Melbourne Writers Festival leader quits over Palestine program

February 26, 2024 by AAP
Read on for article

The Melbourne Writers Festival’s deputy chair has quit over Palestine’s representation in the festival’s as-yet-unpublished program.

Leslie Reti

The description of the event that prompted Dr Leslie Reti’s resignation is a poetry performance by Aboriginal and Palestinian poets programmed by an Aboriginal curator, according to artistic director Michaela McGuire.

“Aboriginal and Palestinian solidarity has a long history, a relationship that is more vital than ever in the movement to resist colonialism and speak out against atrocities,” the program states in part.

This description prompted deputy chair Dr Reti, a retired obstetrician and gynaecologist, to step down from the board, Ms McGuire has confirmed.

He has been contacted directly for comment.

The festival, which takes place in May, is the latest in a string of Australian cultural events and organisations to be drawn into controversy over the Israel-Palestine conflict.

The board understands Dr Reti’s decision and champions open discourse, festival chair Alice Hill said in a statement provided to AAP.

“We recognise, encourage and value the importance of diverse opinions and perspectives among our staff, artists, audiences, the communities we serve and through our program,” she said.

Ms McGuire told ABC Radio on Monday she was sad to see Dr Reti leave, but sees herself as defending the principles of self-determined First Nations programming.

Interim chief executive Fiona Menzies has also stepped down for personal reasons but will continue with the festival as a consultant.

Dr Reti’s resignation comes hot on the heels of the Perth Festival Writers Weekend, which wrapped on Sunday.

Artist Deborah Conway headlined multiple sessions during the weekend, but not before her views on the Israel-Palestine conflict had prompted the publication of an open protest letter by writers and artists.

Next week sees the start of Adelaide Writers’ Week, which features US artist and musician Laurie Anderson in a livestream event as well as an exhibition for the Adelaide Festival.

Anderson recently withdrew from a guest professorship at a university in Germany over her signing of a 2021 statement by Palestinian artists titled Letter Against Apartheid.

Writers and sponsors pulled out of Adelaide Writers’ Week in 2023 over online commentary regarding the conflict, with director Louise Adler facing calls to resign.

The 2024 Melbourne Writers Festival will take place from May 6-12.


Speak Your Mind

Comments received without a full name will not be considered
Email addresses are NEVER published! All comments are moderated. J-Wire will publish considered comments by people who provide a real name and email address. Comments that are abusive, rude, defamatory or which contain offensive language will not be published

Got something to say about this?

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.