Essays and Commentary
White Papers are falling on Australia like confetti. We had two on foreign affairs and one on terrorism in the seven years to 2004; the third one on defence in four years will appear this year, and in October 2012 Ken Henry delivered Australia in the Asian Century. Defence White Papers are perennially concerned with Australia’s need for the material and mon ... More
It is a brilliant summer day in July 1935. The scene is a house called Green Ridges, near Hastings, Sussex. Two women, seated but not relaxed, face each other across a formal drawing room. This is the first time they have met. Nettie Palmer, Australian writer and journalist, has come to stay overnight with the novelist Henry Handel Richardson.
As novelist an ... More
With the centenary of Patrick White’s birth being celebrated this year, it seems appropriate to highlight the great legacy that White left Australian writers in the form of the Patrick White Literary Award. On 16 November, the 2012 Award was presented to novelist, short story writer, and essayist Amanda Lohrey, the thirty-ninth winner since the Award was first pre ... More
I’ve never looked at a big independent school in an established suburb and thought ‘that’s not fair’ … I look at a big independent school in an established suburb and think ‘that’s a great example’.
If Julia Gillard were to drive past the main campus of the Methodist Ladies’ College (MLC), a big ... More
An imperfectly remembered life is a useless treachery.
Barbara Kingsolver, The Lacuna
When my American mother-in-law died, the world financial markets went into a tail-spin. Melba was her name; her own mother, who migrated from Italy to New England in the late nineteenth century, was an oper ... More
After twelve years of building a vast online database of information about Australian literary culture, the consortium of universities responsible for the AustLit resource has decided that it is time for a major makeover. By the end of the year, AustLit will have a new look and will offer new ways of interacting with audience ... More
‘If Indonesia were a person,’ a good friend in Jakarta said to me, ‘it would be Goenawan.’ I know what she means. There is nothing black and white about him. He is a complex man, multi-faceted, charming and exasperating, full of conviction and contradiction, at once deeply patriotic and critical of his nation (which was born just five years after he was), so ... More
When Gore Vidal died a few weeks ago, his publisher issued a statement calling him the last survivor of a postwar crop of American literary giants. ‘It is hard to think of another … who cut as dashing and visible a figure in various public realms,’ said Vidal’s Doubleday editor, Gerald Howard. Less than a week later the obituary columns were taken over by ju ... More
Bricks, knowledge, gravity
‘I just read a history of bricks.’
We learn about the ways our teachers have influenced us over many years. As an undergraduate student at the University of Melbourne, I took every class taught by Professor Peter Steele SJ. More than a decade after I first ... More
By the time I found him twenty-five years ago in the Adelaide Hills, Glen McBride was old, tiny, spry, and ready to boast about his career. I doubt many readers have heard of this little man or know of his pivotal role in the literature of this country. That’s what had me knocking at his door. And though he disowned none of it in the hours we spent ranging over hi ... More