by Aisha Noorani 


Language, perhaps, is not merely the endless attachment of letters to letters, and words to words. Perhaps, it is all and everything that can evoke something in you and me, or I and we. Perhaps, words allow the enslaved to be free,

the differences to finally agree,

the blind to see,

the hurt to be healed slowly,

the lost to find life’s precious key,

the silenced to witness an answer to their plea,

the friends to disagree,

the minds to develop progressively,

the hearts to flutter and flee,

the unjust to hear the final decree,

the broken to not be,

the people to live liberally,

and all that happens with the letters a to z.



Photo by Patrick Tomasso on unsplash.

dear sister


by Zoe Sorenson


Your plants are still here.

I guess that’s kinda obvious

since you couldn’t really fit multiple potted plants

(or stupid kid-brothers)

in the one duffel bag you packed when

you decided to leave forever.


Still, you loved them so much.

I kinda figured that, if anything, you’d

come back for them.

I don’t understand how you could

leave them behind.


You gave so much of yourself to

the things you loved—

your attention and care

became their own kind of magic.

Now would be a really good time

for you to use those superpowers of yours

to reappear

and the plants can be happy again.


It’s only been a little while since you left,

but already they’re starting to wilt.

I don’t know if it’s ’cause of

the time that’s passed,

or if they somehow know that you’re gone.

Maybe they’re just

grieving in the way they know best.


I’ve tried so hard to help.

I’ve tried so hard to keep alive

the one thing left of you.

But nothing I do is enough and

I’m going to lose them just like

I lost you so please

just come home. I need you

to fix it like you always do.


Your flowers miss you.

I miss you.

I want my big sister back.




Image by Yulia YasBe on shuttertsock.

an unfortunate introduction

by Shawnee Neal


My supervisor’s voice was barely audible over the sound of my heartbeat thumping in my ears. It was the first time we were having a group meeting to discuss our work over Zoom and I was so full of adrenaline that I could hardly concentrate. I scanned the faces of the four other interns on the screen, searching for any sign that they were feeling the same way, but they seemed to be collected and hanging onto our supervisor’s every word.

‘Shawnee, you’re up first,’ my supervisor said, snapping me out of my daze.

The glare reflecting in her thick, black glasses mirrored the image of my work on the screen. She pushed her hair back over her shoulder and quickly introduced my article.

‘Okay, so this article is called 5 things I’ve learnt in therapy that I wish I’d known sooner. Let’s workshop this together.’

I could feel my heart beat faster and my cheeks flush as she scrolled down the page. I was familiar with the uneasy feeling of having your work critiqued in public from my past experiences workshopping at university, but I’d worked so hard writing and editing this article, so I really believed in it.

‘This is wrong’, my supervisor snapped as she started reading. The other interns sat in silence anticipating her comments. ‘Disclaimers, trigger warnings and helplines should always go at the end of an article.’

Immediately taken aback, I opened my mouth to argue that disclaimers and trigger warnings should always appear before content. However, I felt it would be disrespectful to correct our supervisor, so I held my tongue and wrote the feedback down.

‘This opening line is too soft. I need the sexiest, juiciest parts at the top to draw the reader in… this, too, this whole first section can probably be reduced to one line.’

For the next half an hour, she continued dissecting the piece line by line and repeating the words ‘too soft’, ‘unnecessary’, ‘clunky’ and ‘long-winded’. With every word she said, I felt myself getting smaller and more embarrassed. Eventually I could barely lift my eyes from my notebook to the screen.

I continued to sit in silence as she worked her way through the document, nodding and smiling when I felt like I should.

‘Yeah, look, I see what you’re trying to do here,’ my supervisor said, ‘but it needs to be more nitty-gritty and real. I want to know why you go to therapy. I want to know what anxiety and depression is like for you—like, when you say you’ve had an anxiety attack, what thoughts go through your head? You know? I think you could get rid of a third of—this… fluff—and just focus on the hard-hitting stuff.’

‘Thank you.’ I said, forcing a smile and wiping my sweat-soaked palms on my trousers.

