Don’t stand so close to me – understanding consent can help with those tricky social distancing moments

Elspeth Tilley, Massey University

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

You’re walking on a public footpath when a jogger overtakes you from behind, well inside the recommended two-metre physical distance. What to do? By the time you’ve reacted it’s too late. Just another random encounter in the strange new world of COVID-19.

New Zealand’s alert level 2 restrictions ask that we “consider others” by keeping two metres from strangers when “out and about”. In reality, we’ve seen a rise in anxiety on public transport and airlines.

With social gatherings up to 100 people allowed from May 29, such anxieties may only increase.

Debate about social distancing often pits “COVID-19 is gone” against “COVID-19 might not be gone, let’s be careful”. It’s an unwinnable argument: because of the virus’s incubation period we still don’t know.

It’s also a red herring, because if we focus only on risk we overlook consent.

Consent is one of the most important ethical doctrines. It means respecting people’s right to free choice within agreed legal parameters and according to their ability to exercise that right.

Read more:
Coronavirus has turned retail therapy into retail anxiety – keeping customers calm will be key to carrying on

When it comes to consent, New Zealand gets a “can do better” grade. We’ve even had public education programs about sexual consent, such as the Don’t Guess the Yes campaign from the New Zealand Police.

While this article is not about sexual consent, social distancing requirements offer an opportunity to learn more about consent in general. This might then equip us better to navigate other situations.

Consent 101: an introduction

Living in a cohesive society means we give up some autonomy. We agree to live by the law – or to go into lockdown when asked by our government. We still retain plenty of personal control within that social contract. Ethically, someone can only remove that remaining autonomy with our informed consent.

Consent is usually a process of communication. A capable person is given enough information to voluntarily make a knowledgeable decision about participating in an activity.

Power and vulnerability are complicating factors. The principles of consent aim to protect vulnerable people from being exploited by those with more resources, including more information.

For example, intoxicated people are vulnerable. A drunk person can’t consent to anything, including a breach of their social distance. It’s why bars took longer to reopen than restaurants while safety systems were set up.

Alcohol and consent don’t mix – that’s why bars selling alcohol but not food took longer to reopen as precautions were put in place.

Back to our hypothetical jogging incident. Was there informed consent? Before COVID-19, choosing to be in a public place implied accepting proximity with others. Currently, though, there is a public health directive to stay apart.

Read more:
7 tips to help kids feeling anxious about going back to school

Assuming the jogger did not have a (socially distanced) friendly chat with the walker to obtain their informed consent to breach their government-recommended minimum distance, can they ethically presume to make that decision on another’s behalf?

First, is there a power difference between the jogger and the walker? Arguably, the person breaking distancing holds more power. Once it’s done, it can’t be undone.

In this instance, the jogger also has more power than the walker because they have more information. They can see ahead, predict a breach is likely to occur, and decide how to react. The walker cannot see behind them.

Was our walker vulnerable? Our jogger does not know. They cannot tell whether the walker is in a vulnerable COVID-19 category, lives with a newborn baby, has cancer or is a carer for someone elderly.

Finally, what does our social contract suggest? In New Zealand everyone has equal rights to use public walkways. As fair-minded people it’s unlikely we’d want vulnerable people’s disadvantage worsened by removing their right to go out for a walk.

Assume other people are vulnerable

On all counts, our jogger can best fulfil their ethical duties by assuming the walker is vulnerable and actively protecting them from potential harm.

Under level 4 restrictions, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern suggested we act as though we have COVID-19. It’s what is known as a heuristic – a useful mental shortcut to help us make decisions. Perhaps it’s time for a new one.

Read more:
Should you fly yet? An epidemiologist and an exposure scientist walk you through the decision process

It may be most helpful now to act as though everyone we encounter in public is vulnerable. It is easier to imagine other people being vulnerable than to trick our brains into thinking we are unwell when we feel fine.

Presuming the vulnerability of others until proven otherwise ticks the consent box: an easy rule of thumb for doing the right thing.

Consent is sometimes described in the literature of ethics as a “social gift”. By upholding consent we give the gift of respect for others’ right to choose when they want to step beyond their own “bubble”.

A sense of doing the right thing is also psychologically rewarding for the giver – it makes us feel positive about ourselves.

Understanding consent means that as we jog (or cycle, or get on a bus or plane) we can leave the job of calculating current COVID-19 risks to the experts. Instead we can focus on something within our immediate control: by the simple social gift of stepping back, waiting or veering around them, we recognise and validate the humanity and personal autonomy of others.The Conversation

Elspeth Tilley, Associate Professor of English (Expressive Arts), Massey University

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

Create1World Moving to Electronic Conference

Kia ora koutou, because your health and safety is our top priority, we will not be proceeding with a physical gathering for Create1World this year.

However, we’ve always had a cutting-edge electronic component to the conference – and we think it is still very important and inspirational to hear from, and support, the voices of our artists at this time.

So we’re working on a plan to expand the electronic part of the conference so that you can still get access to great creative activism wisdom from wherever you are. We’ll keep you posted.

We are also still happy to accept your entries to the competition. We believe creativity is an important way to process everything that is happening. However, the electronic version that you send us will be your judged entry – there will be no live finals.

Please keep an eye on our Facebook page for updates:

Stay safe and stay creative. ❤️

Create1World 2020 Competition Now Open!

Calling all creative rangatahi! We know you have great ideas about how to make the world a better place. Turn them into a short film, poem, story, song or piece of theatre, and you could win cash prizes.  Check out  for all the details of the 2020 Create1World Competition.  It’s NOW OPEN and you have until June 2, 2020 to get your entries in.


Create1World 2019 – Wellington Programme

For those coming to our Wellington Create1World Creative Activism and Global Citizenship Youth Conference on Thursday November 14 and wanting easily accessible online information during the day, here is a scrollable single page html plain-text-only version of the programme. (We are a paperless event.) Or, you can download the PDF version of this programme with nice pictures and logos in it, here: PDF Create1World 2019 – Wellington Programme

We look forward to welcoming you!



