Esperance Muginga-Kaigi found her new home lacking in African fare, but not for long

The smell of simmering garlic, bay leaves, rosemary and basil have escaped through the cracks in the door, luring passers-by into the restaurant.

Vibrant table covers and curtains in red, blue and yellow enhance the warm and vibrant atmosphere inside the cafe.

But it is the woman behind the counter, in the kitchen, who is the soul of the establishment.

“I’m Esperance Muginga-Kaigi, I’m a refugee from Congo and I’m running Mama’s Caf in Ravenswood.”

“Esperance Muginga-Kaigi was born in Congo in Africa. I make smoked fish, chicken, I make fried fish, I make a lot of dishes.”

For Ms Muginga-Kaigi, the journey to the Launceston suburb of Ravenswood in northern Tasmania was not an easy one.

Before the civil war, people were happy in Congo, Ms Muginga-Kaigi says.

She was living in the Democratic Republic of Congo when war broke out.

“If you go outside … you are scared because you hear the sound of the shooting, it’s not a small shooting, but a bomb,” she said.

“You go outside, you see people die everywhere.”

With the conflict growing worse, Ms Muginga-Kaigi, said she feared for the safety of her five children.

African woman in brightly coloured dress and turban flicks through old photographs.
The Ravenswood cafe has made Ms Muginga-Kaigi a mother figure.(ABC News: April McLennan)

As a single mum, she was caring for her family while navigating the chaotic and terrifying reality of living in a war zone.

A lot of people died, including an entire family of close friends.

“They bring them and they bury them inside the compound because at that time you can’t go to the cemetery to bury someone because of the war,” she said.

“A lot of people I know, you meet in the street, they lying down and the dog [is] eating them.

“We have the saddest stories in Africa, but I have good stories in Africa too because before the war everyone was good. People were happy.”

To protect her children, Ms Muginga-Kaigi, decided to flee their home.

But as her destination remained unknown, she made the heartbreaking decision to leave her family behind until she could find a safer place for them to live.

“If something happens to me, that is OK, my kids, they survive,” she said.

Photograph of African women cooking on the street.
Ms Muginga-Kaigi learned to cook on the streets of Congo.(ABC News: April McLennan)

When the time came, Ms Muginga-Kaigi woke at midnight and, concealed by darkness, walked to the edge of a river where she clambered into a tiny rowboat.

“If they see you, they [the rebels] can shoot you.”

She was sardined next to strangers who were, like her, making the harrowing journey in search of safety.

By morning, she had reached the dry land of Brazzavillie, the country’s capital.

Here, Ms Muginga-Kaigi, went to the refugee office to try to find a safe place for her family to stay.

Six months later she was reunited with her children and together the family stayed in Brazzaville for 10 years.

When she first arrived in Tasmania everything was different — the houses looked different and it was quiet, unlike the buzzing streets of Congo.

Ms Muginga-Kaigi, said that while she was extremely happy with her new home, there was something missing.

“I was going everywhere but I didn’t see [an] African cafe, I can go to Hobart, I can go to Devonport, I can go anywhere.”

“Lot of people they have Chinese, Indian, lot of people own a cafe, but no African cafe.”

African woman in colourful turban chops up vegetables in cafe kitchen.
Ms Mujinga-Kahigi prepares traditional cuisine for her cafe in Launceston.(ABC News: April McLennan)

In that moment Ms Muginga-Kaigi, made the decision that one day she was going to run a cafe herself.

In 2018 she was given this opportunity when the pastor at her local church needed someone to take over the restaurant in Ravenswood.

And Mama’s Caf was born.

Ms Muginga-Kaigi, has now become a mother figure in Ravenswood.

“Everyone asks me, ‘Why is it called Mama’s Caf?'”

“Because everyone calls me Mama, that’s what I was in Africa, my boss was calling me Mama Esperance.”

“I come here in Australia, everyone calls me Mama. That means I have the heart of Mama for everyone.”

Tables and chairs set up with colourful African-style table clothes and wall hangings.
Mama’s Caf in the Launceston suburb of Ravenswood has given locals a taste of Africa.(ABC News: April McLennan)

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The precautionary principle is lacking in mainstream media communication

The COVID-19 pandemic has shown that a need for media information clear in scientific method and concepts has never been more crucial, writes Dr Peter Fisher.

