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The Scribe: Melbourne Screening and Q&A with Ruth Cullen, the Hon Barry Jones AO, James Button, Whitlam historian Professor Jenny Hocking and Leanne Smith

  • Australian Centre for Moving Images Federation Square Melbourne Australia (map)

This is a past event.

Listen to the QandA that followed the film screening:


View the Trailer:

The Melbourne screening of a film by Ruth Cullen

Featuring a panel discussion on speech-writing, with director and producer Ruth Cullen, long-serving politician the Hon. Barry Jones AO, speechwriter to Kevin Rudd James Button, Whitlam historian Professor Jenny Hocking and Whitlam Institute Director Leanne Smith.

Don't miss this superb documentary about the legendary Graham Freudenberg, plus an exclusive panel discussion on speech-writing.

This powerful, poignant film takes us into one of the great minds of politics; Graham Freudenberg's words have shaped our fortunes. With stories from Wran, Whitlam, Hawke and Carr, and reflections on contemporary politics, we are given the chance to share the unique perspective of someone who was at the epicentre of Australian government for nearly 50 years. It's a remarkable picture of an insider's love of language - and its power to change the country.  

“Freudy would have been the first who made his name as a speechwriter. After that of course, everyone had one.” – Eric Walsh, former journalist and Press Secretary to Gough Whitlam

Wednesday 17 April 2019
Australian Centre for Moving Images, Federation Square



Director/ Writer/ Producer

Ruth is one of Australia’s most experienced documentary makers.  She is known for her fearless and empathetic character portrayals and her willingness to seek out the untested.  Her films have screened at film festivals all over the world. As well as making films she has worked as: Industry Consultant to Screen Australia, Executive Producer (ABC – Arts & Entertainment) and is a former Head of Documentary at Australia’s premier film school AFTRS.

© John Gollings

© John Gollings

Politician/Author/Living National Treasure

Barry Jones, AC, is a Fellow of four of Australia’s five learned Academies, a unique distinction, and a Living National Treasure.

He was a Labor Member of the Victorian Legislative Assembly 1972-77 and a Member of the House of Representatives 1977-98. He was Australia’s longest serving Minister for Science 1983-90 and represented Australia in Paris on the Executive Board of UNESCO 1991-95 and the World Heritage Committee 1995-96 until sacked by the Howard Government. He was a Visiting Fellow Commoner at Trinity College, Cambridge 2000-01.

His books include Sleepers, Wake! Technology and the Future of Work (1982), the Dictionary of World Biography (5th edition 2018), and his autobiography A Thinking Reed (2006).

He made his first broadcast on global warming more than half a century ago (1967) and was the first Australian politician to argue about its potential for harm. And as far back as 1989 he and Al Gore were the keynote speakers at a conference in London convened by Margaret Thatcher.



James Button is a former journalist and speechwriter.

James was a journalist at The Age for 20 years, including three years as Europe correspondent, and roles as deputy editor, opinion editor and senior writer. He has won two Walkley Awards for feature writing.

In 2009 he was a speechwriter for former Prime Minister Kevin Rudd and for the Secretary of the Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet, Terry Moran.


Biographer/Whitlam Historian

Professor Jenny Hocking is an award-winning biographer, scholar and political commentator. She is the inaugural Distinguished Whitlam Fellow with the Whitlam Institute and Emeritus Professor at Monash University. Jenny is the author of the acclaimed two-volume biography of Gough Whitlam, Gough Whitlam: A Moment in History (2008) and Gough Whitlam: His Time (2012), winner of the Fellowship of Australian Writers’ Barbara Ramsden Award and shortlisted for several major literary awards including the Prime Minister's Literary Awards, the National Biography Award, The Age Book of the Year and the Magarey Medal for Biography and long-listed for the Walkley Non-fiction Book Award.

Jenny has also written biographies of High Court justice Lionel Murphy and the Australian communist author Frank Hardy. Her work has appeared in a range of media and journals including The Guardian, Huffington Post, Crikey, Independent Australia, The Age, Meanjin, Overland, Griffith Review, Arena and Australian Review of Books.

Jenny’s latest book is The Dismissal Dossier: Everything you were Never Meant to Know about November 1975 – the Palace Connection (2017) and her essay ‘Relics of colonialism: The Whitlam dismissal and the Palace letters’ appeared in February 2018 in Griffith Review.

Jenny Hocking is currently running a crowd-funded court action against the National Archives of Australia, seeking the release of the secret ‘Palace letters’ between the Queen and the Governor-General, Sir John Kerr, at the time of the 1975 Whitlam dismissal which are embargoed by the Queen.


Director of the Whitlam Institute

Leanne Smith is an international human rights lawyer by training, with a Masters in Public Policy from the Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs at Princeton. Leanne has worked in the Australian judicial system, for the Australian Human Rights Commission, in the international NGO sector, regional human rights organisations, as an Australian diplomat (DFAT) and in various roles for the United Nations in New York and in the field, most recently as Chief of Policy and Best Practices for UN Peacekeeping Operations. Leanne has published a number of articles on Australian national identityAustralian foreign policy and international human rightsrule of law and development as well as the United Nations and women, peace and security. She is a visiting fellow at the ANU Asia-Pacific College of Diplomacy and the UNSW Australian Human Rights Centre, a member of the Kaldor Centre for International Refugee Law Advisory Committee and a Goodwill Ambassador for the United Nations Association of Australia.