‘And everyone, just as a head’s up, please don’t send me the first drafts of anything. I want to see your third, fourth, or maybe even fifth draft to give feedback on. Otherwise, it’ll just be a waste of everyone’s time. Okay?’

My stomach sank deeper with every word, knowing that this wasn’t my first draft– it was my fourth.

‘Thank you,’ I said, again. And with that, she moved on.

When the Zoom call finished, I sat in silence for a while and stared numbly at my frozen reflection on the empty, black screen in front of me. I took some time to breathe and centre myself before I tried to move. Eventually, I closed my laptop and dragged myself to the kitchen where Mum was sitting at the dining table.

‘Oh, honey,’ Mum said as soon as she saw me. ‘What happened?’

I sat down beside her and hugged my knees to my chest. She rose from her chair and enclosed me in her arms as I told her everything.

‘That’s so wrong,’ she said as I let out another slow breath. ‘You can’t ask a person to write about something that they’re not comfortable with—and you shouldn’t have to write it.’

‘But maybe this will give you a thicker skin when it comes to your writing.’ Mum offered after another moment. Despite still feeling the sting of my supervisor’s words, I knew Mum was right.

‘Tell you what,’ Mum said, ‘how ‘bout you take a break and I’ll make you a coffee.’ I thanked her as she flicked on the kettle.

I pushed my chair out from the table, sulked back to my room, and opened my laptop. There was still a weight on my chest as I opened my article, but I inhaled deeply and got to work. Finding motivation amongst the vulnerability was difficult, but I had made a commitment to this program, and I was determined to honour it. Taking some of my supervisor’s feedback onboard, I cut the word count down by a third and considered the parts of the article I’d like to elaborate on.

I soon realised how uncomfortable I was with discussing the darkest parts of my mental illnesses, let alone writing about them. My mind drifted back to a memory of my psychologist asking me to write down my thought spirals in a Cognitive Behavioural Therapy exercise. I remembered thinking how silly and irrational my thoughts seemed when they were on paper, but I continued with the exercise. When I showed them to my therapist, she laughed at one of my notes, saying ‘Why would you think that?’. At the time, I laughed it off, but her reaction had felt like a pin in my heart. I realised the comments from my supervisor had hurt me in the same way.


The weeks that followed were challenging, and I found that I didn’t have the energy to revisit the article. I couldn’t bring myself to write it, as something always held me back, so I let it be, and turned my attention to something new. I worked on an article for a university assignment, and deciding I had nothing to lose, I submitted it for consideration for publication at a literary journal.

I was still sitting in front of my laptop when I got an email from one of the other interns I had been working with. There was no message, just a link to an article online. I began reading.

The article stated that the publication we were interning for had been using unpaid writing interns to create most of the pieces for their social media pages, online publications, and magazines—often without crediting the author. A lot of the former interns’ experiences described in the article mirrored my own. Similarly to the interns before us, we were expected to write outside of our allocated work hours and despite how it seemed when we applied, it was unlikely that we would be employed once the internship program finished.

After reading the article, I felt strangely relieved. It finally made sense to me why I had hesitated to write my article—it had been my intuition telling me something was awry, and subsequently I decided to leave the program. I found some comfort knowing that this was not the norm for internships, and that there are programs out there that are amazing and truly value their interns. However, knowing that mine was no longer a company that I could support, I opened my email and began typing my letter of resignation.

Just as I was about to close my laptop, I received an email notification—it was from the literary journal that I had submitted my second article to. The familiar sensation of hearing my heartbeat thumping in my ears returned, as I held my breath and clicked on the email.

Dear Shawnee, it is my pleasure to inform you that we have accepted your piece for inclusion…

I cupped my hand over my mouth. I had just quit my first role in the literary industry, and astonishingly, another opportunity arose almost instantly. I couldn’t believe it.

Once again, I was sitting in front of my laptop feeling overwhelmed, but this time it was with pure joy.

