell has played a key role in the greatest challenge to face his church for centuries: the scandal of child sex abuse by priests.
'In The Prince, David Marr investigates the man and his career: how did he rise through the ranks? What does he stand for? How does he wield his authority? How much has he shaped his church and Australia? How has he handled the scandal?
'Marr reveals a cleric at ease with power and aggressive in asserting the prerogatives of the Vatican. His account of Pell’s career focuses on his response as a man, a priest, an archbishop and prince of the church to the scandal that has engulfed the Catholic world in the last thirty years. This is the story of a cleric slow to see what was happening around him; torn by the contest between his church and its victims; and slow to realise that the Catholic Church cannot, in the end, escape secular scrutiny.
'The Prince is an arresting portrait of faith, loyalty and ambition, set against a backdrop of terrible suffering and an ancient institution in turmoil.
'“He knows children have been wrecked. He apologises again and again. He even sees that the hostility of the press he so deplores has helped the church face the scandal. What he doesn’t get is the hostility to the church. Whatever else he believes in, Pell has profound faith in the Catholic Church. He guards it with his life. Nations come and go but the church remains.” David Marr, The Prince. ' (Publisher's blurb)Collingwood : Black Inc. , 2013
'Whether we’re aware of it or not, we spend much of our time in this globalised world in the act of translation. Language is a big part of it, of course, as anyone who has fumbled with a phrasebook in a foreign country will know, but behind language is something far more challenging to translate: culture. As a traveller, a mistranslation might land you a bowl of who-knows-what when you think you asked for noodles, and mistranslations in international politics can be a few steps from serious trouble. But translation is also a way of entering new and exciting worlds, and forging links that never before existed.
'Linda Jaivin has been translating from Chinese for more than thirty years. While her specialty is subtitles, she has also translated song lyrics, poetry and fiction, and interpreted for ABC film crews, Chinese artists and even the English singer Billy Bragg as he gave his take on socialism to some Beijing rockers. In Found in Translation she reveals the work of the translator and considers whether different worldviews can be bridged. She pays special attention to China and the English-speaking West, Australia in particular, but also discusses French, Japanese and even the odd phrase of Maori. This is a free-ranging essay, personal and informed, about translation in its narrowest and broadest senses, and the prism – occasionally prison – of culture.' (Publisher's blurb)Collingwood : Black Inc. , 2013
'Going to war may be the gravest decision a nation and its leaders make. At the moment, Australia is at war with the Islamic State. We also live in a region that has become much more volatile, as China asserts itself and America seeks to hold the line.
'What is it like to go to war? How do we decide to go to war? Where might we go to war in the future? Will we get that decision right? In this vivid, urgent essay, James Brown looks to history, strategy and his own experience to explore these questions. He examines the legacy of the Iraq War and argues that it has prevented a clear view of Australia’s future conflicts. He looks at how we plug into the US war machine, now that American troops are based in Darwin. And he sheds fascinating light on the extraordinary concentration of war powers in the hands of the Prime Minister – and how this might go wrong. This powerful essay argues that we have not yet begun to think through the choices that may confront us in years ahead.
‘When you live in a country like ours, the dirty business of war is a stranger. That is the blessed legacy of a place where soldiers are rarely seen, and then only on parade. Where war means Anzac Day, and Anzac Days are all the same. There are few moments in modern Australia when you might pause to ask the most consequential of questions . . . What is it that we are willing to fight for?’ —James Brown, Firing Line' (Publication summary)Carlton : Black Inc. , 2016
'In Enemy Within, Don Watson takes a memorable journey into the heart of the United States in the year 2016 – and the strangest election campaign that country has seen.
'Travelling in the Midwest, Watson reflects on the rise of Donald Trump and the “thicket of unreality” that is the American media. Behind this he finds a deeply fearful and divided culture. Watson considers the irresistible pull – for Americans – of the Dream of exceptionalism, and asks whether this creed is reaching its limit. He explores alternate futures – from Trump-style fascism to Sanders-style civic renewal – and suggests that a Clinton presidency might see a new American blend of progressivism and militarism. Enemy Within is an eloquent, barbed look at the state of the union and the American malaise.
'“If, as seems likely, Clinton wins, it will not be out of love, or even hope, but rather out of fear. She can win by simply letting her deplorable opponent lose. On the other hand, she’s nothing if not adaptable, and she could yet see the chance to lead the nation’s social and economic regeneration … Call it a New Great Awakening or a New New Deal; it would owe something to both, and to Bernie Sanders as well, but also to her need to be more than the first woman president.” —Don Watson, Enemy Within' (Publication summary)Carlton : Black Inc. , 2016
'In a landmark essay, Stan Grant writes Indigenous people back into the economic and multicultural history of Australia. This is the fascinating story of how fringe dwellers fought not just to survive, but to prosper. Their legacy is the extraordinary flowering of Indigenous success – cultural, sporting, intellectual and social – that we see today.