Welcome  2

Campus Map   3

Menu   4

Morning Tea: 4

Lunch: 4

Your Create1World Host Organisations  5

Conference Schedule – November 14, 2019   6

Session 1: Creative Activism Panel 7

Some Questions To Ask The Creative Panellists If You Have A Brain Freeze But Still Want To Be In To Win Spot Prizes For Asking Questions  9

Introducing a Create1World Demonstration Performance: Trash to Fash   10

Session 2: Your Workshop 11.45am – 12.45pm    11

Create1World 2019 – Wellington Workshop Options  11

Session 3: The Create1World Competition– Wellington Finalists  15

Speech Category  15

Music Category  15

Creative Writing Category  16

Social Studies Category  17

Share The Day – We Have Prizes For Using Social Media!  17

Acknowledgements  19

Where to Next?  20



Massey University and the New Zealand Centre for Global Studies welcome you to our fourth annual Create1World high school student and teacher conference on creative activism and global citizenship. This conference includes the Wellington finals and prize-giving for the Create1World creative activism competition, which invited high school students to address ideas of global citizenship and planetary solutions through creative outputs in media studies, social studies, performance, song writing and creative writing.  Today the winning entries from the region will be announced, and will receive recognition in the form of prize money to enable them to support their continued pursuit of creative solutions to pressing planetary issues.  We hope you enjoy seeing what other students have created!

WHERE TO COME: The conference will primarily take place in Room 4B06 (in Block 4 – see the campus map on the next page).  The easiest place to meet in the morning is the Pyramid (via Entrance A, on Wallace St) which has a warm atrium area with seating.  This is also where we will be having morning tea and lunch and viewing the performance items.  There will be staff and Massey students to greet you in the Pyramid, and signage directing you to 4B06 from the Pyramid (and from the other campus entrances).  Please arrive in 4B06 on time for a prompt 9am start.

WHAT TO BRING: A reusable water bottle, an old tee-shirt, your questions about being a creative activist, and your enthusiastic support for those who get up there and share their creative work with you! We do not require school students to wear uniform to Create1World (especially if you are doing a performance poetry workshop, something comfortable to move in is recommended) but your school may have their own requirements for outside events, so check with your teacher.

The old tee-shirt is to use for our ‘tees to totes’ activity.  (We won’t have mass-produced goody bags available this year because we weren’t happy with their levels of sustainability, so instead please bring an old tee and we’ll show you how to turn it into a cool tote!)  We do have a few spare tees if you can’t source your own old tee, but it would be great if you can find one and bring it.

If you have any questions on the day, please feel free to ask any of the conference staff or Massey student helpers. We are here to help make your day the best it can be and happy to help.

If you have any emergencies on campus anywhere on the day you can telephone campus security on 0800627750 or 027 496 3681.

There is a parking amnesty all day on November 14 for the whole of Massey University Wellington campus.  This means anyone arriving by car can park free of charge all day in any unnumbered spot (as long as it does not have a number or name on it or say ‘reserved’).  So if the parking space is not numbered and is not otherwise marked as reserved, then please go ahead and park in it.

There is free wifi available on campus: select MUEvents, use case sensitive password #Exposure19

Please note: there will be a photographer operating at Create1World. Sometimes they take general crowd shots, to document the day. If this is of concern to you, please approach an organiser early in the morning and let them know. Thank you!

Have a great day and let us know if you need anything!

Campus Map

To enlarge this map, or to zoom out or see it in better resolution, please use the online version at:

For any general help finding the campus or general questions about the facilities available on campus feel free to phone 0800MASSEY and they will help you out!  Or once you are on campus, you can drop in to Student Central in the Pyramid or the Facilities Helpdesk just to the side of the Pyramid – in either of these places there are staff who will be happy to help you out, give directions, or connect you directly with Create1World conference staff.

Wharepaku (toilets) are located at the rear of The Pyramid.

There is also a water cooler in The Pyramid, just behind the coffee cart (it’s near the door to the Wharepaku Wāhine). Please bring your own reusable water bottle (we have Karma Cola drinks available at morning tea but at lunch time, once the Karma Colas run out, it’s water from the cooler!)


Today we will be providing complimentary morning tea and lunch.  Here is the menu.  We have tried to fulfil a range of dietary requirements, but if this menu doesn’t meet your needs you are welcome to purchase something with your own funds from the Massey food cart in the Pyramid or the Massey student café, Tussock, or bring your own food.

Thanks to Tussock Cafe, everything we are serving is nut free and vegan. (Being vegan is one of the easiest things individuals can do to reduce our carbon emissions and tackle climate change: so we wanted to walk the talk, and show you just how yummy vegan food can be.)  The bakery items and falafel salads are also all gluten free. Some of the pizza is not gluten free. It will be labelled.

We are also grateful to Allgood Organics Fairtrade Bananas, and Karma Cola for supporting the Create1World conference with their fair trade foods so that we could fuel your creative thinking today!

Morning Tea:

  • A Fair Trade Banana from Allgood Bananas
  • An organic Fair Trade soda from Karma Cola
  • A selection of entirely vegan, gluten free, nut free bakery treats from Tussock café :
    • Carrot Cake
    • Chocolate Brownie
    • Ginger Crunch
    • Blueberry Muffins


  • A selection of vegan pizzas (some are NOT gluten free – check labels) OR
  • A vegan falafel salad (gluten free)
  • Water (please BYO water bottle and use the cooler behind the coffee cart in the pyramid)


Your Create1World Host Organisations

Massey University’s Expressive Arts major, taught by the School of English & Media Studies in the Bachelor of Communication, is an interdisciplinary curriculum that is unique in the world.  It teaches students to combine different creative forms to better connect with the world around them and use the arts and creativity to develop new ways of communicating about and dealing with tough issues facing our planet. “Innovation is the act of looking to problem-solve from a different angle – of generating new ways of perceiving and responding.  Exposure to creativity stimulates new neural pathways, allowing new approaches and breakthroughs”.  Today’s conference aims to highlight how the three expressive arts disciplines taught in the Bachelor of Communication (creative writing, media studies, and theatre studies/performance) can contribute to solving planetary problems.

See more about the Bachelor of Communication (including majors in Media Studies and Expressive Arts) at:


New Zealand Centre for Global Studies: Global studies is the study of humanity as a whole group, the emerging political self-identity of a global community of peoples; and the identification and resolution of global problems (those problems which threaten the planet and humanity as a whole).

The NZ Centre for Global Studies is a non-profit organisation (a charitable educational trust) founded in December 2012. The aim of the Centre is to undertake research and policy analysis on issues of global affairs and New Zealand’s role within that.  Thematic areas of focus include sustainability, peace and security, human rights and international law and organisations.

See more at:


WCC Creative Communities: Today’s conference has received the support of the Wellington City Council Creative Communities Scheme, and we thank them for their vision and encouragement to pursue this innovative pairing of global studies with creative activism. We hope that today builds greater awareness and enthusiasm right throughout our communities about the power of creativity to help us imagine a different future for our planet.