Image by Maksim Goncharenok from Pexels.


contemporary communication: reviewing ngv triennial


by Miao-Chia Chen

The NGV Triennial 2020 presented a series of contemporary design and artwork collections, featuring a stunning visual experience and thought-provoking views by multiple artists and designers. Various recent projects demonstrate the creative process and outcomes based on both our history and our modern technical advancements. This exhibition review will introduce and analyse some of the art and design works exhibited in the NGV Triennial.

efik Anadol, Quantum Memories, 2020, multimedia artwork.

Refik Anadol, Quantum Memories, 2020, multimedia artwork.


Greeting art-goers as they arrived on the ground floor of the NGV, this large-scale multimedia artwork visualises a 3-dimensional animation formed by artificial intelligence (AI) and quantum computing. The media artist, Refik Anadol, explores the possibilities of creating artwork with the latest technologies. Different from traditional painting, it seems to announce to the whole world just how exciting the future potential for art and design can be.





Celine Bendixen, Cloud Formations, 2020, textile

Celine Bendixen, Cloud Formations, 2020, textile

Jim Shaw, Capitol Viscera Appliances Mural, 2011, acrylic paint.

Jim Shaw, Capitol Viscera Appliances Mural, 2011, acrylic paint.








The cloud formation by Celine Bendixen practices the blending of design, science, and art craft. It was handmade from textile to capture a skyscape based on the natural phenomena of clouds. Furthermore, one of the paintings exhibited in the same room, Capitol Viscera Appliances Mural, by Jim Shaw, is one of the most iconic US pop culture art pieces. His work presents the vision of a dreamlike cloud in the aftermath of the second world war.

The clouds were displayed in a room with a range of the NGV’s 19th and 20th-century collection. However, the 21st-century artwork did not feel out of place. Rather, the peaceful power of nature emanating from the clouds draws the audience to the countless wonders in the world around us.



Daniel Arsham, Falling Clock, 2020, fibreglass, plaster, paint.

Daniel Arsham, Falling Clock, 2020, fibreglass, plaster, paint.


Another iconic artwork in NGV Triennial is the Falling Clock, which was displayed under the Hidden Figures 2020 series. The artist, Daniel Arsham, used plaster to sculpt the form of draped fabric, presenting the design principle of movement. Arsham’s work mainly focuses on his idea of archaeology. He explores the fictional possibilities and imagines how everyday objects, such as a clock, may look in the future.




Crystallisation – Bioplastics, plants, mineral-based materials.

Most products nowadays have been designed for product standardisation and mass manufacturing. As awareness of environmental sustainability grows, more and more designers are devoted to eco-friendly or renewable materials. The reasons for these projects are to rethink our reality and define the possibility to protect nature.

Erez Nevi Pana, Crystalline, 2020, salt, clay.

Erez Nevi Pana, Crystalline, 2020, salt, clay.


The components in Crystalline, 2020, by Erez Nevi Pana, were made in Israel’s Dead Sea area. The piece examines the metamorphosis of raw material to practice the growth of crystal and natural processes. The project not only aims to interpret the need for restoration of the Dead Sea area, but also the possibility of introducing salt-based architecture for housing, tourism, and public works.



Alice Potts, Dance Biodegradable Personal Protective Equipment (DBPPE) post COVID facemasks, 2020, bioplastic (fibres from sweat crystals, algae, food waste, etc.).

Alice Potts, Dance Biodegradable Personal Protective Equipment (DBPPE) post COVID facemasks, 2020, bioplastic (fibres from sweat crystals, algae, food waste, etc.).

Another item on display in this series, is a set of biodegradable personal protective equipment masks, designed by Alice Potts. She emphasises the dramatic increase of single-use plastic waste globally, especially that of medical equipment during the ongoing COVID–19 pandemic. Therefore, here comes the design Dance Biodegradable Personal Protective Equipment (DBPPE) post COVID facemasks. The bioplastic masks were 3D-printed using filament, mainly made from food waste and dyed by her local flowers in London. Her design was used in 2020 as a support for the PPE shortages in the United Kingdom.