THE PRECAUTIONARY PRINCIPLES are the foundations for policy when it has to deal with weakly understood causes of potential catastrophic or irreversible events and where protective decisions require certain and costly policy interventions that may not solve the problem that they are designed to correct.

South Australia’s Chief Public Health Officer, Professor Nicola Spurrier, last month stated she had no regrets about her COVID-19 lockdown advice; the “pause” had allowed contact tracers to get on top of the Parafield cluster. This didn’t stop the media channelling the on-then-off-again restrictions as a debacle. A regional Liberal MP entered the fray arguing that ‘the balance between public health and the economy had been lost’.

It’s an example of a problem confronting some politicians and media in getting their heads around the intricacies of science and the way empirical knowledge is advanced. Normally, uncertainties are played out/resolved in the literature — an ecosphere of science-communication built around peer review. With a knowledge frontier pushing forward and no end of preprints, differences of emphasis or disagreements have been in full public view of late, a ready source of clickbait.

And, whereas few of us care as to what goes with zippy controversies like whether worms orient themselves with the Earth’s magnetic field, matters are patently different when whole societies are facing an existential threat.

Handling uncertainty in scientific advice

There’s no denying that science’s measured statements often fail to fulfil our yearning for black-and-white answers. Instead, they tend to reflect a plurality of opinion, which is what drives scientific debate — a debate where the language is careful and often qualified. The sort of clarity craved by politicians and regulators may not always be forthcoming.

To come to terms with the twists and turns of these debates, it’s important to grasp how complex scientific conclusions unfold. Advances in knowledge can run in leaps and bounds. Tugs of war can develop between camps with opposing hypotheses, with things swinging back and forth before consolidating in a particular direction. And there’s the uncertainty created by plain bad science and poor experimental design.

These sorts of unknowns can also be underplayed or overplayed for political advantage.

Ground rules for communicating: A go-to for scientists

A multi-disciplinary group of Cambridge academics have concluded that uncertainties need to be made explicit and their implications transparently taken into account in decision making. They were concerned that researchers have not always been exemplary in acknowledging unknowns with respect to the virus. The group has been collecting data on issues like how to communicate uncertainty, how audiences decide what evidence to trust and how narratives affect people’s decision-making.

Their aim is to design communications that do not lead people to a particular decision, but help them to understand what is known about a topic and to make up their own minds on the basis of that evidence. Further, it is important to be clear about motivations, present data fully and clearly and share sources.

This is a tough ask. It’s compounded by people outside the scientific tent — notably journalists, columnists and lay commentators on panel shows. Especially telling were questions garlanded by long presumptive prefaces directed to Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews and Chief Health Officer Professor Brett Sutton (which they handled with stellar patience and aplomb) during their 120-odd press conferences in Melbourne.

Could it be that the paucity of scientific acumen on show goes back to a lack of science content in our journalism degrees? In a world wracked by far-reaching change and complexity, there’s surely a need for a media that is savvy with the scientific method and concepts.

Wren's Week: COVID-19 complacency escalated by conservative commentary

Better safe than sorry

The qualification of an abundance of caution which regularly featured during those COVID-19 press conferences takes its cue from the Precautionary Principle, which has been adopted in a variety of shapes and forms at international, European Union and national levels.

It was formally adopted by the European Environment Agency in 2001 and a year later by the EU which specified that:

‘…measures, although provisional, to be maintained as long as the scientific data remain incomplete, imprecise or inconclusive and as long as the risk is considered too high to be imposed on society.’

On every account, the pandemic meets these stipulations and, as such, is a cornerstone for epidemiologists concerned with the ethical import of delays in detection of risks to human health ethics.

The virus has also identified a need for greater science-based thinking in mainstream public policy and all credit to the state premiers here. Equally so, in the U.S. where the incoming BidenHarris Administration is planning to restore science to the top echelons of government.

Kitting up for the Anthropocene

That’s especially important in a world pitted against the destructive forces of the Anthropocene — coral bleaching, catastrophic wildfires, sea ice loss and horrific floods not to mention accelerating species extinctions. Virologists caution, too, that there are other bat viruses capable of making the jump over to humans which could see recurrent pandemics join global heating as dual ongoing threats. And, they’re also warning of a connection between human intrusion into wild habitats and pandemics.

The close interconnections between different elements within the health, city form, emissions and wildlife portfolios, such as lessening infection risk by shifting away from high people settings, will challenge planners.