Conference Schedule – November 14, 2019


8.45 Please arrive any time from 8.45 and make your way to the Pyramid (Entrance A is the best Entrance to arrive at to find the Pyramid – there will be people in the Pyramid to meet you and take you to 4B06) Pyramid
9.00 Prof. Chris Gallavin (Master of Ceremonies)
Housekeeping Announcements and Opening Words of Welcome
9.10 SESSION 1: Global Creative Activist Panel
Live-Stream Linkup and Q&A, Chaired by Assoc. Prof. Elspeth Tilley
10.45 Spot prizes given for good questions!
11:00 Morning Tea
11.15: Morning Tea Entertainment:
Climate Change Theatre Action Performance (Trash to Fash)
11.30 Workshop Allocation: Then Facilitators Will Take Everyone In Groups
To Your Break Out Rooms
11.45 SESSION 2:Workshops Breakout Rooms
12.45 Workshop facilitators bring groups back to Pyramid
12.50 Lunch Break  PYRAMID
1.20 Tees to Totes Demonstration PYRAMID
1.45 Lunch ends
1.50 SESSION 3:  Create1World Competition Finalists
Speech, Music and Creative Writing Finalists
2.20 Return To 4B06 For More Create1World Finalists

Creative Writing and  Social Studies Finalists

2.30 Announcement Of Winners and People’s Choice Award

Award of Social Media Prizes

Presented by Prof. Chris Gallavin

2.45 Evaluation
Please Give Us Your Feedback On Create1World!
2.55 Prof. Chris Gallavin – Closing Remarks 4B06
3pm End Of Day 4B06

Session 1: Creative Activism Panel

Our first session of the day is a live-stream linkup with an amazing range of creative activist panellists both local and international.  We are extremely grateful to all of the panellists for their incredible generosity in sharing their creative wisdom with us today!  The panellists will first introduce themselves and their work, and explain how they use their creativity to build global connections and activate change.  When they’ve all been introduced, we will then open the floor to answer your questions.  Please make sure you ask questions, to make the most of the incredible brain power available to you!  (We have a couple of great spot prizes for people asking questions – so ask and you could win!)  If you are having trouble thinking of a good question to ask, we have a list of example questions later in this programme.  Please feel free to use or adapt one of our sample questions if you can’t think of one!

Who will you get to talk with?  They will introduce themselves in this order:


MICHALIA ARATHIMOS is a Greek-New Zealand writer living in Melbourne who is a prize-winning author of short stories and essays, and winner of the Sunday Star Times Short Story Awards, 2016. She works as a freelance editor and is the fiction reviewer for Melbourne Magazine Overland. Michalia has published short stories and poetry in several New Zealand books and publications, including Best New Zealand Fiction Volume 4, Lost in Translation, Sport, Turbine, Metro, The NZ Listener and Blackmail Press.


ABHISHEK MAJUMDAR  is a playwright, theatre director and scenographer based out of Bangalore. He is the artistic director of Bhasha Centre of performing Arts and also Visiting Associate Professor of Arts at New York University in Abu Dhabi.  He has worked extensively on plays relating to conflict areas such as Kashmir and Tibet and has also in the last few years consistently looked at environmental philosophy as one of the primary motifs in his work. For the third time this year, he has worked with Climate Change Theatre Action. He has also been regularly part of Climate Conferences advocating for a more universal outlook than merely a western industrial one.  He works in multiple languages and his work has been produced in India, Bangladesh, USA, UK, Europe and Latin America.


DIANE WONG is an educator, multimedia storyteller, and cultural organizer based in New York City. She is a core member/leader of Chinatown Art Brigade, an intergenerational, womxn-led cultural collective that recognizes the power of art to advance social justice. She uses augmented reality and interviews with tenants, organisers, restaurant and garment workers, small businesses, public health workers, and elected officials to make work that centers art and culture as a way to support community-led campaigns around issues of gentrification and displacement.


MOANA ETE (Ngāi Tahu, Samoa) is a Wellington based actor, musician, writer and director. Moana performs music with Fly My Pretties under the stage name A Girl Named Mo. Earlier this year she directed the stage show Fishin’ Chip, leading a cast and crew of wahine as a part of the Kia Mau Festival. She is currently writing a series of short screenplays which will go into production in 2020. Moana is a proud resident of Newtown where she and her partner Thomas are raising their 2 year old, Manu.


WAYLON EDWARDS (Whakatōhea, Ngāti Pikiao, Ngāi Tai and Ngāti Hine) is co-creator of the successful show WEiRdO which explored Aotearoa’s clunky refusal to grapple with our colonial history. Waylon is the songwriter and singer of theatre rock band Poppy Dust. His musical theatre career started in Jesus Christ Superstar which lead to lead roles in Grease, Miss Saigon and Cats. Current projects: being a dad to his daughters, writing an album called Old Man’s Voice, and he and his partner Alana are making a podcast called Fried Bread.



SUGAR MAGNOLIA WILSON is a poet with a particular flair for finding beauty and inspiration in the natural world and human relationships. She completed her creative writing MA at the International Institute of Modern Letters in 2012 and is currently a creative communication tutor at Massey. Her work has been published in various literary journals, and she is co-founder of the journal Sweet Mammalian. Her first full-length collection of poetry, Because a Woman’s Heart is Like a Needle at the Bottom of the Ocean, was released by Auckland UP in 2019. Reviewers have described it as “complex and honest and heavy and light and tender and brutal” and containing “the best love poems I have ever read”.

Some Questions To Ask The Creative Panellists If You Have A Brain Freeze But Still Want To Be In To Win Spot Prizes For Asking Questions


  • What’s the most inspirational piece of world-changing art you’ve seen? Why?
  • What’s the most inspirational or positive thing for you about your own artistic life and work? Why?
  • I want to do the kind of socially connected art that you do, but I have no idea how to begin, where do I start?
  • What’s the most challenging or difficult thing about your creative work? How do you deal with that?
  • What other crucial tips do you have for me if I want to pursue a creative activism career?
  • What things should I avoid doing (what are some don’ts as well as some do’s) when making socially connected art?
  • Do you think governments take enough notice or provide enough support to cultural and creative efforts to solve world problems?
  • What should we be doing about the above?
  • Can we really actually make a difference to the future of the planet or is it too late/too hard?
  • What does art offer that politics and global governance don’t?
  • What should I be studying at school if I want the kind of career that you have?
  • What should I say to people who tell me that the arts are not a ‘real job’?
  • What should I do after I finish school if I want to have a creative life ahead of me?
  • What else can I be doing right now if I want to get started on a creative career?
  • What does global citizenship mean to you?
  • What does creative activism mean to you?
  • How do you deal with sensitive or difficult social justice topics in art?
  • What are the tips that are specific to your genre or form of art that you think are most important to success, particularly where social justice is the topic of the artwork?

