New Voices #18: Of poetry, and policy

Fri, 4 December 2020

By Maria Issaris, presenter and producer, New Voices. Email

Every episode of New Voices is surprising - but this next one - episode #18 is probably the most beautiful. Two very different women with Indigenous backgrounds talk about the past and the present, of poetry and policy. And then, with passionate generosity share their fierce pride and optimism for a healed future. So, get ready to be transformed and broken open in the best possible way, by poetry and passion.

Vanessa Lee-AhMat is an Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander woman born on Thursday island, who grew up to become a highly respected epidemiologist. She has appeared on news programs The Point and The Drum, and is, she says, someone who can translate data and graphs into policy - can see the stories they tell.

But there came a point where the stories needed to be expressed in different ways - and she broke out into poetry - and break out she did! Her poems are vivid stories wrapped in the natural and the supernatural, doling out compassion and culture.

Her critiquer is Arrernte woman Aurora Liddle-Christie, an established Brisbane poet and theatre maker, who is immersed in exploring her own background which includes Jamaica, Ireland, Scotland and the Northern Territory (where her Arrernte grandfather comes from). It is the Indigenous and coloured parts of her history which form the basis of her own beautiful poetry and theatre. This is where this episode becomes transformational - it deals with the haunting aspects of the past - and shows us how delicately these two women hold the present in their hands; that under their gaze the future is infused with hope, optimism, and healing.

Writer: Vanessa Lee-AhMat

Day job: Social Epidemiologist


[Image: Vanessa Lee-AhMat]

Vanessa S. Lee-AhMat is a poet, writer, social-epidemiologist, suicide prevention advocate, and a strong believer in social equality. Vanessa began writing poetry following the graduation of her PhD, and she offers no apology for her confessional style of poetry. In 2016, Vanessa was invited to present her poetry at the Sydney Writers Festival with other Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander poets. Her poem Warrior Cloak (a piece about betrayal and resilience) was choreographed into a seven-minute contemporary Aboriginal dance. Vanessa has contributed to the Australian Poetry Journal for their Australian Poetry Anthology series, SKIN, with her poem series called ‘Girl’. Vanessa’s interpretation of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women’s resilience to racist policies is woven into her poem as Black women do and have been published in numerous book chapters and articles. Dr. Lee-AhMat combines her poetry with her social-epidemiology lens to connect her worlds.

Critiquer: Aurora Liddle-Christie


[Image: Aurora Liddle-Christie]

Aurora Liddle-Christie is a multidisciplinary artist with Arrernte, Jamaican, and Gaelic ancestry. In 2017 Aurora graduated with a Bachelor of Fine Arts Drama from Queensland University of Technology. Her practice draws on the experience of People of Colour and Australia’s First Nations Peoples at the intersection of community, activism, spirituality and connection to country. She explores this through theatre making, spoken word, playwriting, singing and songwriting. Aurora has worked locally and statewide with a number of Brisbane based arts organisations such as, Digi Youth Arts, Brisbane Writers Festival, Queensland Music Festival, La Boite Theatre Company, People+Artist+Place, Zen Zen Zo, Conscious Mic and Voices Of Colour.

This episode of New Voices was broadcast at 5.30pm on Monday 30 November. It will be repeated on Sunday 6 December at 1.30pm. If you miss it, or previous episodes, head to the Podcasts page to catch up on previous episodes.