Program Changes to Bellingen Readers and Writers Festival 2019

Fiona patten will be replacing Clementine Ford at the Bellingen Readers and Writers Festival 2019.

Unfortunately feminist author/journalist Clementine Ford has had to cancel her previously announced appearances at the upcoming Bellingen Readers & Writers Festival 2019 on 7-9 June. “I offer my sincere apologies, but have had to withdraw because of family reasons,” says Clementine.

The “In Conversation” session on Saturday 8 June 3:30pm at Cedar Bar will now feature author/politician FIONA PATTEN, founder and leader of the Reason Party (formerly The Australian Sex Party), who holds a key upper house seat in the Victorian Legislative Council. Fiona will be discussing her 2018 book ‘Sex, Drugs and the Electoral Roll’ with Leonie Henschke, and her unlikely journey from sex worker to Member of Parliament.  Fiona patten will be replacing Clementine Ford at the Bellingen Readers and Writers Festival 2019.

Fiona will also be participating in Sunday’s morning’s Biography, Memoir & Blog: ‘Life Stories’ panel. (See Fiona’s full bio below)

Joining the Saturday night Media & Journalism discussion panel ’21st Century News & Information’ (Saturday 8 June 7:30pm, Memorial Hall) are two local writers with strong journalism pedigrees – BELINDA SCOTT, who worked for many years on the Coffs Coast Advocate, and EVE JAREMKA, who worked on the UK newspapers The Times/The Sunday Times, and now runs her own local media company.

Joining Sunday afternoon’s ‘51%: Engendering Equality’ discussion panel (Sunday 9 June, 4:00pm, Memorial Hall) will be author MICHELLE SCOTT TUCKER, who is

Executive Director of the Stella Prize, Australia’s pre-eminent literary prize for women writers. Michelle will also be participating in both the History and Biography/Memoir discussion panels during the Festival weekend.


Fiona is the founder and leader of the Reason Party (formerly the Australian Sex Party) and a Member of the Victorian Legislative Council for the Northern Metropolitan region. A former sex worker, fashion designer, anti-censorship activist, fierce campaigner, political lobbyist and now Member of Parliament — Fiona’s life has been nothing if not eventful.

From her early days as an AIDS-HIV educator and activist and CEO of Australia’s national adult goods and services lobby group, the Eros Association, Fiona has always fought hard for what she believed in. But all too often, she has come face to face with apathy and deeply-rooted conservatism. Frustrated and deeply disappointed by the lack of social change and progress around censorship, drug law reform, euthanasia and same-sex marriage, Fiona set up and registered the Australian Sex Party in 2009.

The Sex Party led with a strong focus on civil libertarian and personal freedom issues, and Fiona became the first Leader of a political party to call for a Royal Commission into child sex abuse in religious institutions. In 2014, Fiona contested and won an upper house seat in Victoria. As one of five crossbenchers, she currently holds the balance of power in the Legislative Council.

Since her election, Fiona has successfully instigated landmark parliamentary inquiries and legislation, including Australia’s largest public inquiry into drug law reform, voluntary assisted dying laws, the legalisation of ridesharing, safe access zones for abortion clinics and the introduction of a bill for a medically supervised injecting centre.

In August 2017, the Australian Sex Party was dissolved to make way for Reason, a movement of radical common sense. Since being elected Fiona has garnered respect from all sides of the political divide and has worked tirelessly to deliver legislative reforms that many thought impossible. As ABC 774’s Jon Faine put it “She is, without doubt, Australia’s most effective legislator.”

Fiona’s 2018 book Sex, Drugs and the Electoral Roll tells of her unlikely journey from sex worker to Member of Parliament. It’s an entertaining and inspiring story of how one woman used her own radical common sense to speak truth to power and fight for change.

For the full Bellingen Readers and Writers Festival 2019 Program.

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