We are sure you can come up with your own questions that will be better than these – but either way, please ask lots of questions – the interactive panel relies upon you, the audience, being interactive if we are to make the most of all these wonderful panellists and their willingness to give their time to sharing their work and insights with you!

Introducing a Create1World Special Demonstration Performance: Trash to Fash

Your morning tea time entertainment is the short performance piece Trash to Fash, presented by Massey University Creativity in the Community students!

Trash to Fash is a zero-waste, anti-fast-fashion-inspired performance art promenade piece utilising litter sourced solely from students. It was part of a much bigger Massey students’ Expressive Arts event, Ngaru Ngaru, that took place on the streets of Wellington in October 2019, as part of the global Climate Change Theatre Action movement.  If you’d like to see more about Ngaru Ngaru as just one example of the creative activism that Massey Expressive Arts students learn to do in their Bachelor of Communication studies, check out their Facebook page here:

For more on Expressive Arts study, go here:


Session 2: Your Workshop 11.45am – 12.45pm

Create1World 2019 – Wellington Workshop Options

At morning tea time you will be asked to sign up for one of the workshop options below.  Each workshop facilitator will be available in the Pyramid with their sign-up sheet. Please note, workshops have size limits – if your preferred workshop is full, you will need to select another option by approaching a different facilitator. They will be holding up signs with the name of their workshop so will be easy to spot!  Any questions, just ask any of the Create1World staff you see floating around in a Massey shirt.


Workshop Option 1: Writing Water
A Creative Nonfiction Workshop
(Size limit 20.)  Room: 5C14Presented by: Massey University Associate Professor of Creative Writing, Dr Ingrid Horrocks.Ingrid is an essayist, travel writer and poet. Her books include Travelling with Augusta, part travel book, part history of women’s travel, part love story, a co-edited collection, Extraordinary Anywhere: Essays on Place from Aotearoa New Zealand, and two poetry collections. Ingrid is co-chair of the Steering Committee for NonfictioNOW2020.In this hands-on creative writing workshop, Ingrid will facilitate a process of creative writing and discussion designed to link the concerns and experiences of participants with the wider world. We will explore what nonfiction writing in particular can offer, and use water – so central to everything we do and care about – as a way into our explorations.
Workshop Option 2: Your Voice – Broadcast Style 

(Size limit 15.)  Room:  5D20


Presented by: Massey University Media Studies Tutor, Ilja Herb.

Ilja’s work on photo and film projects has taken him from the glaciers of Greenland to Ethiopia’s Omo valley, to the Tian Shan mountains in China’s Xinjiang province. He’s explored Alaska’s ice-choked rivers, skied with Reindeer-dependent nomads in Mongolia, and hitchhiked in a Soviet-era helicopter in Georgia with the military. His work has appeared in National Geographic, Outside magazine and American Photography.

In this workshop, you will learn to use a video camera, microphone, and teleprompter to highlight climate change facts and issues, and make pacts to participate in positive action to reduce accelerated climate change. Ilja will help you learn how to deliver a poignant and meaningful address to the camera in the style of a professional news broadcaster.


Workshop Option 3:  Writing Poetry Through the Lens of your Inner Animal

(Size limit 20.)  Room: 5C15

Presented by: Massey University Creative Communication Tutor, Sugar Magnolia Wilson.

Sugar Magnolia is a poet. She completed her MA in creative writing at the International Institute of Modern Letters at Victoria University of Wellington in 2012. Her work has been published in various literary journals including Sport, Turbine and Landfall. In 2014 she co-founded the literary journal, Sweet Mammalian with Hannah Mettner and Morgan Bach. Her first full-length collection of poetry, Because a Woman’s Heart is Like a Needle at the Bottom of the Ocean, was published in March 2019 by Auckland University Press.

In this workshop you will approach the challenges faced by our world by writing poetry from the point of view of other creatures on this precious planet of ours. How can we learn not only about our human failures, but also our beauty and potential for change, by looking at the living world around us?

Workshop Option 4: Feminist Media Practice

(Size limit 30). Room: 5D12


Presented by: Massey University Media Studies Lecturer, Dr Claire Henry.


Claire teaches screenwriting and filmmaking in Massey’s digital media production courses. She has written and directed several short films screened in film festivals across Europe and Australia, and in New York. As a film theorist, she also has expertise in genre, national cinema, and the cultural politics and ethics of screen violence.


From the Guerrilla Girls to Who Needs Feminism?, be inspired by the history of feminist media-based activism in zines, posters, billboards, photography, and social media campaigns. Explore how mainstream media play a role in sharing, reinforcing and policing social ideas about gender, and how you can use media as an artistic catalyst for social change. In this workshop, we’ll explore – and attack! – sexism with creative media-based interventions.


Workshop Option 5: Protest Through Performance Poetry

(Size limit 20). Room: 5D14


Presented by: Massey University Associate Professor of Expressive Arts, Dr Elspeth Tilley.


Elspeth is an award-winning playwright and passionate advocate of the arts for social change (she’s also your Create1World conference convenor).  She was the storytelling facilitator for Te Hā Tangata human library on homelessness, and runs a weekly community-based creative writing and performance poetry workshop at Te Whare Hupa with Te Hā Tangata graduates.


In this practical performance-based workshop you will build confidence, and learn a combination of written and oral skills to craft a compelling piece of performance poetry.  Last but not least, you will get to feel the unrivalled joy of freeing your inner voice for change, and letting it loose in a supportive environment.

Workshop Option 6: Wikipedia Inclusiveness Editathon

(Size limit 15.) Room: 5E17


Presented by: Massey University Media Studies Lecturer, Dr Kevin Veale.


Kevin’s work investigates storytelling and the ways our experiences of stories are shaped by the media forms we encounter them through, and online harassment.  He has written about, Homestuck, My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic, and a broad collection of videogames.  He’s currently writing about the games Night in the Woods and Undertale, and separately, how social media platforms profit from harassment.

In the worldwide Wikipedia Editor Survey (2011), 91% of respondents were male, and the greatest number of editors resided in the United States of America. We also know that Wikipedia editors tend to be those with sustained access to technology and the internet, and with sufficient income to create ‘disposable’ (leisure) time to spend editing Wikipedia. Your average Wikipedia editor is most certainly not a woman of colour working three jobs to achieve a living wage.


This of course skews the information that is available on Wikipedia, because what is included is what is perceived to be of relevance by the majority of editors.


This “digital blind spot” particularly manifests itself in a gender gap, which makes it difficult for women, non-binary and gender diverse artists and activists to find their own predecessors. As editor-activist Sierra Carlson has commented, “the danger is that if information is not in the database, people may conclude that the missing information is not notable or valuable”. Editing Wikipedia to add notable non-male artists, activists and their achievements thus becomes of itself an act of protest and inclusiveness.


