Michael Cathcart

Michael Cathcart is best known as the longstanding and much loved host of ABC Radio RN’s popular Book and Arts Daily.  Michael joined ABC in 2000 as the presenter of Arts Today, later presenting the Famous Radio National Quiz, Rewind (for ABC TV), RN Bush Telegraph, and RN Books and  Arts.  His current shows include The Book Reading, Books and Arts, The Hub on Stage, and The Quiz.

Michael Cathcart was born in Melbourne in 1956—the year that television came to Australia. He was educated at Melbourne Grammar, the University of Melbourne, ANU and a tyre factory in Port Melbourne.  Michael studied English and History at the University of Melbourne, where he became deeply involved in theatre — a passion which has never left him. He has since worked as a theatre director, script editor and dramaturg. He has also taught courses in Australian culture and history at Deakin University and at the University of Melbourne, from where he has a doctorate. He has worked as a schoolteacher, university lecturer and theatre director.

Michael Cathcart’s book is The Water Dreamers: The Remarkable History of Our Dry Continent is  the long-awaited history that will change the way Australians think about their country. The Water Dreamers is the story of the settlement of Australia: of the scarcity of water and the need to fill an imagined silence with the sounds of civilisation. From the moment the First Fleeters stepped ashore, water determined progress. The Tank Stream that flowed through what is now the Sydney CBD provided fresh water until settlers and their livestock fouled it. Then water from a nearby swamp was piped into the growing settlement. When it ran dry sights were set further afield. The Water Dreamers is an illuminating account of the ways people have imagined and interpreted Australia while struggling to understand this continent and striving to conquer its obstacles. It’s an environmental history and a cultural history with an unmistakable sense of how, today, we are part of that continuing story.


Defending the National Tuckshop (1988)

Manning Clark’s epic A History of Australia (abridged)

An anthology of Australian speeches.

The Water Dreamers


Winner, Colin Roderick Award, 2010

Shortlisted, Prime Minister’s Literary Awards, Non-fiction, 2010

Shortlisted, NSW Premier’s Literary Awards, Douglas Stewart Prize for Non-fiction, 2010



Julian Burnside AO QC, Richard Fidler and Anna Broinowski with Michael Cathcart as Chair.

11.45 am - 12.30 pm
ENTRY with Weekend Pass


Hannie Rayson and Michael Cathcart interviewed by Angela Murphy.

2.15 pm - 3.00 pm
ENTRY with Weekend Pass


Michael Cathcart and Ashley Hay

4.15 pm - 5.00 pm
ENTRY with Weekend Pass