The Scribe

Riverside Archives

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The Scribe

Venue Raffertys Theatre
Dates 26 November 2018
Category Cinema Screening

A film by Ruth Cullen

Featuring post-screening Q&A with director and producer Ruth Cullen, John Faulkner and Michael Cooney

Winner of Best Australian Documentary (2018 Antenna Documentary Film Festival), this compelling film is a must-see for political enthusiasts.

From deep within the engine room of politics comes the superb documentary on the ‘Donald Bradman’ of speech writing – Graham Freudenberg.

A powerful journey into one of the great minds of politics whose words shaped our fortunes. This untold perspective from someone at the epi-centre of the Australian government for nearly 50 years paints a remarkable picture of a political insider’s love of language and its power to change the country.

​Finally, the scribe becomes the orator.

“An absorbing and profound insight into the life and role of a political speech writer and Australian politics generally.” – John Warhurst, Emeritus Professor, School of Politics and International Relations, Australian National University

Classification: Exempt from Classification – All ages

Dates & Times:
Monday 26 November 2018 at 7pm

Political Speech Writer

Graham has written over 1000 political speeches in his career spanning more than 50 years.  Known as Australia’s first professional political speech writer he is revered across both sides of parliament.

He has been described as the “Donald Bradman” of speech-writing, Bob Hawke called him the “chameleon”.  

During the Whitlam years Graham was known as Whitlam’s ghost and they remained extremely close until Whitlam’s death in 2014.

Throughout the various slings and arrows of outrageous fortune Graham has remained in the engine of government, observing, influencing, and writing.

Finally the scribe becomes the orator.


Director/ Writer/ Producer

Ruth is one of Australia’s most experienced documentary makers.  She is known for her fearless and empathetic character portrayals and her willingness to seek out the untested.  Her films have screened at film festivals all over the world. As well as making films she has worked as: Industry Consultant to Screen Australia, Executive Producer (ABC – Arts & Entertainment) and is a former Head of Documentary at Australia’s premier film school AFTRS.

Chair of the Whitlam Institute

The Hon. John Faulkner was a Labor Senator for New South Wales from 1989 to 2015. Following his election to the Senate in 1989, Senator Faulkner held a number of ministries, serving as Minister for Veterans’ Affairs, Minister for Defence Science and Personnel, Minister for the Environment, Sport and Territories, Cabinet Secretary, Special Minister of State and Minister for Defence. He served as Leader of the Opposition in the Senate from 1996 to 2004.

He has also held a range of senior positions within the Australian Labor Party, including National President, twenty years as member of the National Executive and nine years as Assistant General Secretary of the New South Wales Branch. John Faulkner is well versed in, and passionate about the history of the Australian Labor Party. Prior to his political career, John worked as a teacher of children with severe disabilities.


Michael Cooney is an author, and former speech writer and policy advisor. He is currently the National Director of The Australian Republic Movement. Michael served as speechwriter to Prime Minister Julia Gillard, policy director to federal Labor leaders Kim Beazley and Mark Latham, and was the founding policy director of the progressive think tank Per Capita. Michael wrote The Gillard Project: My Thousand Days of Despair and Hope, about his speechwriter career. He was previously Senior Adviser at the HR Coombs Policy Forum, Crawford School of Public Policy at the  Australian National University and is the former executive director of the Chifley Research Centre.

My films have always been about bringing fresh perspectives onto the screen – somewhere where you haven’t been before. I wanted this film to feel like the viewer is spending a single night inside Graham’s mighty mind, pole vaulting around key influences and events.

This documentary is about a love of politics and why politics matter.  By focusing on Graham, I wanted to show the intelligence, the dedication and the passion that goes into the shadowy world of the political staffer – someone in the thick of things but one who is spared the public scrutiny and accountability that politicians face.  It’s a perspective that we haven’t seen on the screen in such an intimate and revealing way – until now.

The Scribe is also about the ties that bind, as it explores the symbiotic and unique relationship between Graham and Gough Whitlam which lasted for over 50 years – opposites in temperament yet an absolute meeting of the minds. Graham was frequently referred to as the ghost of Whitlam.  Gough described Graham as “my dearest friend and comrade”.

The Trump presidency has been a game changer in the language of governance and now is the time to reflect on just what that means for democracy and leadership – and the language of politics is the key to that.

Democracy is under threat and the way to preserve it is by engaging with the political processes not ignoring them. Traditionally, the scribe was the bridge between the intention and the audience. Now the scribe becomes the orator.

I am not one for nostalgia but in this instance the past has immense relevance today – regardless of one’s political persuasion.  ​

​Ruth Cullen
Director/ Writer/ Producer


Meet the Filmmaker: The Scribe (Screening and Q&A)

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Approximately 71 minutes (No interval)

Ticket Prices

Members Adult $12
Members Concession $9
Members 30 Club $9
Adult $15
Concession $12
F/T Student $12

Transaction fees apply

Screen $1.65