In this workshop, you will learn some basic tools for Wikipedia editing, and be provided with resources about notable gender diverse artists and activists whose achievements are absent or partial on Wikipedia. You will work in teams to start to change that situation.



Session 3: The Create1World Competition– Wellington Finalists

Here’s a little more about the Wellington finalists in the Create1World national creative activism competition. This is also the order that the finalists will perform/present their work in.  Please be a super awesome fantastic audience for all the finalists and go crazy cheering and clapping.  It’s really hard to get up in front of so many people and share your work, and these students deserve your loudest possible support and applause!

Speech Category

Finalists Title of Work Synopsis Performed by Venue
Isabella Oliver-Clyne and Hannah Witcombe Consent Rape culture is everywhere, whether you see it or you don’t. Nobody is teaching young New Zealanders the importance of consent, and that needs to change. We demand consent education! Isabella Oliver-Clyne and Hannah Witcombe Pyramid
Judah Jackson Alienation To help us understand why discrimination in any form is senseless and hurtful, this creative speech follows an alien from a foreign planet who climbs the ranks in the galactic navy but constantly faces the hurdles of discrimination from humans who are prejudiced against his kind. Judah Jackson Pyramid
Maya Rush-Dunn Being Plastic: Speech Living in a multicultural NZ means that we need to learn to embrace each other. Being half-caste has led to many young people of New Zealand enduring derogatory labels. No more labelling people ‘plastic’! Maya Rush-Dunn Pyramid


Music Category

Finalists Title of Work Synopsis Performed by Venue
Larissa Wong Never Ending Cloud of Smoke My song is about the problem of youth smoking and vaping and how I feel that not enough light is shed on this problem. My inspiration for this song came when I was walking with my friend through Lyall Bay, and we saw some intermediate students vaping in a shortcut alleyway. Smoking and vaping are not good for anyone but especially for our youth. Larissa Wong Pyramid


Creative Writing Category

Finalists Title of Work Synopsis Performed by Venue
Fatimah Khan Panic The purpose of this poem is to capture the fear and issue of sexual assault in regards to women. Momina Begum Pyramid
Lauren McGregor Insecurities Insecurities is about common things that young people tend to be the most conscious about when it comes to themselves. Whether it’s as simple as appearance or as complicated as mental illness, we are taught to focus on our flaws to an unhealthy degree. Insecurities is meant as a gentle reminder that there is no need to do as the Romans do, just be you. Lauren McGregor Pyramid
Eleashah Jackson A World of Terror; A World Of Life  A piece demanding change in how we deal with animals, plants, our environment and money. It is about caring for the environment, and looking after the resources that have been given to us.


Kerris O’Donoghue Pyramid
Dexter Smith body talk ‘body talk’ is a piece I feel I have been trying to write my entire life. It details experiences and thoughts I still struggle with to this day and even though I have been able to get it out onto the page, the message is something I am still trying to fully envelop into my consciousness. But, with every passing day I am getting closer and closer. Remember: It does get better. Dexter Smith – pre-recorded 4B06
Rachel Clark June I wrote “June” after seeing various articles about pride month, and reflecting on my own experiences. I wanted to bring attention to the blatant hypocrisy, consumerism and tokenism many LGBT people face. It sheds light on the fact that in a search for equality the LGBT community often faces segregation rather than integration. “June” is a critical look at all the different sides to a single month of equality. Rachel Clark – pre-recorded 4B06

Social Studies Category

Finalists Title of Work Synopsis Performed by Venue
Anatia Ioapo and

Maya Rush-Dunn

Being Plastic: Interviews Living in a multicultural NZ means that we need to learn to embrace each other. Being half-caste has led to many young people of New Zealand missing out on an identity. We have interviewed and collated the emotions and opinions of the Wellington East Pasifika students and present to you a very real and very scary gap in our cultural society. Anatia Ioapo and Maya Rush-Dunn, pre-recorded: edited by Aniatia Ioapo, interviewees from Wellington East Girls’ College 4B06



We hope you enjoy your day at Create1World and that you participate fully to get the most out of developing your skills, sharing your work or seeing other students’ creative work, and getting the chance to interact with people who successfully make their life’s work in the field of creative activism.

Share The Day – We Have Prizes For Using Social Media!

We know you love being on your phone and are way more clever at social media than we are, so if you want to stick today’s events on social, please be our guest!  There is free wifi available on campus: select MUEvents, with the password #Exposure19

Our social media are:

Please follow us, share our posts, and add your own pics and posts to the conversation!

We even have spot prizes to hand out for great tweets, grams or posts throughout the day! Don’t forget to use the event hashtag so we can see your work:


Plus if you want to get lots of visibility for your posts and gain followers and likes, you could use other relevant hashtags such as:

#globalcitizenship  #artmatters  #artforgood  #artivism  #createchange #creativeactivism  #masseyuni   #useyourvoice  #inspiringwomen #youthvoice

On IG, our speakers can be found at:


On Twitter, our speakers’ handles include:

@XpertDemon   @wilson_sugar   @DrMichalia   @MoanaEte

Our host and supporters’ handles include:

@SEMSMassey @masseyuni @allgoodbananas @karma_cola @WetaWorkshop @MakaroPress  #islandbaymarineeducationcentre

Speakers who are not on Twitter can be hashtagged, e.g.:

#AbhishekMajumdar   #waylonedwards


So please feel free to get busy spreading the word about your day at Create1World – and keep an eye out for a possible spot prize coming your way if you do!


We are very grateful to the organisations who provided spot prizes for Create1World: The Island Bay Marine Education Centre, Weta Workshop and Mākaro Press.


We definitely could not have made today happen without the support of many, many colleagues including from the Events and Recruitment Offices, a huge team from the School of English & Media Studies, especially Janet Lowe, and the CoHSS office staff, particularly Claire Grant.  Our technical team (Mark Steelsmith and Bekky Boyce) deserve a medal for their patience with setting up a video link system so that we could beam in great creative thinkers without racking up a jet fuel ecological footprint.

Massive thanks also to our fabulous conference assistant Pipi Reisch, plus a wonderful team of Massey student ambassadors and interns for helping on the day. Huge thank you!

Our gratitude also to the New Zealand Centre for Global Studies team, most particularly our wonderful Create1World Master of Ceremonies, Professor Chris Gallavin.


Chris Gallavin is a poet, a former barrister, an expert on international criminal law, and has also worked in community law. He is currently a New Zealand Centre for Global Studies trustee, and Massey University College of Humanities & Social Sciences Deputy Pro Vice-Chancellor.