'Yet this flourishing co-exists with the boys of Don Dale, and the many others like them who live in the shadows of the nation. Grant examines how such Australians have been denied the possibilities of life, and argues eloquently that history is not destiny; that culture is not static. In doing so, he makes the case for a more capacious Australian Dream.' (Publication summary)Carlton : Black Inc. , 2016
'Most Australians despise what Pauline Hanson stands for, yet politics in this country is now orbiting around One Nation.
'In this timely Quarterly Essay, David Marr looks at Australia’s politics of fear, resentment and race. Who votes One Nation, and why? How much of this is due to inequality? How much to racism? How should the major parties respond to anti-immigrant and anti-Muslim voices? What damage do Australia’s new entrepreneurs of hate inflict on the nation?
'Written with drama and wit, this is a ground-breaking look at politics and prejudice by one of Australia’s best writers.
'“This woman went to prison, danced the cha-cha on national television for a couple of years, and failed so often at the ballot box she became a running joke. But the truth is she never left us. She was always knocking on the door. Most of those defeats at the polls were close-run things. For twenty years political leaders appeased Hanson’s followers while working to keep her out of office. The first strategy tainted Australian politics. The second eventually failed. So she’s with us again – the Kabuki make-up, that mop of red hair and the voice telling us what we already know: ‘I’m fed up.’” —David Marr' (Publication summary)Carlton : Black Inc. , 2017
'The Great Barrier Reef is dying. Extreme weather is becoming all too familiar. Yet when it comes to action on climate change, division and paralysis rule the land.
'In this vivid, urgent essay, Anna Krien explores the psychology and politics of a warming world. She visits the frontlines of Australia’s climate wars – the Reef, the Galilee and Bowen basins, South Australia. She investigates the Adani mine, with its toxic politics and controversial economics. Talking to power workers and scientists, lobbyists and activists, she considers where climate change is taking us, and where effective action is to be found.
'“This was Turnbull’s moment, and the Liberal Party’s too. Not just the Snowy 2.0, but the whole thing – an ailing and dysfunctional grid, a complex issue, something for the ‘adults’ to take responsibility for. But instead of leadership, Australians got politics as usual. Cheap shots, culture-war baiting, bad and good ideas lobbed like hot potatoes and lost in the trash talk of low-grade politics. After the ten-day policy spree, Turnbull resumed his poker face, continuing with his grim role of negotiating with the vipers in his nest.” Anna Krien, The Long Goodbye' (Publication summary)Carlton : Black Inc. , 2017
'Are Australian schools safe? And if they’re not, what happens when kids are caught in a bleak collision between ill-equipped school staff and a confected media scandal?
'In 2016 the Safe Schools program became the centre of an ideological firestorm. In QE67 Benjamin Law explores how and why this happened. He weaves a subtle, gripping account of schools today, sexuality, teenagers, new ideas of gender fluidity, tabloid media scares and mental health.
'Looking at the perils for those of uncertain or shamed sexual identity, and bullying of the vulnerable young, he brings to light hidden worlds, in an essay notable for its humane clarity.' (Publication summary)Carlton : Black Inc. , 2017
'On October 9, 2012, the then Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard rose to her feet in Canberra’s Parliament House, and, in response to a motion tabled by Opposition Leader Tony Abbott, delivered her blistering Misogyny Speech. Although Gillard’s speech was met with cynicism by the Australian Press Gallery, some accusing her of playing the ‘gender card’, it reverberated around the world and when the international coverage poured back into the country, many Australians stood up and listened.
'One of them was author, essayist, classical concert pianist and mother, Anna Goldsworthy.
'Shortly after the delivery of The Misogyny Speech, Quarterly Essay editor Chris Feik approached Goldsworthy to write the 50th essay for the Black Inc. publication with his idea to view this event through a cultural lens. It took several months to research and compose the characteristically long-form (25,000 word) essay that Quarterly Essay publishes every three months as a single volume; ‘Unfinished Business: Sex, Freedom and Misogyny’ was launched at the Wheeler Centre in Melbourne on July 1, 2013, five days after Julia Gillard was deposed from her prime ministership by Kevin Rudd.
'This paper takes a look back at the 50th issue of the Quarterly Essay, to discuss with its author her essay-writing process and the aftermath of publication. Goldsworthy is erudite as she looks at the construction of the essay, its contents, and her love of essay writing. Although she confesses to not having a definition for the form, she believes it does not matter; that its fluidity is a basic constituent element. Her love of language and music inform both the breadth of her essay, as well as its narrative – there is lyricism to her sentences and a musicality to her structure.
'This paper also contextualises ‘Unfinished Business’ as an example of the crucial longform essay contribution that Black Inc.’s Quarterly Essay performs in the Australian literary/political/cultural/intellectual environment. There were critics of Goldsworthy’s essay, and these are assessed as a component of how ‘the essay’ potentially can function in a liberal First-World society, as demonstrated by the Quarterly Essay periodical.'(Introduction)