Elliot Bastianon, Chair from the Growth Sites Series, 2018, blue crystal, steel, copper sulphate.

Elliot Bastianon, Chair from the Growth Sites Series, 2018, blue crystal, steel, copper sulphate.


Furthermore, the series of conceptual objects in the room is the furniture modelled by Australian designer, Elliot Bastianon. During his making process, the steel pieces were submerged in a copper sulphate bath to make the blue crystals adhere. His design encourages people to rethink the intersection between our human-centred society and the systems of our environment.

It is clear these critical design works are not for long-term practical use. However, they do successfully open a conversation for sustainable design development. This demonstrates to the public how designers around the world are experimenting in finding ways for a more sustainable future.



Historical Collection

Stuart Haygarth, Optical (Tinted), 2009 designed; 2018 manufactured, prescription spectacle lenses, micro cable, electrical components.

Stuart Haygarth, Optical (Tinted), 2009 designed; 2018 manufactured, prescription spectacle lenses, micro cable, electrical components.

Stuart Haygarth, Optical (Tinted), 2009 designed; 2018 manufactured, prescription spectacle lenses, micro cable, electrical components.

The large crystal-like chandelier, Optical (Tinted) 2009, is composed of more than 4500 recycled prescription spectacle lenses. It illuminates the surrounding areas from the core with the refraction of light by the layers. It is astonishing that it can be mass manufactured and the details of the product itself were considered.


Jonathan Ben-Tovim, An ode to the airbag, 2019, driver airbags, steel, fan, LEDs, timber.

Jonathan Ben-Tovim, An ode to the airbag, 2019, driver airbags, steel, fan, LEDs, timber.

Jonathan Ben-Tovim, An ode to the airbag, 2019, driver airbags, steel, fan, LEDs, timber.

An ode to the airbag 2019, is a standing lamp that consists of several airbags. Ben-Tovim intends to highlight the Takata airbag tragedy in 2016. The airbag is widely used as a lifesaving technology and can be found in most new cars throughout the world. The design acts as a reminder of the interconnectedness and fragility of design and manufacturing. Additionally, the airbag reveals not only the best but also the worst aspects of the production chain.

Rive Roshan, Amsterdam (design studio), Ruben de la Rive Box (designer), Golnar Roshan (designer), Colour dial table, sunrise light, 2020, colour print, laminated glass.

Rive Roshan, Amsterdam (design studio), Ruben de la Rive Box (designer), Golnar Roshan (designer), Colour dial table, sunrise light, 2020, colour print, laminated glass.

Rive Roshan, Amsterdam (design studio), Ruben de la Rive Box (designer), Golnar Roshan (designer), Colour dial table, sunrise light, 2020, colour print, laminated glass.

Lastly, the design, Colour dial table, sunrise light 2020, displayed as part of a broad range of projects, is a circular glass table with hues of colour on the glass surface. Its intent is to use the glass as a lens and create the changing of lights during the daytime. The designers use the forms and coloured glass to interact with its environment. In terms of functionality, the work is considered at the intersection between art and design.



It is fascinating to see how artists and designers communicate to their viewers through their works. People use their pieces to raise discussions, inspire others, and continue writing human’s history. I am personally thankful to NGV for providing this great opportunity to learn from these outstanding works in a combination of contemporary art and design.


photography by Miao-Chia Chen

claiming frontiers


by Milieah Brett

They said we had it all figured out. That it was our duty to take our message out there. To expand. Look outwards and forwards. But my dispatcher hasn’t contacted me for days, and no one even knows my name out here. How can I keep track of any message, how can I keep a hold of who I even am. I’m too far forward. I’m too far out.

The crash was 6 cycles ago now. Lt. Fifteen had transported us through the Lumin Sector of orange Lepidoptera lights and purple gas collectives. The second half of that sector is still uncharted, blackspace, but we’d pushed out further than that, past the C-boundary. He had pointed us down to the first Silver Class planet, just Twelve and I, after all the rest had been assigned to earlier celestial bodies, and we took the shuttle out as instructed, direct through orbit.

