Peter Greste at the Southern Cross University Marquee tent for the Foreign Correspondents talk at the Byron Writers Festival.
Peter Greste at the Southern Cross University Marquee tent for the Foreign Correspondents talk at the Byron Writers Festival. Marc Stapelberg

Writers festival will be a page turner

THE first day of the Byron Writers Festival covered everything from crime, war reporting and books that changed people's lives.

It is this wide cross section of topics from some of the most influential national and international writers that makes the three day festival a major drawcard for the region.

Friday opened with local comedian Mandy Nolan chairing Kitty Flanagan and Andrew Hansen at the Feros Care Marquee.

The sound of laughter could be heard across the fields with quick wit and dry humour helping to break the ice on the day to come.

Eddie Ayres talked with Bernard Zuel about the seldom-seen world of music in Kabul.

The conversation detailed the remarkable journey of teacher and students despite the conflict plaguing the region.

Eddie also talked about his journey with gender dysmorphia and the emotional turmoil that coincided with the trip to Afghanistan.

Sticking with the Middle East, in the Southern Cross University Marquee, journalists Peter Greste, Chris Hammer and Debbie Whitmont gave audiences an inside look at what life as a foreign correspondent was like.

From funding pressures to the changing nature of journalism in the modern technological age the discussion gave a fascinating insight into what it is like to report in such difficult environments.

Peter Greste talked in particular about how early on in his career he was able to reconcile and balance being in places of disaster with the job at hand.

He talked about having a role to play and that role included giving meaning to the suffering and giving people a voice.

He talked on an experience in El Salvador where there was a mud slide and the realisation that it was not his place to carry the burden of guilt but to tell the story and give it meaning.

He also talked about being able to cross the frontlines and approaching the Taliban prior to 2001.

He observed that as war moved into the field of ideas so too then did the place where ideas were transmitted and thus journalists and their work had also become targets.

Sessions today will see Manal al-Sharif in conversation with Mick O'Regan, while Tim Rogers will be in conversation with Bernard Zuel.

Miriam Lancewood, Jacqui Lambie, Christine Milne, and Robert Drewe will also speak at the festival, while Allan Clarke, Bri Lee, and Louise Milligan will discuss the Abuse of Power and Privilge.

Tomorrow, Thea Astley will address Gillian Triggs on speaking up in a post-truth world.

There will also be the Kids Big Day Out with Shep Huntly at the Greenstone Partners Marquee.



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