The Perth chapter of PEN International. PEN defends responsible freedom of expression, supports writers in prison, protects a free press, celebrates literature’s role across the globe, and promotes the linguistic rights of minorities.
Located on Whadjuk land in Perth, Western Australia, PEN Perth is one chapter of PEN International. PEN International is a non-profit organisation that works at the intersection of writing and politics. In particular, we campaign for the release of wrongfully imprisoned writers and advocate for the responsible freedom of expression. PEN International was started in London in 1921 and now has one hundred and fifty centres around the world including three in Australia and many more in our region.
PEN Perth is active on local and international issues. This includes questions of Indigenous incarceration, refugee detention, and a free press. We are a broad-minded group with active members from across the political spectrum who work together for a better society. Our activities include letter writing campaigns; talks, conversations and lectures; fundraising events including dinners, bake sales and movie screenings; and attendance of meetings here and overseas. PEN Perth aims to raise the consciousness of the public and encourage a world where writers are free to express themselves, responsibly and respectfully.
More about PEN Perth >>>
More about PEN Perth >>>
UPCOMING EVENTS / NEWS
2021 Chair’s Reflection...
As you all know, PEN Perth exists to support and strengthen the responsible freedom of expression. In the current historical moment, that matters more than ever.
At home, there are trials on defamation with Ben Roberts-Smith, Christian Porter and John Barilaro. Defamation is currently being weaponised by political figures to help silence dissent and avoid scrutiny. That issue has been covered by the media, but it also is cause for activist concern. It contributes to an atmosphere of fear that affects all citizens. It is a cop inside your head that tells you to be quiet when injustice is everywhere. That extends to Indigenous language sovereignty, fair access to education during lockdown, and to the rights of journalists to protect witnesses.
When we look beyond our shores, there are current concerns for our region, just like Chris Lin shared and there are concerns for our citizens. The former includes authoritarian regimes founded in violence that suppress freedom of expression. Many of whom have exploited the COVID situation to further entrench their power be that in Myanmar, India and Hong Kong. Australians are also caught up in this, most especially Yang Hengjun and Chau Van Kham, who both remain imprisoned in China and Vietnam respectively. We need to work for their freedom and secure their release just like we did for Kylie Moore-Gilbert and Peter Greste.
All of this leads to a reflection on what freedom of expression actually is. Many public opinion makers hide behind a false definition of this, use it as a way to kiss up and kick down, making vile, incendiary and inaccurate claims, especially against the marginalised. Freedom of expression does not mean you get to say what you want, especially not hate speech. It means respecting the rights and needs of others while speaking a truth for you, one that is grounded in reality and dialogue and data. To remember that freedom of expression is something to protect and enshrine also means being aware that it is something to be defined. It is a responsibility most of all.
— Robert Wood
2021 Annual General Meeting
THURSDAY 26 AUGUST, 5.30PM
CENTRE FOR STORIES
The 2021 Annual General Meeting of the Perth PEN Centre will be held at 5.30pm on Thursday 26 August at the Centre for Stories, 100 Aberdeen St, Northbridge.
We strongly encourage you to attend and learn about the Perth Centre’s many activities during the year, and to consider nominating for the Committee. Remember that imprisoned writers in particular need your support.
Please see the AGM Agenda here.
100 YEARS OF PEN
100 Years/100 Days Campaign
Starting on 3 May, World Press Freedom Day, PEN Perth is commencing its 100 Years/100 Days campaign which aims to celebrate PEN’s 100th anniversary by commemorating key moments in the organisation’s history, reflecting on our mission, and highlighting emerging issues which will shape PEN Perth’s direction as we move forward.
Over the next 100 days we will be featuring just some of the many people, issues, places, history, and words that have contributed to PEN’s story and that will inform its future as we celebrate 100 years of advocating for freedom of expression.
Follow along on Twitter and Instagram.
JOIN PEN PERTH
We are currently inviting new memberships and existing membership renewals for the 2019-20 year.
Membership to PEN is about participating in a community of fellow writers who are concerned with politics and the freedom of expression. Membership allows you to vote at the annual general meeting, attend PEN International Congress, contribute to the discussion and direction of PEN Perth, participate in local letter-writing evenings, and receive campaign alerts to take action. You might occasionally receive discounts on our tickets, but membership is not transactional in an economic sense, it’s about supporting an non-profit organisation you believe in.