Trump, the pandemic and the News Corp misinformation machine

In this period, there will be a torrent of stuff about endurance requiring scrutiny. Being able to cast questions which help readers/viewers/bloggers to understand what is known about a topic and to make up their own minds on the basis of that evidence is a sound way forward — to take guidance from Cambridge University.

Science certainly allows better, more informed choices on serious, complex issues (sometimes of its own making as new technologies bring further difficult choices), but it can’t make those decisions for us.

A new generation of science-literate journalists

To get to that position requires new mindsets, new training regimes and co-operative ventures. There are a number of models here.

One is Climate Now, a global journalism initiative committed to more and better coverage of a defining story of our time involving over 400 news outlets with a combined audience approaching 2 billion people — and growing. Another is a training hub for African journalists who convene virtually for COVID-19 crisis reporting. It aims to provide core skills and information, assisted by scientific trainers, needed to report on the pandemic and its impact on economies, health care systems and communities.

But back to the source is no less important. A reorientation of journalism curricular at our universities would see, at the very least, a science presence and not just as an elective. And dividends.

That’s fundamentally important to negotiating the Anthropocene.

Dr Peter Fisher is an Adjunct Professor at the School of Architecture & Built Environment, Deakin University.

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Syria Declarations On Chemical Arms Lacking: UN, Watchdog

UN officials and a global watchdog on Friday criticized incomplete declarations from Syria on chemical weapons while its ally Russia sought to push back against the accusations.

During a videoconference at the UN Security Council, officials from the United Nations and the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) said Syria had failed to respond to a series of 19 questions involving toxic arms.

Izumi Nakamitsu, UN high representative for disarmament affairs, said the OPCW had found that because of unresolved gaps and discrepancies Syria’s declarations “cannot be considered accurate and complete in accordance with the Chemical Weapons Convention.”

OPCW Director-General Fernando Arias said one of the questions involved a chemical weapons production facility declared by Syria as never having been used for chemical weapons production.

Information and material gathered since 2014 indicates the facility was used for “production and/or weaponization of chemical warfare nerve agents,” he said, without specifying the location.

OPCW investigators have accused President Bashar al-Assad’s regime of sarin gas and chlorine attacks in Syria in 2017.

Russia and Syria have dismissed the charges, saying Western powers have politicized the work of the OPCW.

“What we reject is speculations and political smear campaigns, which, unfortunately, more and more often poison the OPCW,” said Russia’s ambassador to the United Nations, Vasily Nebenzya.

A man tries on an air permeable charcoal impregnated suit during a simulation at OPCW headquarters in The Hague, The Netherlands, on April 20, 2017

He alleged the organization was relying on remote investigations instead of on-site collections of samples.

In a joint statement ahead of the meeting, European members of the Security Council expressed their full backing for the OPCW.

Germany, Belgium, Estonia, France and Britain praised “its professionalism, impartiality and well-established technical expertise in implementing the Chemical Weapons Convention and tasks assigned by the states parties.”

The United States also said it “strongly” supported the global watchdog.

Russia and Syria have been under pressure for months by the UN and the OPCW to provide clarification on chemical attacks carried out in Syria and poisonings of Russian nationals.

Although the meeting was devoted to chemical weapons in Syria, Arias spoke at length on the case of Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny, who says he was poisoned by the Kremlin.

He particularly regretted that Moscow is still blocking a technical visit by the OPCW to Russia.

The OPCW has said samples taken from Navalny have contained a Novichok-type nerve agent.

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Liberals still lacking accountability measures as they throw money at pandemic

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Minister of Finance Chrystia Freeland delivers the 2020 fiscal update in the House of Commons on Monday. Photo by Sean Kilpatrick/The Canadian Press

There will be a considerable degree of agonizing over the size of the debt and deficit. There shouldn’t be. Trudeau and Freeland are simply following the lesson plan created over the past decade by outfits such as the International Monetary Fund and the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development. Only in the outer rim of social media are these organizations seen as anything other than repositories of mainstream economic thinking.

There is nothing radical about what the federal government is doing, but it is still in the easier phase of the crisis response, where the answers are relatively simple: get money to people as quickly as possible.

The Trudeau government has always been pretty good at that challenge. Its signature economic policy before the crisis was the Canada Child Benefit, a program on which Freeland intends to lean again, pledging $2.4 billion in 2021 for enhanced payments to low- and middle-income families with children less than six years of age.

