‘Dark Emu’ author Bruce Pascoe pulls out of Perth Festival

Author Bruce Pascoe has pulled out of an upcoming appearance at the Perth Festival’s Literature and Ideas program.

A statement from his publisher Magabala Books said Pascoe was pulling out of both the Perth and Adelaide Festivals due to the bushfires that have ravaged the east coast of Australia.

“The author of Dark Emu, Bruce Pascoe, will be unable to attend this year’s Perth and Adelaide Festivals due to the recent fires which have caused significant damage to his property and surrounding area in East Gippsland.” the statement said.

“Bruce has made the difficult decision to scale back his various commitments so he can focus on addressing the damage on his property and assist in the recovery efforts in his local community. Bruce sincerely apologises for the inconvenience this may cause.

“Bruce is grateful for the support he and his local community of Mallacoota have received from across Australia and around the world following the devastating bushfires.”

Bruce Pascoe had been due to appear at the 2020 Literature & Ideas Weekend in conversation with Noongar academic and musician Dr Clint Bracknell at the Octagon Theatre on 21 February.

Perth Festival have announced that they will automatically process full refunds for tickets purchased to the session, Bruce Pascoe: A Conversation About Ingenuity, by close of business on Monday 3rd February.

Literature & Ideas curator Sisonke Msimang said the festival supported Pascoe’s decision.

“Bruce Pascoe is a great Australian and I offer the Festival’s warmest wishes and support as he deals with the terrible personal and community impact of this bushfire emergency.”

Pascoe’s most recent work Dark Emu has received a mix of praise and criticism. Published in 2014 the book re-examines colonial accounts of Aboriginal People in Australia and cites evidence of agriculture, engineering and built structures prior to European settlement.

Pascoe’s aboriginal ancestry has been questioned by some, including prominent columnist and TV host Andrew Bolt. In December 2019 indigenous lawyer Josephine Cashman wrote to Home Affairs minister Peter Dutton alleging that Pascoe had benefited financially from falsely claiming to be aboriginal.

The Minister referred to the issue to the Australian Federal Police (AFP). On 23rd January the AFP said their investigation had been closed and no offences under Commonwealth law could be identified.

Pascoe’s panel session How it Feels to be Free at the Octagon Theatre on 23 February will continue with fellow panellists Tara June Winch and Len Collard in conversation with Bardi man Ron Bradfield. Ticket holders will be contacted via email and can request an exchange to another Literature & Ideas weekend session or a refund.

Perth Festival’s annual literature and ideas program features about 70 sessions 100 international, national and local guests, including superstars Neil Gaiman and Julia Donaldson.

The 2020 Literature & Ideas Weekend runs from 21-23 February. Full program details on the Perth Festival website here.

OIP Staff


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