The Mothership was barely a dot in the sky when the engines malfunctioned and zapped our external vis. Gravity kicked out the landing gear and crushed the hull into surface debris — a solid landing if ever there was one. When we crawled out of the shuttle, it was clear the damage was enough to impede a journey through the outer atmosphere.

All the surface of the Silver Class was grey sediment, scattered with smooth circle formations formed by water movement from centuries ago. Twelve had to date it with a torchlight on his helmet and shaky hands on his line-laser, barely illuminated. A dark sun in the sky makes us feel unbalanced, untethered, despite any training.

‘It’s been too long,’ I’d said to him through comms, ‘There’s no life.’

Twelve’s sigh caused crackly feedback as he’d looked to the black horizon, our torches glinting perfect beams off the flat surface of the rocks.

‘We’ve been assigned to here,’ he’d replied. ‘There must be life.’

Three days we spent camping in the blackness, conserving our torches. We used them only to set up the sleeping dome on the first day, then to observe our equipment every morning. There was no sun cycle to adapt to.  A dark sun means no mornings and no nights, so we followed the Mothership time-loop on our suits, and used our sensors to navigate in our small radius. There was no sense in expanding exploration, not without a functioning exit off the planet.

I’d expected to see the fire-shine of another shuttle breaking through the atmosphere on the fourth day, after Mothership had registered the loss of the comm link, but there was nothing in the sky.

There was, however, something on the ground. It being so dark, the light in the distance was not hard to miss. It lit up the horizon as if the air was solid and concaved, amplifying its colour across the surface, turning smooth rocks to glowing stars. I pushed Twelve’s shoulder where he was sitting beside me, to alert him to look up from the data log he’d lent against the dome’s frame, and he did. I heard his breath halt over comms, the static crackling gone for a beat, my ears enveloped by the silence of the air around us. Then he was moving.

‘We need to establish a baseline,’ Twelve said to me, scrambling to pull out his responder.

‘Is it intelligent?’ I asked.

‘It’s the only thing seeking us out,’ he replied.

As it got closer, it got harder to see its form, our eyes straining to adjust. I polarised my filter, and when I held my gloved hand out in front of it, I could see its texture of imperfections. Pale green turning to white, turning to pale yellow, glowing around the outline of my fingers, eating up my shadow.

We weren’t scared then. This is what we do, and displaying peace in first contact is more important than our individual safety. Twelve set the emitter on the responder to the soft-humming four-time beat – communication A – and we waited for a response.

We couldn’t discern sounds from it. It became apparent that there weren’t any. The being seemed to roll along and float at the same time, no friction against the rocks despite touching them. The air was thick enough for sound to travel, and yet, aside from us there was only silence.

The light being stopped before us, and seemed to ooze outward, sinking across the rocks.

‘It must see us somehow,’ I murmured.

We cycled through the communication protocol carefully: the sounds, movements and visuals. All the while monitoring changes in air and energy spikes. Every reaction was the same, just a silent observer sitting before us. No movement or change.

The light was beginning to make my head ache.

‘It has to be light,’ I said. ‘Something about light. We could adjust our visuals, mix light, try to mimic their colour?’

‘That’s already been covered in communication Q to S.’

‘The Lepidoptera would’ve responded by now,’ I huffed.

In the following days, more of the Silver Class planet’s inhabitants approached, surrounding our camp. It made our torches obsolete, made reading our equipment easier, and gave us further opportunity to observe. However, we still hadn’t learned much about them. Twelve couldn’t find any differences in our readings from when we first landed to now, as if the beings weren’t there at all. I couldn’t discover how they were producing such luminosity, all the data defying analysis. Days were bleeding into each other, and nights were getting harder to sleep through as their numbers were increasing incrementally every few days, every cycle. The aggregate of their light grew brighter and reached further, but they never changed and never touched us, only watched us.

We made the decision halfway through the next cycle that we would push past their makeshift barrier. Mothership wasn’t looking for us, we needed resources, and we needed to be certain this was the intelligent life we were looking for. I couldn’t tell if it was the first being we had tried to make contact with, or another one that broke from the line that started following us. They all looked the same and they didn’t register in our readings.

