Q&A Winnie Dunn

Sue Crawford (NWG Inc) talks to Winnie Dunn (Sweatshop)  Photo: Tyler Aves. 

 A writer of Tongan descent from Mt. Druitt, Winnie Dunn is the general manager of Sweatshop Literacy Movement which has its home base at the Information & Cultural Exchange (ICE) in Parramatta. At Sweatshop, Winnie has edited and co-edited high-quality anthologies at an impressive rate of production. Contributors are a diverse range of talented local writers who through sharing with readers their own stories and perspectives, help displace the misrepresentation experienced by their communities. One notable example is two editions of Sweatshop Women, “Australia’s first and only publication produced entirely by women of colour”.

Winnie, you are a super busy person. In this quote from American Professor Patty Lowe talking about indigenizing universities, do you find the reference to leadership by people of colour relevant to your experience in Western Sydney and Australia generally? “… it does make a difference when people of colour are in leadership positions. The problem is sometimes there are so few of us that when we do wind up in leadership positions, we’re the only ones. And then you know, we end up by being over-extended.” ¹
Yes, the burden of representation is quite overwhelming but the work must be done to create equality and justice.

Do you have any advice for someone choosing, perhaps for the first time, to write for publication a work based on their lived experience? Are there issues about selfconsciousness, identifying real people, what perspectives and styles work best? 
Write like you’re dead, otherwise it’s not writing.

This year, Sweatshop launched a new anthology at the Sydney Writers’ Festival, Racism: Stories on Fear, Hate & Bigotry, to much acclaim. What was your role in creating this publication?
I was co-editor along with Kuku-Djungan writer Phoebe Grainer and Vietnamese Australian writer, Stephen Pham. If anyone is interested in learning more, please buy a copy at www.sweatshop.ws

Sweatshop, Diversity Arts Australia and Affirm Press have recently announced you will be the editor of Another Australia – a follow up to the very successful After Australia edited by award winning author and Sweatshop founding director, Michael Mohammed Ahmad. What can we look forward to from this new volume?
We can look forward to a continuation of bold and experimental stories from the best Indigenous writers and writers of colour this country has to offer. I’m honoured and humbled to be curating this collection with their stories.

Since you began writing and editing, plus engaging with audiences at festivals and on
radio and television, have you seen any appreciable movement towards better
representation of minorities in the arts and media here in Australia?
Yes, but it’s only just the beginning. Much more work needs to be done. It’s not over until we are all free.

Your own writing has been published in prestigious journals and you are writing your first novel through a 2019 CAL Ignite Grant. What do you most enjoy writing? Do you have a favourite among essays, reviews, fiction?
Writing is hard. Writing is work. It’s not to say that I don’t enjoy it but I take a very serious and hard-line approach to my writing. There are no favourites, I’m not a hedonist. All of my writing comes together to make one very cohesive body of work. Unfortunately, one of the first bodies of work written by a Tongan Australian about a Tongan Australian experience.

Please tell us a little about your experience of working in Parramatta. For instance, how long does it take you to commute! What do you see out of your office window? And since Parramatta is never quite the same from one week to another are there changes you regret? Are there some changes you welcome?
I recently moved to Fairfield so it’s a fifteen-minute train commute, which is lovely, especially considering I don’t drive. My office window looks out over a small park in North Parramatta. The only change I care about is that this is stolen lands. Let’s correct that…

Winnie Dunn has been published in the Sydney Review of Books, The Saturday Paper, Griffith Review, Meanjin, SBS Voices, The Guardian, Huffington Post, Southerly and Cordite. She holds a Bachelor of Arts degree from Western Sydney University.

¹ Patty Lowe, professor at the Medill School of journalism, Northwestern University and citizen of the Bad River Band of Lake Superior Ojibwe. Indigenizing Universities interview: 10 min mark. May 17, 2021