Our AGM will be held on Thursday 22 August 2019, from 5.30-6.15pm at the Centre for Stories. We invite all members to attend.
We encourage members and non-members alike to come to our events, participate in our campaigns, write a letter to a government on behalf of an imprisoned writer, follow us on social media or simply subscribe to keep up to date on our work.
To become a Member of PEN Perth you must fill in a membership form, sign the PEN Charter, and pay an annual membership fee ($80 full / $40 concession). Linked here is a membership form (for new members) and here is a renewal form (for existing members) containing all the information you need on how to join or continue your existing membership for the next twelve months.
THE PEN CHARTER
The PEN Charter documents the core beliefs of the organisation, which each member must sign up to and support. They are a short statement of where PEN stands on the main issues that matter to us. Read them and get in touch if you have any questions.
PEN affirms that:
- Literature knows no frontiers and must remain common currency among people in spite of political or international upheavals.
- In all circumstances, and particularly in time of war, works of art, the patrimony of humanity at large, should be left untouched by national or political passion.
- Members of PEN should at all times use what influence they have in favour of good understanding and mutual respect between nations and people; they pledge themselves to do their utmost to dispel all hatreds and to champion the ideal of one humanity living in peace and equality in one world.
- PEN stands for the principle of unhampered transmission of thought within each nation and between all nations, and members pledge themselves to oppose any form of suppression of freedom of expression in the country and community to which they belong, as well as throughout the world wherever this is possible. PEN declares for a free press and opposes arbitrary censorship in time of peace. It believes that the necessary advance of the world towards a more highly organised political and economic order renders a free criticism of governments, administrations and institutions imperative. And since freedom implies voluntary restraint, members pledge themselves to oppose such evils of a free press as mendacious publication, deliberate falsehood and distortion of facts for political and personal ends.
PEN Perth is involved in a number of local, national, regional and international campaigns. We are firmly grounded in our place in the world and seek to be a good citizen no matter what public sphere we belong to. This includes thinking about our role in Australia, the Indian Ocean and South East Asia, as well as our historic and ongoing connections to Europe and North America.
Here are some campaigns and issues that PEN Perth feels strongly about 👉
One cornerstone of PEN International, is working for a free press. This is one of our central tenets and affirms the role of writers and journalists to have their say on matters of culture, economics, politics, the environment and religion. PEN Perth works on these matters to support writers at home and abroad who seek a robust free press. We are particularly committed to ensuring writers can work without censorship, sanction and intimidation.
One of the most public figures in the current refugee situation in Australia is imprisoned man Behrouz Bouchani. A journalist and writer, PEN (and the Melbourne Centre in particular) has been active in working for his release from detention. Behrouz is one of many hundreds of people who are denied their human right to seeki asylum. PEN Perth stands with refugees and seeks to have a balanced and informed public conversation about human rights on this issue.
In the digital era, PEN Perth is active on the issue of personal data use by multinational corporations. This means we hold discussions about the ability of companies to harvest and sell our information for profit and without our consent. This is an issue that affects all people and writers in particular precisely because data can be used for unwanted, political purposes.
PEN Perth maintains an interest in citizen surveillance by national governments. This includes campaigning for greater transparency and the policing of corruption, maintaining freedom of information, protecting the rights of voters, ensuring that citizens are able to conduct themselves privately within reasonable bounds.
Dictatorship & Democracy
PEN Perth is concerned with the rise of strong men across the world, from the Philippines to India, Turkey to America. We are committed to supporting writers and journalists in those countries as they are intimidated, jailed and killed for voicing their own perspectives and working towards stable and open democracy.
Responsible Freedom of Expression
PEN works for the responsible freedom of expression right around the world. This means maintaining an ability to articulate a perspective without being defamatory, false or malicious. In an era of fake news and with the rise of extremist minorities and governments, PEN Perth is committed to making our public debates forthright, honest and respectful.
Writers in Prison
At the apex of PEN Perth’s activity we are involved with a number of other Centres to ensure the release of writers and journalists who have been wrongfully imprisoned. This means being advocates for those who are in jail and working towards their release into a society that is safe and values them and their work. This is a fundamental tenant of PEN International and what we work hardest for.
If you have an issue you care about, please get in touch and we can discuss how you can be involved and how PEN Perth can help. We are interested in collaborations with all kinds of organisations and we can put on any number of fundraisers and events, including letter writing campaigns; talks, conversations and lectures; dinners, bake sales and movie screenings; conferences and meetings.