Don Dunstan

Flawless Jade by Barbara Hanrahan

by
November 1989, no. 116

Barbara Hanrahan has set much of her work on studies of childhood, sometimes childhood which is involved with fantasy and evil. Always, however, the children are presented through their memories of the minutiae of daily life, vignettes formed by detail, which is vividly presented, conveying the remembered sights, sounds, and smells of childhood and adolescence. Amongst the pictures of plants and pets, houses and relatives, one finds often rather scrofulous details; the hairs in grandpa’s nose, the squeezing of grandma’s blackheads, the smell in the pit dunny, the scurf on aunt’s scalp, the wetting of a bed, the snot discards on the carpet, the persistence of the dog’s penis, glimpses of adult (usually unattractive) bodies, spied­on sexual activity, and the groping of old men under girls’ skirts.

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Don Dunstan tended to divide those around him, even his parents. His father, Viv, moved from Adelaide to become a company man in Fiji. Peter Kearsley, a contemporary of Don’s who later became chief justice of Fiji, said Viv was ‘a fair dinkum sort of chap’, ‘the sort who would have been an office bearer in a bowling club’. His mother, according to Kearsley ...

When I was commissioned to write this review, I assumed that this book would be a conventional political biography. I looked forward to reading about Dunstan’s career as premier of South Australia (1967–68 and 1970–79), as his record of achievements showed that our states and territories have the potential to be powerful players in social and cultural reform. ...