Words at Wagstaffe

Saturday 18 March 2023 9:45 – 16:45
Wagstaffe Hall, 55 Wagstaffe Avenue, Wagstaffe, Central Coast, NSW.

DAY PASS $89 + booking fee

From the Frontline

Words at Wagstaffe, a one-day literary event held in partnership between Words on the Waves Writers Festival and The Bouddi Society, will return to Wagstaffe Hall on Saturday 18 March 2023. This will be the third year this much-loved annual event will be offered, with past speakers including Judy Nunn, Meg Keneally, Garry Linnell, Jane Caro, Grace Karskens, Dianne O’Brien and more. On each occasion the event has booked out to capacity.

In 2023, the theme for Words at Wagstaffe is From the Frontline. Each speaker is united by a common factor: they have all reported from the coalface of action, be it a war zone, a news room, or a high stakes political forum. These will be exceptional tales, and all true.

The doors will open at 9.00am, and the event will start at 9:45am with Acknowledgement of Country and welcome notes. Your promptness is appreciated.


9:45am – 10:00am


Introductions & ‘Acknowledgement of Country’

With thanks to Tim Selwyn of Girri Girra for the provision of Acknowledgement of Country. Girri Girra is a 100% Aboriginal-owned business operating on the beautiful NSW Central Coast.

10:00am – 11:00am

Through Her Eyes

Melissa Roberts & Kylie Morris 

From vicious media trolling to threats of sexual violence, the challenges women reporters face differ wildly from their male counterparts. Yet there is a long and gloried history of women strapping on a flak jacket and heading into the battlefield to uncover the real story. Melissa Roberts, editor of Through Her Eyes: Australia’s Women Correspondents from Hiroshima to Ukraine will be joined in conversation with former Washington correspondent and anthology contributor Kylie Morris.

11:00am – 11:30am


Book Signings with The Book Shop Umina

11:30am – 12:30pm

Navigating the News

Mike Carlton & Jan McLeod

From foreign affairs to naval history, well-known media figure Mike Carlton’s career has spanned 50 years and multiple time zones. He found acclaim as the ABC War Correspondent in Vietnam, Bureau Chief for Jakarta, and reporting on renowned TV shows Today Tonight and A Current Affair. But it was his three bestselling naval history releases that realised his life’s dream. We will hear more about his latest, The Scrap Iron Flotilla.

12:30pm – 1:30pm


Book Signings & Lunch Break

1:30pm – 1:45pm

The Bouddi Society

Previous winner of the Bouddi Foundation for the Arts Grant

Ashleigh Mounser & John Bell

Ashleigh Mounser is a previous recipient of the Bouddi Foundation for the Arts (BFA) grant. Ashleigh will be interviewed on her writing career by Bouddi Foundation for the Arts representative, John Bell.

1:45pm – 2:45pm

Secrets Beyond the Screen

Anita Jacoby & Benny Agius

Anita Jacoby AM is a noted advocate for women in media and leadership. Renowned as one of Australia’s most distinguished television producers, she’s produced some of the nation’s most credible programs. Anita’s fearless journalist spirit has seen her investigate stories like the Milat serial killer case through to an exclusive with Christopher Skase. But Anita faced her biggest investigation yet, with a tale so deep, it took her nine years to uncover – a tale she tells in her memoir Secrets Beyond the Screen.

2:45pm – 3:15pm


Book Signings with The Book Shop Umina

3:15pm – 4:15pm

The Consul

Ian Kemish AM & Clare Blumer

In The Consul, one-time Australian High Commissioner to Papua New Guinea and Ambassador to Germany Ian Kemish offers a unique and personal perspective on Australia’s foreign affairs challenges of the last two decades, from hostage diplomacy to natural disasters and evacuations from war zones. This is an insider’s account you will want to be front row for.

