Among the jumble of papers in my desk drawer are some disturbing notes I made in the Wellcome Library a few years ago. I was in London researching how medical scientists took possession of the dead for dissection during the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. It was proving to be a dark tale: I found accounts of body-snatching and of mutilated corpses being unceremoniously disposed of in crude coffins alongside rubbish and animal parts. As my research continued, I noticed that details that had initially shocked me no longer did – until, that is, the day I read about Richard Berry’s activities at the Stoke Park Colony for Mentally Defective Children, near Bristol.
Clicking from source to source, I’m not surprised to find the same detailed descriptions of her clothes over and over. ‘She is believed to be aged in her 20s wearing a black long sleeved top, blue denim shorts and white runners …’ I wonder what I am supposed to deduce from this information.
At the start of the 2013 school year I stood at the front of a school gymnasium and outed myself as transgender to 250 Year 10 students. I believed myself to be a pragmatist. I was about to commence a medical transition that would alter my voice and appearance. I had changed my name. Disclosing my transition to the students whom I saw every day was an inevitability.
Earlier this year, a campaign started at the University of Sydney, where I work and study, calling for the renaming of the Wentworth building and for the removal of a statue of William Charles Wentworth from the Great Hall. Wentworth is one of the founders of the university, honoured in colonial memory for his 1813 expedition with Gregory Blaxland and William Lawson across the Blue Mountains, a journey that precipitated the pastoral exploitation of Wiradjuri country. Less known is Wentworth’s interference in the 1838 trial of seven white stockmen who massacred up to thirty unarmed Gamilaraay people at Myall Creek, in which he prevented Aboriginal witnesses from giving testimony that would have likely resulted in conviction.
6.30pm, Thursday 17 August
The Wheeler Centre, Melbourne
Drawing on MIFF’s Sci-fi retrospective and looking at how cinema harnesses contemporary anxieties to show us where we might be headed, some of the best minds around dissect the darker corners of the future in this panel discussion about Dystopia on Film.