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Student journalism's gift to Eureka Street

In the Australian media landscape, Eureka Street is countercultural, and a sign of this is the space it gives to younger writers. One of the most prominent is Ellena Savage, whose views are always fresh, often surprising, and sometimes confronting.

This interview with her is part of a special series with major contributors to the journal to mark its twentieth anniversary. She spoke with Eureka Street TV at her home in the inner northern Melbourne suburb of Brunswick.

Some of her recent articles are good examples of her probing mind and incisive writing. Her latest reflects on the Stella Prize, the proposed new literary prize for female authors. She analyses well the arguments for and against positive discrimination, and gives very nuanced support to ‘women’s-only initiatives.’

Another reflects on the gender question in the recent Australian Census. As well as male and female, she makes the case for including another category. She argues there should be a third for people who are ‘intersex, born with androgenous sex organs’, and for others who are ‘transgender, or ‘genderqueer’.’

‘The exclusion of a third gender renders those who fall outside the gender binaries invisible,’ she writes. ‘There are no comprehensive population studies of people who don’t identify either as male or female in Australia, and the upcoming census will fail to identify the specific needs of sexual minorities.’

And in her analysis of Clarence House’s banning of the ABC’s The Chasers Royal Wedding Commentary, she says the censorship ‘will pave the way for a creative and critical conversation’ about the future role of the monarchy in Australian society. 

‘I don’t believe,’ she concludes, ‘it will ask to have an inbred, welfare-dependent WASP family above the law and above democratic criticism.’

Ellena Savage was brought up in a household with a Catholic mother and atheist father. She was raised Catholic, and as a little child was an altar girl, but says that she ‘lost her faith’ and identifies now more as an atheist.

She attended high school at Brunswick Secondary College, and then went to Melbourne University where she studied Arts, majoring in English and Islamic Studies.

In her final year at university she edited the well-known student publication, Farrago, which began in 1925 and is Australia’s oldest student paper. Its former editors include such luminaries as Geoffrey Blainey, Morag Fraser, Lindsay Tanner, Kate Legge, Christos Tsiolkas and Nam Le.

She has coordinated the annual national conference for student editors from around Australia, and in 2010 and 2011 was a panelist at the National Young Writers’ Festival held in Newcastle.

As well as freelance writing and working part-time in a bookstore, she is currently editor of the arts pages in the Melbourne based literary journal, The Lifted Brow.

Peter KirkwoodPeter Kirkwood is a freelance writer and video consultant with a master's degree from the Sydney College of Divinity.  

Topic tags: Peter Kirkwood, Ellena Savage, Farago, The Lifter Brow, Stella Prize, Chaser



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