4:15pm – 4:45pm


Book Signings with The Book Shop Umina


Anita Jacoby AM

Anita Jacoby AM is one of Australia’s most distinguished television producers. During her stellar 40-year career, she rose to the top of the media industry as one of few women appointed Managing Director of an international production company, ITV Studios. Prior to this, Anita managed Zapruder’s Other Films alongside Andrew Denton, responsible for the highly successful Enough Rope, The Gruen Transfer, Elders, Country Town Rescue, AFP and Hungry Beast. Anita has worked in senior production roles with all of Australia’s commercial networks, the ABC, SBS and Foxtel on programs such as 60 Minutes, Sunday, Witness, Today and LAWS. Her work has received ten nominations and four AFI/AACTA Awards, a Logie Award, an Order of Australia Media Award, a Human Rights Award and an Asia Broadcasting Union Award.  A leading advocate for women in media and leadership, Anita is currently Chair of the ABC Advisory Council, an Associate Member of the Australian Communications & Media Authority (ACMA) and a Board member of Chief Executive Women, Documentary Australia and Women in Media. In 2019 she was awarded a Member of the Order of Australia. Anita has recently published her first book, Secrets Beyond the Screen.

Ashleigh Mounser

Ashleigh Mounser was Sydney Morning Herald’s Young Writer of the Year in 2012. She graduated from the University of Wollongong with a Bachelor of Creative Arts (Creative Writing) (Deans Scholar) in 2016, and from the Australian Film, Television and Radio School in 2018 with a Graduate Certificate of Screen Writing. Her work has been published by Spectrum, Furious Fiction, Outlook Springs, Melaleuca Blue Life Writing Anthologies, Needle in the Hay, Tales from the Pandemic: an anthology, Grieve vol. 9, WA’s Best Australian Yarn and The Henry Handel Richardson Society. Her debut feature film QUESTIONS AND COMMENTS premiered at festivals across Europe, America and South Africa and has received numerous laurels. Her first children’s novel is under contract with Ford Street Publishing and will be released mid-2023.

Benny Agius

Benny Agius (Moderator)

Benny Agius has been in the book business for over 40 years, and currently MD of Welbeck Publishing. She has worked on many bestsellers including The Tattooist of Auschwitz and  The Happiness Trap, and has worked with many international publishers taking Australian authors to a wider audience. She is also one of the founding members of the Words on the Waves Writers Festival and proudly calls the Central Coast home.  

Clare Blumer

Clare Blumer (Moderator)

Clare Blumer is the Executive Producer of youth current affairs behemoth triple J Hack. She’s the recipient of Walkley, Quill and Kennedy Awards for her work at the ABC.

Ian Kemish AM

Ian Kemish AM served as Australian High Commissioner to Papua New Guinea, Ambassador to Germany, Head of the Prime Minister’s international division, and Head of the consular service in a diplomatic career that spanned twenty-five years. He was awarded membership of the Order of Australia for his leadership of Australia’s response to the 2002 Bali bombings. Ian is an adjunct Professor in history at the University of Queensland, a non-resident fellow with the Lowy Institute, a director of the Australia–Indonesia Centre and an Honorary Fellow of Deakin University. Ian is also actively engaged in the international development and not-for-profit sectors, and writes regularly on Indo–Pacific strategic issues. The Consul is his first book.

Jan McLeod (Moderator)

Jan McLeod holds a PhD in History from the University of Newcastle, where she worked in academic and professional roles until retiring in 2021 to pursue her own research and writing. Jan’s research is centred on Australian military medicine, and she has served on the judging panel for the C.E.W. Bean Prize for Military History. Her first book, Shadows on the Track: Australia’s Medical War in Papua 1942-1943, was published in 2019 as part of the Australian Army History Collection. In 2020, she was awarded an Australian Army History Research Grant to assist with the writing of her forthcoming book, Mopping up the Casualties: Caring for Australian soldiers in the South-West Pacific Area 1943-1945. Jan’s most recent book, All The Broken Soldiers: Private Kennedy’s War, was released in November 2022.