It’s a reasonable stopgap for families — mostly working mothers — who have been pushed to the limits by this crisis. But what Canada really needs is a massive push to implement a nationwide system of affordable daycare, which study after study shows would pay for itself by boosting the economy’s growth potential.

Freeland made no promises. She said she will be putting her recovery plan together over the winter in time for next year’s budget. The guardrails for that phase of the rescue effort should be “quality” of spending, not “quantity.”

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Hot Western Sydney schools lacking shade

School children in Western Sydney may not be able to spend any time outdoors in future due to lack of adequate shade options and unbearable heat.

Lead researcher from Western Sydney University’s School of Social Sciences, Sebastian Pfautsch, has prepared the first comprehensive School Microclimates report, based on more than 100,000 heat data points taken at a local public school last summer.

A lack of tree canopy coverage and man-made shade options resulted in surface temperatures of more than 70 degrees Celsius.

Mr Pfautsch said it’s “hazardous and dangerous”, after hearing of school children being sent home with nose bleeds due to the extreme heat conditions.

If outdoor areas in schools are not designed differently, Mr Pfautsch says climate change will increasingly prevent children from playing outside.

“We know about these hot surfaces, we are trying to mitigate heat now in many different ways, but schools are just not on our radar yet,” Mr Pfautsch told AAP.

“We are talking about the age of indoors we are seeing playgrounds are now being moved indoors … but these are plastic environments, there are no birds, wind, trees or breeze, and are quite smelly.”

He suggested more trees would provide ideal shady coverage, and could be integrated with modular shade structures.

Schools were increasingly cutting down trees after a young girl was killed by a fallen Eucalyptus limb.

Another strategy could be transplanting mature trees that would be felled to make way for large-scale developments, and instead re-planting them in schools.

“That way you don’t need to wait a decade for the shade, it’s already there,” he said.

The NSW government has already committed $500 million to installing air-conditioning in school classrooms, however Mr Pfautsch said outdoor designs were not taking into account the changing climate conditions.

“Nobody is addressing it, nobody is designing schools to be physically heat smart when it comes to surface materials that are used and the shade that is provided,” he told AAP.

Mr Pfautsch pointed to one study which showed up to 50 per cent of children’s daily activity was happening at schools, and without space to run around the problem of obesity would also worsen.

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Tasmania’s youth mental health services found lacking in internal review

Tammy Rowlings was so frustrated by her dealings with Tasmania’s Child and Adolescent Mental Health Service (CAMHS) she studied to become a social worker herself.

Two of her daughters have eating disorders, and while Ms Rowlings said services for young people had improved in the past decade, it was clear more resources were required.

“They need more staff, they need more variety in what they have,” Ms Rowlings said.

Tammy Rowlings has two daughters who have needed support from Tasmania’s Child and Adolescent Mental Health Service.(Supplied)

Ms Rowlings and her daughters were not alone in feeling let down by CAMHS.

An internal review — circulated among stakeholders and obtained by the ABC — has laid bare issues within the historically troubled service.

Among its more than 100-pages of findings were that:

  • CAMHS funding “does not approach” the amount required to meet Tasmania’s needs
  • Children and teenagers with severe and complex needs — ranging from those with autism spectrum disorder to people who had been sexually abused — were “generally not accepted” by CAMHS
  • Two of CAMHS’ three sites were not fit for purpose and should be replaced
  • Acute services were effectively unavailable outside of business hours
  • Stakeholders such as doctors and Education Department staff said they had stopped referring “their most difficult consumers” to CAMHS because the service was unable to assist those young people

Labor health spokeswoman Sarah Lovell said the report’s findings were shocking.

“It’s letting down families who are seeking support, it’s letting down young people who are trying to get access to support and treatment, and it’s letting down the people who are working within the system,” Ms Lovell said.

“What needs to be done and what the report really highlighted is that there is no one or two or even three things that can be picked out of the system and fixed: it is a system-wide problem and it requires system-wide reform.”

Sarah Courtney addresses a media conference
Health Minister Sarah Courtney says the CAMHS review is “in its final stages”.(ABC News: Mitchell Woolnough)

Health Minister Sarah Courtney said she had not seen the report but that the review obtained by the ABC was only a draft.

“I’m not going to anticipate the recommendations of a report that has not been finalised, I know it’s in its final stages and the government is clearly committed, it’s an important area of need,” Ms Courtney said.

