Meet Winnie Dunn

Winnie Dunn is making waves across the country, all emanating from her base in Western Sydney. A Tongan-Australian from Mount Druitt, she’s Manager and Editor at Sweatshop: Western Sydney Literacy Movement and a Bachelor of Arts graduate from Western Sydney University.

Winnie’s work has been published in The Lifted BrowCordite Poetry ReviewSydney Review of BooksThe Griffith Review and The Big Black Thing, and she’s presented at Sydney Festival, Sydney Writers’ Festival, and Wollongong Writers’ Festival.

Ahead of taking to the stage again later this month for Stella Girls Write Up program in Sydney, she had a chat to Thom about her influences, process, and what drives her.

Thom Smyth: How did you first get in to writing?
Winnie Dunn: I’ve always wanted to write ever since I can remember. As a kid I wrote silly journal entries and asked my parents for an expensive voice activated diary once. I really understood writing as a practice when I first joined Sweatshop. Sweatshop taught me the importance of critical thinking and writing and how it could transform not only my life but also other marginalised people’s lives. People of colour can use writing as tool of self-determination, equity and justice.

TS: What’s the driving force behind your work? Are there any issues or ideas or forms that you like to explore in your writing?
WD: Writing is a way to explore my intersections as a third-generation Tongan-Australian woman from Mt Druitt. I write to uplift Pacific and Pasifika communities, so that we can have a voice in mainstream Australian literature. I write for women of colour and for people of colour, to show that we are not alone.

Sweatshop writers Stephen Pham, Winnie Dunn, Maryam Azam & Shirley Le

TS: 5 + 5 is a bit of a writing experiment, bringing together five different voices to co-author a new script. Is the idea of working with other people on one project daunting? Or is it a nice change from the ‘solitary writer’ kind of stereotype?
WD: In Tongan culture, nothing is ever done in isolation. I remember my aunt bathing in the tub with me each night. My nana handfeeding me mushed food she had chewed in her mouth. Sharing a bed with my sister for almost twenty years, which is not unusual in a one-storey house filled with ten Fobs.  So I feel honoured to be able to write and work alongside Indigenous and culturally and linguistically diverse writers and arts practitioners. Such a process is often overlooked because Whiteness often rewards the ‘lone genius’ figure in reality and in literature, a figure that is almost solely a White man.

TS: Whose writing do you really admire? Who are your main influences?
WD: Books I admire: The Big Black Thing, Down the Hume by Peter Polites, The Lebs by Michael Mohammed Ahmad, The Hijab Files by Maryam Azam and Heat and Light by Ellen van Neerven. Reading these books is what it means to come to solidarity. To come home.

TS: What is a conversation Australia needs to have right now?
WD: I believe White Australia needs to get comfortable with not taking up space on issues surrounding race and racism. The masters cannot dismantle their own tools.

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5 + 5 will be written throughout 2018 ready for development and presentation by 2020.

Performing Lines is working with Sweatshop Western Sydney Literacy Movement, with support from Playwriting Australia.

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