John Bell (Moderator)

John Bell is one of the nation’s most illustrious theatre personalities. Award-winning actor, acclaimed director, risk-taking impressario and torch-bearing educationalist, Bell has been a key figure in shaping the nation’s theatrical identity as we know it over the past 50 years.

As co-founder of Nimrod Theatre Company, Bell presented many productions of landmark Australian plays, and in 1990, Bell took on an even greater challenge, founding The Bell Shakespeare Company.

Bell’s unique contribution to national culture has been recognised by many bodies. He is an Officer of the Order of Australia and the Order of the British Empire; has an Honorary Doctorate of Letters from the Universities of Sydney, New South Wales and Newcastle; and was recognised in 1997 by the National Trust of Australia as one of Australia’s Living Treasures.

As an actor and director, his many awards include a Helpmann Award for Best Actor (Richard 3, 2002), a Producers and Directors Guild Award for Lifetime Achievement and the JC Williamson Award (2009) for extraordinary contribution to Australia’s live entertainment industry.

Kylie Morris

Kylie Morris has reported for the ABC, BBC and Channel Four News UK over the past three decades, with postings in the Middle East, Kabul and Bangkok. In 2014, she was appointed Washington correspondent by Channel Four News, and returned to Australia in 2019. She lives with her husband, Bharat Nalluri, two children and their dog in Newcastle, New South Wales. She travels with a lucky compass. She has been appearing on ABC radio, hosting programs such as Late Night Live.


Melissa Roberts

Melissa Roberts covered China for Time Magazine, the Christian Science Monitor and The Daily Mail as a freelance journalist from 1988 to 1990 covering the chaotic years around the Tiananmen Square uprising. She has worked as a staff correspondent for The Australian in Sydney and Papua New Guinea, reported on federal politics from the press gallery, and covered Singapore and Australia for Newsweek magazine. Melissa has written five children’s books and is co-editor of The Beijing Bureau, published by Hardie Grant Books in 2021.

Mike Carlton

In a working life of more than 50 years, Mike Carlton became one of Australia’s best-known media figures. He has been a radio and television news and current affairs reporter, foreign correspondent, radio host and newspaper columnist. Mike has had a life-long passion for naval history and has penned four books on the subject: Cruiser, First Victory, Flagship and his most recent book, The Scrap Iron Flotilla.

Tim Selwyn (Girri Girra)

Tim honours the ancient history of his people and the spirits of his ancestors through art and teaching. His ancestral line comes from the Wongaibon people (Central West NSW), his Mother was born in Dubbo on Wiradjuri country and Tim was born in Gilgandra, on Wailwan country. Tim now resides on Darkinjung and Guringai land, given permission by elders to pass on and share knowledge of the Central Coast and its surrounds. Few know the land upon which they grow like Tim and his people. Along with a network of experts in cultural dancing, singing, bush medicine and tucker, Girri Girra is committed to sharing this knowledge through firsthand experience, guiding people through this ancient country, its history and customs.

Event Partners

The Bouddi Society

The Bouddi Society is a community group which organises public events and publications aimed at displaying and fostering the artistic, historical and cultural life of the local community. It administers the Bouddi Foundation for the Arts which is dedicated to supporting and encouraging young artists on the Central Coast of NSW.

Central Coast Newspapers is a locally owned and based public interest news service that publishes across multiple platforms; in print, online, on mobile, social media, audio/video and subscription services.

The Book Shop

The Bookshop is your local independent bookstore with a great range for Adults, Children and Babies including both Fiction and Non-Fiction. We specialise in getting those hard to find titles or with recommendations for all ages – we love our books and we would love to help you.

Support our Festival

As a not-for-profit organisation run with a small team of volunteers, contributions of any size go a long way in enriching the creative culture of our community. The Committee includes local Peninsula residents passionate about bringing the arts to the Coast. We are seeking support from the community to help us create a wonderful and inclusive festival.