Full review recommended

The report author, psychiatrist Brett McDermott, has made seven recommendations, including better funding the service.

“To positively impact the lives of young Tasmanians with the most complex and challenging mental health presentations, CAMHS should acknowledge that those with severe and complex challenges are its core business,” Professor McDermott’s report said.

He found that it was unlikely a young Tasmanian with autism spectrum disorder and depression who came from a separated family would be accepted for referral by CAMHS.

Similarly, Professor McDermott wrote, a young person with major depression who was managed by the juvenile justice system in the community was unlikely to be seen by the service.

“It is the opinion of the author that current CAMHS services to juvenile justice consumers and support of this system in general is particularly poor,” the report said.

Professor McDermott has also recommended the creation of a dedicated mental health support service for children in out-of-home-care, and the construction of a “discrete” mental health in-patient unit for children and adolescents in the redeveloped Royal Hobart Hospital.

He suggested this should be done to help phase out the admission of mentally ill young people to adult mental health wards or paediatric units.

Health and Community Services Union state secretary Tim Jacobson said the issues with CAMHS were long-standing and serious.

“How terrible is it that we have a system, a government that is responsible for looking after children, that is not even providing the basic mental health services that they need,” Mr Jacobson said.

Tasmania ‘at the forefront of having nothing’

Ms Rowlings has this year started her own support group for the parents and carers of children and teens with eating disorders in northern Tasmania.

One of her daughters is still under CAMHS’ jurisdiction. When the family sought appropriate private therapy locally, they were told there was a 12-month wait.

“[CAMHS just needs more] resources, more ways of being able to reach children,” she said.

The Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services Review, dated August, is the latest to call for change.

In 2015, Coroner Olivia McTaggart made sweeping recommendations about improving youth mental health services, after the suicides of six teenagers.

Ted Mead is awaiting the coroner’s findings into the 2017 suicide of his son Liam.

His wife, Juliet Lavers, became an advocate for youth mental health services after their 16-year-old’s tragic death, but she took her own life last year.

Liam Mead's father Ted outside Coroners Court
Ted Mead is awaiting the coroner’s findings into the 2017 suicide of his 16-year-old son, Liam.(ABC News: Scott Ross)

Mr Mead was recently contacted by a mother in Devonport whose child had “the same issues and the same symptoms” as his son Liam.

The latest report into services said there was a particular lack of resources in Tasmania’s north-west, with no clinical psychologist and staff stretched between the Mersey Community Hospital and North West Regional Hospital.

“As far as mental health services go in Tasmania it can only go up,” Mr Mead said.

“It’s rock bottom in my view.”

In a statement, Mental Health Minister Jeremy Rockliff said the CAMHS review was in its final stages.

“The Tasmanian Government welcomes reform, as we want to get it right,” Mr Rockliff said.

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Canberra Writers Festival slammed for failing to represent local community and lacking diversity

The launch of the Canberra Writers Festival program for 2020 has garnered outrage from across the Australian writing community for what some are calling a lack of diversity.

In an open letter to the festival, published over the weekend, the ACT Writers Centre criticised the Canberra Writers Festival for producing a largely white cohort of writers and speakers for this year’s coronavirus friendly event.

The ACT Writers Centre also accused the event of failing to represent the Canberra writing community, instead opting for well-known national profiles.

Last year, the headline act was Barnaby Joyce; this year, it is Christopher Pyne, following the release of his autobiography.

‘The time for excuses has passed’

In its letter to the festival, the ACT Writers Centre said it had drawn attention to a lack of diverse representation in the festival’s program over the years.

But, they said, given recent events like the Black Lives Matter movement, the centre was increasing pressure on organisers to make changes.

“We have repeatedly tried to engage with the CWF in past years, including the festival’s first in 2016.

“We have at times provided the festival organising team with lists of wonderful and diverse writers in our region.”

Black and white photos of authors William Dalrymple, Barry Jones, Simon Winchester and Rory Medcalf alongside their titles.
The Canberra Writers Festival program has been criticised for a lack of diversity.(Supplied)

The ACT Writers Centre is an independent group that has existed as an advocate for Canberra writers since 1995.

They are not affiliated with the festival, which is partly funded by the ACT Government, and said they were not consulted during planning for the 2020 event.

The ACT Writers Centre said Australia was “one of the most diverse countries in the world” and “writers festivals — indeed the writing infrastructure as a whole — must recognise, reflect and support that diversity”.

