The outspoken and award-winning playwright reveals why she isn’t afraid to tell the truth about Australia.

Patricia Cornelius is a playwright on a mission. “I want to tear us apart,” she tells me. “We are so deserving of it, and frankly, it’s the only thing we can do – talking about these things isn’t going to bring on a revolution. But we can, at least, scratch away at our conscience, scratch away at who we are, and reveal the truth about ourselves.”

The “us” to which Cornelius refers is Australia and the “things” that she believes we need to confront cover just about every grubby, inconvenient reality that exists in our society. “I want us to be critical of ourselves and understand the blatant contradictions of our nation,” she explains. “We think we’re so generous but we’re really so greedy. We think we’re the most multicultural, but we’re so white. There’s a huge amount of heat in these ideas, so it seems entirely right to be honest in the way they’re reflected.”

The Melbourne-based writer has made honesty, of the most brutal variety, her stock-in-trade for almost 30 years. As a founder member of the Melbourne Workers Theatre in 1987,...