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Three profile images alongside one another. From left to right the images feature Dr Maria Pallotta-Chiarolli, Teresa Capetola and Tyson Yunkaporta

March 31, 2022

Deakin authors discuss diversity, intersectionality and the power of stories

How does diversity in literature enrich our understanding of the world? How can authors weave diverse stories and ideas into their work in a way that is genuine rather than appropriative? At what points should we write, or stop and listen, or take further action? 

These were some of the ideas discussed during the Deakin Fusion Festival author talk hosted by Deakin Library. University Librarian Hero Macdonald set the tone with their introduction, highlighting ‘the importance of diversity in publishing, in writing and the role of writers and writing in really transforming our understanding of ourselves, others and the communities and spaces that we inhabit.’  

Our panel of authors, activists, and academics each provided a short presentation before a Q&A. 

Dr Maria Pallotta-Chiarolli explored how her work focuses on finding unity in intersectionality, without ignoring the various tensions and historical concerns that influence us. In particular, she raised the importance of recognising privilege and putting it to good use and collaborating rather than appropriating when working with diverse communities.  

Teresa Capetola discussed how the name of the Ascolta Women creative collective comes from the Italian word for ‘listen’, and her feeling that ‘there are a lot of voices, but no one is actually listening’. She raised the challenge of recognising diversity within cultural, ethnic and language groups, and not succumbing to cultural stereotypes, as well as enabling spaces to talk about issues that cross cultural boundaries.  

Tyson Yunkaporta shared stories about the connections he has formed with Italian Australians and the people he met while travelling in Italy. He highlighted the similarities he’s noticed between Italian and Indigenous communities in having various levels of identities, from family groups to regional areas and language dialects. In particular he focused on bringing stories alongside each other to find similarities and shared experiences.  

The Q&A explored the tension between including diversity in writing and making space for diverse authors to speak for themselves, the need to wield privilege to achieve actual gains, what inspired our authors to begin writing, and linking representation with taking action.  

The event concluded with a very insightful quote from Tyson about how increasing the diversity of voices impacts the big picture conversation. 

‘I think with diversity you sacrifice the capacity to do bigger better faster – and I don’t think that’s such a bad thing. I think it’s a good thing for us all to slow down and have a listen to each other’s stories and just really revel in the aggregate of all those stories together. It doesn’t matter if the stories are divergent, we’re not looking for a consensus – we’re looking for a beautiful, big aggregate picture of reality, to give us an idea, some kind of way to navigate the quantum soup that we’re all in’. 

Watch the session recording

Want to hear more from our speakers? Discover some of their published work:

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