Education and Arts

'Writing the Sacred' Conference

The excitement generated by the ‘Writing the Sacred’ conference at Mt St Mary campus on 23 September harkened back to the popular Religion, Literature and the Arts Conferences run at ACU during the 1990s.

In 2012, as previously, the multi-denominational audience included artists, academics, students, members of religious communities and the wider public.

Amongst the 217 registered participants were authors Adam Aitken, Barbara Blackman and Marcelle Freiman, artists Juno Gemes and Annabelle Solomon, academics from the University of Sydney, UTS, the University of Western Sydney, the University of NSW and the Catholic Institute of Sydney, and students in the Clemente Program for disadvantaged and marginalised Australians.

The conference explored the interplay between the sacred and the arts, and the ways in which the arts can give voice to religious concepts which may not be articulated in theology and philosophy.

Much of the morning was devoted to the work of David Malouf, with David reading from several of his novels, and engaging in conversation with James Tulip, Michael Griffith and the audience. 

Jeannette Siebols' painting - The Sacred ConferenceDr Michael Griffith (left) and David Malouf in front of Jeannette Siebols’ painting “The Tower of Babel” which was the icon for the whole conference. Photograph taken by Clemente student Shayne Bowditch who is now studying for a BA at ACU

The visual arts were well represented.  Jeannette Siebols, whose painting, ‘The Tower of Babel’, was the key image of the conference, presented insights into her practice prior to the launch, by Peter Fay, of an exhibition of religious iconography by artists of Arts Project Australia, ‘Halo and the Glory of Art' at the McGlade Gallery.  Lachlan Warner subsequently spoke of his engagement with Buddhist thought in his own arts practice.

Papers were given by Barry Spurr on TS Eliot’s Four Quartets, and by Toby Davidson on the poetry of Francis Webb and, more generally, on his research into mysticism in Australian poetry.  The focus remained on poetry, with Robert Adamson reading from his work and talking with James Tulip and Michael Griffith about his engagement with the sacred.  A lively interchange between speakers, organisers and audience completed the day.

Writing the Sacred Conference(Left to right: Elaine Lindsay, Michael Griffith and Robert Adamson)

The conference was the first in a series of interdisciplinary conferences on spirituality and the arts. A community of interest, SLA (The Sacred in Literature and the Arts), has been established to foster continuing interest in the area. People wishing to join the SLA community and/or to contribute to future conferences should contact or

More photos from the conference can be viewed here.