Twitter: @ChrisGallavin


Last but definitely not least, thank you Wellington City Council Creative Communities Scheme for enabling us to provide free buses to bring the further-out schools into Wellington for Create1World. Thanks for helping us inspire the next generation of global creative citizens, WCC!


Where to Next?


Please… keep creating, keep taking action, and keep thinking globally about solutions.   Don’t stop believing that you can make a difference, because you can.  It sounds like a cliché but it’s true – you are the future. Imagine a better one.

  • If you enjoyed the Massey students’ Climate Change Theatre Action demonstration event during the day, the global programme is still ongoing, and you can be part of it by making a Climate Change Theatre Action event in your lounge-room, school or community any time up to December 6!


  • Every second Wednesday at Massey Wellington campus during term time, we have FREE artistic performances to which school students are invited. Follow the Arts on Wednesday Facebook page for details, at (We have also hosted school students’ performances at Arts on Wednesday in the past – let us know if you would like to share your work with us!)


  • Join a social movement or community group, and remind them how fantastically a bit of creativity can contribute new energy and ideas to their aims. See for a great list of volunteering opportunities.  Sometimes nonprofit groups get so caught up in the cause that they forget about creative methods.  Remind them!
  • Learn more about how to be a creative activist! Massey University’s Expressive Arts major, available in the Bachelor of Communication, is an interdisciplinary curriculum that is unique in the world.  It teaches students to combine different creative forms to better connect with the world around them and use the arts and creativity to develop new ways of communicating about and dealing with tough issues facing our planet.  See more at:    Or check us out on Youtube at:
  • Follow the Massey University School of English & Media Studies Facebook page for details of future courses you can study in Creative Writing, Theatre, Media Studies and Expressive Arts, at


Create1World – an antidote to climate grief

Activist/panellist Zimbabwean-Kiwi Makanaka Tuwe at the 2016 Create1World event.

Activist/panellist Zimbabwean-Kiwi Makanaka Tuwe at the 2016 Create1World event.

Climate grief and climate anxiety are real for this generation, say organisers of a Massey University event bringing together youth to share creative ideas and solutions to the climate crisis.

Hundreds of secondary school pupils will converge at Create1World conferences at Massey’s Auckland and Wellington campuses this month to take part in workshops, online and live panel discussions as well as view performances by poets, film-makers and musicians. The aim of the event, now in its fourth year, is to inspire and foster hope among young people in the face of daunting global issues confronting humanity, from climate change impacts to poverty, deforestation, plastic pollution and social inequality.

Create1World is hosted by Massey’s School of English and Media Studies and the New Zealand Centre for Global Studies. Co-organisers Dr Hannah August and Associate Professor Elspeth Tilley say many young people they have spoken to during the year are feeling angry and frustrated.

“Climate grief is real and it has many of them in the grip of fear and anxiety,” Dr Tilley says. Taking action “is a logical and healthy response to feeling frustrated and disempowered, which is just one of the many reasons why the school strikes are so important,” she says.

“Creative action is also an important form of response. It can be accessible to more people – not everybody is able to participate in a protest march – and it can help process emotional responses through catharsis or inspiration.”

Winners of the Create1World Activism and Global Citizenship competition will be announced at each of the conferences (Wellington on November 14 and Auckland on November 21). Finalists’ work includes slam poetry, music, theatre, a poem in te reo Māori, and speeches on topics ranging from refugees and climate change to sexual consent.

Professor Chris Gallavin (left) with Fatimah Khan, from Newlands College, reading her creative writing in 2018. She is a finalist this year too.

Professor Chris Gallavin (left) with Fatimah Khan, from Newlands College, reading her creative writing in 2018. She is a finalist this year too.

Art to displace fear
Dr August says using creativity to channel fear and concern about pressing global issues helps by bringing a human focus and increasing awareness. “Art and creativity can make a difference both to the person doing the creative work and to the audience they share it with.”

Wellington highlights include creative activist Waylon Edwards, of Whakatōhea, Ngāti Pikiao, Ngāi Tai and Ngāti Hine, and Diane Wong, who will beam in live from New York via an interactive video feed to talk about her work with Chinatown Art Brigade, an intergenerational cultural collective that uses the power of art to advance social justice.

Wellington-based actor, musician, writer and director Moana Ete, of Ngai Tahu and Samoan descent, and Abhishek Majumdar, an environmental and human rights playwright who will participate via a live feed from the United Arab Emirates, will also be on panel discussions.

Wellington attendees will also be treated to a Climate Change Theatre Action demonstration performance by Massey University Expressive Arts students.

Workshops at Wellington include feminist media making with Dr Claire Henry, broadcast skills with Ilja Herb, performance poetry with Dr Tilley, and creative nonfiction with Associate Professor Ingrid Horrocks, all staff members in the School of English & Media Studies.

Highlights for Auckland are Robbie Nicol, aka White Man Behind a Desk, who makes videos for social media to raise political awareness and engagement, and Alice Canton, an award-winning theatre director known for her work using theatre to tell the stories of Auckland’s Chinese community. Workshops by Massey’s award-winning creative writers and theatre practitioners, including Professor Bryan Walpert, Dr Jack Ross, Dr Rand Hazou and Stuart Hoar, are also on the agenda.

Secondary school pupils or teachers interested in attending Create1World are invited to register now, on:

or check Facebook page:


Creating waves, performing change: Climate Change Theatre Action Aotearoa 2019

Key dates of Climate Change Theatre Action AotearoaPresented by the Wellington Creativity in the Community class of 2019, Climate Change Theatre Action (CCTA) Aotearoa 2019 – Ngaru Ngaru – is a multi-disciplinary fusion of theatre, performance art and practical action on climate change.

CCTA Aotearoa 2019 is part of the global Climate Change Theatre Action movement led by The Arctic Cycle, the Center for Sustainable Practice in the Arts, and Theatre Without Borders. CCTA is a worldwide series of readings and performances of short climate change plays presented biennially to coincide with the United Nations COP meetings.

Our CCTA Aotearoa event features four official Climate Change Theatre Action 2019 plays: Abhishek Majumdar’s ‘The Arrow’; Jordan Hall’s ‘The Donation’; Matthew Paul Olmos’ ‘Staring her Down’ and Stephen Sewell’s ‘The Reason’. The programme also features a zero-waste, anti-fast-fashion-inspired performance art promenade piece utilising litter found on our campus. Plus, two brand new devised performance poetry and movement works in which Māori and non-Māori students are working together to express how learning from Indigenous Māori values of spiritual connectedness with land, and kaitiakitanga (guardianship), can help us all reconceptualise the path forward for transforming the way we live.