When I walked between the beings, a phantom heat moved over me, mirroring the glow onto my suit, making the contrast of the dark horizon seem so cold and distant. I knew it was just my mind playing tricks on me, and I held my equipment more securely on my back.

The panic set in when we had walked two days and found nothing. We were forced to return empty-handed. The pale yellow light, still flittering over the rocks, guided us back.

On the third cycle, I’d had enough. Twelve could sense it in me, in the way I couldn’t answer his questions clearly and how I was fumbling the logs that day.

‘I’m going to touch them,’ I told him, and he’d baulked.


‘Think about it. They’re malleable, they sit by each other. How else do they communicate?’ The rationality was clear to me, the reason why they had been waiting around us so long, watching for something to happen. We had to make the move. ‘How else can we give our message?’

‘But…first contact protocol…’

He watched me as I walked out of the dome, directly to the line they still held. The light had gotten so bright I could barely see my hand as I lifted it to the being’s form, mound-like and blurry below me. I pushed, flat palmed, and met as much resistance as a sleeping pallet, its body curving about my hand.

The effect was immediate. Veins of deep green and blue spiralled out from the impression, and the being’s colour dimmed, fading from pale yellow to aqua to purple on the RGB spectrum. My heart dropped to my feet as I watched it dwindle before me, the surface of its form turning as glassy and dark as had been our reality for the first days on this planet. I pulled my hand back.

I saw Twelve run for me when I looked back, and I saw the row of light beings behind him expand in size, their width gushing out over the rock formations, their height reaching higher than the sleeping dome, higher than our shuttle. All their forms were joining, and we were flattened as they reached each other at the peak, closing out the darkness, blinding us in a whiteness as bright as a star.

That’s where I am now. Unknowing if my eyes are open or closed, unable to move. My suit AI has been tracking the days for me, and I’ve been writing my log through it, detailing as much as I can remember. I can’t hear Twelve, I believe our comms were muffled by whatever happened. I hope my suit will outlast me, and when the crew find me, they can access these logs still.

As for the message we were to pass on… I can’t remember it. Fifteen reminded us daily of the peace, of following the truth. But I don’t believe our truths apply to the beings here. So, then, what could be their truth?


Photo by Mikhail Nilov from Pexels

sudden writing comp winner: penumbra

By Evelyn Lee

Content note: this story contains mention of an animal death, and intimate partner violence. 

The boys tumble out of the sea, their golden limbs caught in the afternoon sun.

My boys, she thinks.

They drive silently, settling into the freeway as the sky begins to darken.

She pulls off the freeway and onto a long stretch of road lined with low-lying scrub. She flicks on her high beams and rolls down the windows. The air is warm and still. A cyclist comes around the bend; a flash of lycra in the car’s headlights. She speeds up.

The car’s headlights illuminate an irregularity in the road ahead. She slows then pulls over. It’s a wombat, knocked flat, its dark organs spewed across the road.

The wombat’s wide, blunt nose is laying in a pool of dried blood. When she gets closer she can see that there are flies nesting in the corners of its eyes. The stench of it cuts through the stillness.

There is no need to check for a joey. If there had been one, it would be dead by now.

She pulls two plastic bags from the boot of the car. Using the bags like gloves, she grasps the wombat’s hind legs and pulls, steering it carefully into the ditch beside the road. Its organs remain.

She looks back at the road and thinks, very briefly, of her own blood smeared across the bathroom tiles; caught in the fluorescent light.

Only the top of the wombat’s back remains visible, the coarse dark hairs glinting like broken glass in the car’s headlights.

She climbs into the driver’s seat and glances back at her boys. They are both asleep. The youngest has his left hand gripped around the lip of his plastic booster seat.

Good, she thinks. Better that they didn’t see that.


Evelyn Lee is a creative writing student in her third year at Swinburne. She loves short form fiction and fractured narrative structures.


Photo by J W via Unsplash