Writers express frustration with festival line-up

Photos of Paul Kelly, Dennis Foley, Peter Read, Adam Liaw and others in black and white alongside their book titles.
Other writers who will appear during the festival are Paul Kelly, Adam Liaw, Peter Read and Dennis Foley.(Supplied)

Writers and personalities featured in the 2020 festival program include children’s book author Matt Stanton, Eat, Pray, Love author Elizabeth Gilbert, Irish author Dervla McTiernan, writer and cook Adam Liaw, and feminist and political activist Gloria Steinem.

Interviews will be conducted by media personalities including Annabel Crabb, Richard Fidler and Rick Morton.

Other events will feature former foreign minister Julie Bishop, Jean Kittson, Bridie Jabour and Chris Ryan — for the final event Girls Night In — as well as philosopher Alain de Botton and this year’s Stella Prize winner Jess Hill for her work Look What You Made Me Do.

One notable Canberra resident represented is Dennis Foley, an Indigenous Australian scholar at the University of Canberra who will be interviewed alongside his co-author Peter Read about their book What the Colonists Never Knew: A History of Aboriginal Sydney.

Zoya, wearing a red jacket, looks into the camera.
Canberra author Zoya Patel said she was not aware the festival was calling for submissions.(ABC News: Sally Rafferty)

Canberra writer Zoya Patel said it was disappointing to see a lack of diversity when other writers festivals around the country were taking steps to make their programs more inclusive.

“Not even just that there are fewer women, people of colour, but also the headline events and the way it’s being promoted show a clear bias towards white men,” she said.

She said she had not been aware that the festival was taking submissions, and that it was more focused on Canberra’s political scene than on being a festival that represented the city’s writing community.

She called the lack of local talent in the program “a big missed opportunity.”


In the wake of the festival’s program launch, a number of writers took to social media to express their frustration with its line-up.

“And yes, sure, everyone loves Richard Fidler and Rick Morton, but do they really need to be on [two] panels each? And why is the Girls’ Night In always four white women?”

Others echoed the centre in calling for more consultation with Canberra-based writer’s groups.

“Listening to the local writers centre would be a start.”

Sydney writer Eileen Chong said the festival needed to do more to represent the breadth of Australia’s literary community.

“Many of us in the lit community are disappointed in your 2020 line-up. It doesn’t represent the diversity of authors who are writing in Australia today,” she tweeted.

Festival turns to livestreaming amid pandemic

Gloria Steinem
Gloria Steinem will be interviewed over livestream as part of the festival.(Annie Leibovitz)

Inn response to the ACT Writers Centre, festival organisers said they had decided to make the most of the coronavirus restrictions by holding live-streamed interviews with prominent authors, such as Gloria Steinem.

“In March, as the world shut down due to the global pandemic, we made a significant leap of faith in deciding to proceed with the festival as a mix of live and streamed events. We had to unpick a full program,” the letter read.

“In the process, we saw an opportunity to program some big international names who, even without the travel restrictions imposed by the pandemic, we might not normally attract to Canberra.”

They said they were expected to attract notable, renowned authors to help stimulate Canberra’s tourism industry.

“We welcome local writers as a very important and popular component of Canberra’s world-class festival.”

The organisers accounted for a lack of local writers in the 2020 program by saying they received a low number of submissions from that cohort.

“In 2020 we had one submission from a local author, whose book was published several years ago,” they said.

“We only program authors with books published, or upcoming, in the year of the festival.

“Naturally, with the ACT Writers Centre’s deep connection with the local scene, we welcome your input to the program, which ideally would be from September-December, when we are programming for the following year’s festival.

“The ACT Writers Centre has not engaged with us since the 2019 festival.”

Christopher Pyne smiles with his arms crossed, wearing a suit and tie.
Some Canberra writers have accused the festival of focusing too much on the city as the home of Federal Parliament.(Supplied: Canberra Writers Festival)

Ms Patel said the festival’s stance showed they did not believe representing diverse voices would attract interest.

“You’re implying that programming diversity wouldn’t sell tickets and that they don’t have anything of value to entice people to sell tickets.”

The ACT Writers Centre said it hoped to work with the festival in the future to help it overcome barriers to diversity.

Interim director Meg Wilson said the centre was also taking steps to be a more representative, and that organisations needed to actively seek out diverse voices.

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