Our event acknowledges the Te Reo Māori (Indigenous language) concept of ‘Ngaru Ngaru’, which translates roughly as ‘Riding the Wave’ or ‘Surfing the Wave’, but could also imply ‘Being the Wave’. Ngaru Ngaru is the third iteration of Massey University School of English & Media Studies at Wellington’s creative response to climate change. In 2015 we delivered ‘Waves’, starting ripples of climate change conversation and action within the community. In 2017 we followed up with ‘Still Waving’, to inspire our audiences that there is still hope in addressing the effects of climate change – things are dire, but we are not drowned yet.

This year, with ‘Ngaru Ngaru – Surfing the Wave’, we embrace the idea that now a global wave of people power is building, and there is a groundswell of action and hope that we can all find collective strength from. In our commitment to our creative work, we have been inspired by the School Strikes for Climate, Extinction Rebellion and similar groups. We are adding our creative voices to their courageous action, to inspire through arts, performance, and provocative street theatre. Together we are a global wave of change on many fronts.

a global wave of people power is building

As well as being a creative intervention, our event takes practical action by delivering on measurable targets of reducing, reusing, recycling and repairing to reduce our waste and carbon footprint wherever possible. Anything remaining in our calculations we are offsetting with native tree plantings (come to our events and you could get a free kawakawa seedling!).

We are documenting and tracking our carbon reduction efforts in order to develop and test a shareable ‘Carbon Neutral Theatre’ template for other future creative events.

– Wednesday October 16, 12.30pm, 5D14 Theatre Laboratory, Te Kunenga ki Pūrehuroa i Te Upoko O te Ika (Massey University Wellington Campus), Aotearoa (New Zealand). The full show with all our CCTA plays plus the devised and performance art works.

– Thursday October 17, 5.30pm, 5D14 Theatre Laboratory, Te Kunenga ki Pūrehuroa i Te Upoko O te Ika (Massey University Wellington Campus), Aotearoa (New Zealand). The full show with all our CCTA plays plus the devised and performance art works. Also features readings from our creative nonfiction class (who have also been working on ecological creativity) plus free vegan pizza for everyone!

– Saturday October 19, various waterfront & CBD locations, including Parliament Gardens, Lambton Quay and Cuba Mall, Te Whanganui-a-Tara (Wellington City), Aotearoa (New Zealand). A selection of our devised and performance art pieces translated into vibrant street performance. (Come for as little or as much as you like! Follow us on Facebook for exact times and locations!)

Follow us at for more details and updates counting down to Ngaru Ngaru – CCTA Aotearoa 2019. Join us, and be part of the tide of transformation.

Magazine of memories for aged-care residents

Dr Rand Hazou (third on right, back row) with students who created Reminisce.

Meeting residents in an aged care facility and turning their conversations about the past into a magazine of memories proved to be a rewarding project for Massey University students as much as for the elderly residents they befriended in the process.

The Auckland-based expressive arts students enrolled in the Creativity in the Community course – part of the Bachelor of Arts and Bachelor of Communication degrees – spent time with residents at Aria Gardens home in Albany to explore their memories of life in the 1950s and ’60s. They collaborated with residents, including two with dementia, to create a one-off magazine, called Reminisce, which they launched earlier this month in a special event at Aria Gardens.


Student Ella Brookhammer said at the launch that the students hoped to “enable those that we worked with to look back on their lives fondly and reminisce with us. I personally spoke with Emma, who, as a long-time magazine reader, had many pieces of advice that aided me in the editing process for this project. Her suggestions included having interesting stories and most definitely a puzzle page!”

The magazine included articles and illustrations to reflect the interests and passions of the residents, such as former mechanic Alistair. He shared his memories and knowledge with student Liam Cairns for an article titled ‘A Look Inside the Mechanic’s Workshop’. It focused on the rare Kiwi icon, the Trekka, New Zealand’s only domestically designed and produced car.

In other articles, Patricia shared her travel stories and adventures, including getting engaged to her husband at the Taj Mahal in India under the moonlight. ‘It was the best day of my life,” she says in the article.

Vietnamese-born Hak, who moved to New Zealand in 1982, revealed his secret recipe for his favourite noodle dish, a Vietnamese-Cambodian fusion of herbs, spices, meat and vegetables.

Theatre lecturer and course convener Dr Rand Hazou, a specialist in applied and community theatre, says the course is designed to give students an opportunity to apply their creative skills and knowledge within a specific community context. “Working in groups under close supervision, students conceptualise, design, produce and then evaluate creative art projects within a specific community setting.”

Community engagement

“The course not only provides students with a creative and artistic outlet on a social issue – it helps to develop their project management and stakeholder engagement skills as well as their confidence,” he says. “Ultimately, it aims to show students that they can think of an idea for a creative community project, draft a brief, and apply for funding to help deliver a project to a community in need.”

By partnering with Aria Gardens, an aged care facility close to Massey’s campus in Albany, the students focused on delivering creative interventions that explored issues of positive ageing and dementia, Dr Hazou says.

“According to Alzheimers New Zealand, two out of every three New Zealanders are touched by dementia. For a third of New Zealanders, dementia is one of the things feared most about ageing. The partnership with Aria Gardens gave us a unique opportunity to engage with some of the issues surrounding ageing and dementia, and find creative interventions that challenge negative stereotypes within the wider community.”

Aria Gardens manager Paul France said of the project: “I loved the approach the students took with our residents. It was obvious they probed beneath the surface and understood their passions, motivators and things that bring them happiness.

“You could feel the pride in our residents as their contribution was showcased and it made them feel special being given their own two-page spread in such a prestigious and creative magazine.”

Dr Hazou emphasises that the course is designed to make students not just “work ready”, but what is being called in the pedagogical literature “world ready”. “It aims to develop their capacities as adaptive, engaged and responsible citizens,” he says.

These learning motivations are also reflected in Massey’s innovative BA programme, which was re-designed several years ago to include new core papers on cultural identity and belonging, local and global citizenship, and community engagement.

Published in Channel Magazine, Issue 100 July 2019.

Theatre and masks reveal life behind prison walls

Mask artist Pedro Ilgenfritz and Dr Rand Hazou prepare for the performance of Walls That Talk. (Photo credit: Sarah Woodland).

Stories of prisoners’ lives usually stay locked up – but a group of male prisoners in Auckland has had the chance to study performance techniques and to share their experiences of being behind bars through a special theatre project led by Massey University.

