Bri Lee, best-selling and award-winning author of Eggshell Skull, was in conversation with Virginia Haussegger on Bri's new book, Who Gets to Be Smart: Privilege, Power and Knowledge, a forensic and hard-hitting exploration of knowledge, power and privilege.
In 2018 Bri Lee's young friend Damian is awarded a Rhodes scholarship to Oxford University. After a tour of Oxford and Rhodes House, Bri begins questioning her belief in a system she has previously revered. She learns the truth behind what Virginia Woolf described almost a century earlier as the 'stream of gold and silver' that flows through elite institutions and dictates decisions about who is be educated there. The question that forms in her mind drives the following two years of conversations and investigations: Who gets to be smart?
Interrogating the adage, 'knowledge is power', and calling institutional prejudice to account, Bri once again dives into her own privilege and presumptions to bring us the stark and confronting results. Far from offering any 'equality of opportunity', Australia's education system exacerbates social stratification. The questions Bri asks of politics and society have their answers laid bare in the responses to the Ramsay Centre for Western Civilisation, COVID-19, and the Black Lives Matter protests of 2020.
'Thoughtful, surprising and exquisitely written. Bri Lee once again challenges us to confront the structures that shape, and restrict, our understanding of the world.' Madison Connaughton. Editor of The Saturday Paper.
Bri Lee is an author and freelance writer. Her first book, Eggshell Skull, won Biography of the Year at the ABIA Awards, the People's Choice Award at the Victorian Premier's Literary Awards, and was longlisted for the 2019 Stella Prize. Her journalism has appeared in publications such as The Monthly, The Saturday Paper, Guardian Australia and Crikey. Bri, who was the 2020 Copyright Agency UTS Writer-in-Residence, is a non-practicing lawyer who continues to engage in legal research and issues-based advocacy.
Virginia Haussegger AM, a passionate women's advocate and communication specialist, is the former Chair and Founding Director of the 50/50 by 2030 Foundation, at the University of Canberra, where she is an Adjunct Professor. The Foundation has a singular focus on improving the representation of women in leadership and key decision making roles across all levels of government and public administration..
Virginia is an award-winning broadcast journalist and social commentator on women, power and the challenges of 21st-century leadership. She anchored the ABC's flagship TV News in Canberra from 2001-2016. She was the 2019 ACT Australian of the Year. In 2020 Virginia launched the popular podcast series BroadTalk, Australia's leading research-based Gender Equality media platform..
Professor Kim Rubenstein, FAAL, FASSA , Co-Director 50/50 by 2030 Foundation , Faculty of Business Governance and Law, University of Canberra, gave the vote of thanks