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Australia’s newest senator is a straight talker yet to be schooled in the poker-faced way in which Canberra politics is played. “I know you fought my appointment, you two-faced slimy fuck,” she tells a political foe. “Let me tell you, mate, the average Australian would rather a used condom as prime minister than you, so you can fuck right off, you fuckin’ hypocrite.”

Deborah Mailman claps and tilts her head back in laughter when I repeat her jaw-dropping dialogue from the new series controversially titled Black Bitch for its premiere screening at Toronto International Film Festival in September, but which will be called Total Control when it airs locally on ABC TV in October.


When Karina Utomo returned as a teenager to Jakarta from Canberra, where her demographer parents gained their doctorates, she was worried.

Violence and intimidation were never far away in the country of her birth, and intergenerational Indonesian trauma could play out among her compatriots in the oddest ways. Then 14, the Java-born Utomo pondered her thin high-school history textbook and its rote learning of what she suspected was propaganda, fearing she might forget how to think for herself. It would be almost a decade before she learnt the truth about the event that defined Indonesia’s 20th century, the slaughter of half a million people in the anti-communist purge of 1965-66 and the advent of the Suharto era.




Fifty essays and dispatches on
what it means to be gay today.

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