Walls That Talk: Ngā Pātū Kōrero – a documentary theatre project led by applied theatre specialist Dr Rand Hazou – has been in the making for the past few months and culminated in a recent performance to a select audience at Auckland Prison, Paremoremo.

“Despite our high incarceration rates, we hear very little about the reality of prison life, and the personal experiences of those caught up in the criminal justice system remain largely invisible,” Dr Hazou says. “The aim of this theatre project was to challenge this invisibility by allowing the voices of prisoners to be heard on stage.”


Arts in prison a human rights issue

The theatre project provided a creative and therapeutic forum for prisoners to reflect on and better understand their life experiences both inside and beyond the prison walls. Dr Hazou says access to the arts in prison is also a human rights issue. “We need to be supporting engagement with the arts in prison because corrections is a system that often de-humanises people,” he says.

Comments from participating prisoners captured the impact of translating their stories into art.

“It added to my confidence,” according to one. “It’s given me more encouragement to do things, so a bit more direction of how I want to do things. So, when I see something, and I put my mind to it, I know I can do it, so it’s given me that motivation to keep pushing on. I didn’t really think I could do this stuff; it’s been a bit of an eye opener for me. It’s given me a bit of a sense of connection too, a sense of unity.”

Māori model of health to build new walls

In creating the production, Dr Hazou developed interview questions based on Te Whare Tapa Whā (the four cornerstones, or sides, of Māori health) – a model developed by Sir Mason Durie.

“We asked questions about physical health, emotional wellbeing, spirit or wairua, and family health. We then worked with [scriptwriter] Stuart Hoar to pull extracts from the transcribed interviews into a play that the men then performed. The play deals with issues of wellbeing from the experience of the prisoners in Te Piririti [sex offender treatment programme at Auckland Prison].”

Dr Hazou, a senior lecturer in theatre in the School of English and Media Studies at the Auckland campus, says the indigenous model of wellbeing, using the metaphor of the wharenui or meeting house with four walls, was central to the theatre work. “These walls include taha tinana [physical health], taha wairua [spiritual health], taha hinengaro [mental/emotional health], and taha whānau [family health]. Within this holistic model, each wall is necessary to the strength of the building.

Walls That Talk: Ngā Pātū Kōrero is part of a larger project called Prison Voices, a creative collaboration with Dr Sarah Woodland from Griffith University in Brisbane. It includes recorded interview material with the participants at Auckland Prison to be edited into a creative audio work or radio drama.

Dr Hazou has worked across a variety of creative and community contexts. These include in Palestine in 2004, when he was commissioned by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) to travel to the Occupied Territories to work as a theatre consultant running workshops for Palestinian youth. His research on asylum seeker and refugee theatre has been published in international journal articles.

He is coordinating the Performing Arts and Justice Symposium (September 5-6) at Massey’s Auckland campus in Albany to bring together performers, arts practitioners, researchers and justice professionals to explore the potential of theatre and the creative arts to transform the justice system.

Visit the webpage for information on keynotes and registration.

Published in The Channel Magazine, Issue 101 August 2019.


Horse Comedy a Trifecta for Massey Playwright

Theatre lecturer and playwright Associate Professor Elspeth Tilley has notched up an artistic trifecta with her third consecutive win at the British Theatre Challenge, this time with a dark comedy about the horse racing industry.

Dr Tilley, from the School of English and Media Studies, has won numerous awards locally and internationally for her plays – often using humour and absurdity to address serious social, ethical and environmental issues. She describes her latest winning short play, titled Fabio the Great, “a hilarious horse-eye view on humanity”.

In it, three horse characters muse on and argue about the perils of their existence while providing an comical, yet insightful, commentary on human behaviour. Fabio is the name of the stallion who spouts platitudes about the thrill of winning and being a champion, despite the pain and risks he endures. His equine companions (a mare and a gelding) urge him to escape before he, too, loses his manhood and fighting spirit to the emasculating scalpel.

The 10-minute play (which won Best Play at Pint Sized Plays New Zealand earlier this year in Queenstown) was one of five winners selected from around 300 entries from around the world for the UK competition run by Sky Blue Theatre Company. Each play will be professionally produced, performed and filmed in London in the first week of October, something Dr Tilley is thrilled about as there a few opportunities to professionally stage short plays in New Zealand.

Dr Tilley, who was winner in 2017 with her play Waiting for Go – about people’s addiction to cars – and in 2018 for Bunnies and Wolves – a reality show critique of the public/private health system, says she likes to use humour to get audiences thinking freshly about issues and aspects of culture that are accepted and taken for granted. Like horse racing.

“The play is a hard punch of anti-animal-cruelty, even to the extent of describing the death toll by over training of two-year-old horses, the brutal medical procedures, the doping to keep an injured horse racing), yet it’s wrapped in the soft glove of character-based comedy,” she says. “There’s actually a lot going on for a 10-minute play that deliberately and disarmingly starts off with an inane fart joke!”

Elspeth Tilley’s award-winning play Fabio the Great uses humour to probe the ethics of horse-racing (photo:Unsplash/Jeff Griffith)

Politics and humour can co-exist

The recognition for the play confirms, she says, that “political work – work that in this case has a strong message about animal rights, with some feminism thrown in for good measure – can win open competitions”.

Not that she is aiming to judge people who like horse racing. Rather, she hopes the play might inspire them to think more critically about the industry beyond the glamour of women dressing up for a race meet in heels, frocks and fascinators, the beauty and speed of the horses and big money to be made as a punter or industry participant. After all, she once had her own part to play – as a student in Australia in her 20s, she earned money to fund her studies working as an actor and model promoting horse racing on the Gold Coast.

Elspeth Tilley’s award-winning play on the dark side of horse racing touches on ideas of why humans feel they are a superior species (photo: Unsplash/Sarah Olive)

Humans vs animals

On a more philosophical note, she says the play touches on ideas of ecological equity, questioning the notion of why humans put themselves at the top of a species pyramid, and the assumed narcissism of seeing ourselves as superior to all other species.

“All three of my works that have made the winners’ list in this competition have been political works – the first one about climate change, the second about public health, and now this one with a strong message against the horse racing industry. To me, this shows that being political doesn’t disadvantage a theatre work in any way –  the works are comedic, but it’s comedy with a message.”

Dr Tilley, who rigorously researched the racing industry and equine welfare before writing the play, says she hopes her success will reassure those of her students who “seem to think that being funny and being political are mutually exclusive. But the long history of political satire shows they are elements that are stronger together.”

Dr Tilley says she’d like to see “a whole new generation of expert satirists – I think it is an increasingly important way to speak truth to power and get people thinking critically. I hope this encourages more young people to use the arts to get their own social justice measures across. It is possible. It works.”

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