Julia Banks’ new book is part of a 50-year tradition of female MPs using memoirs to fight for equality


James Ross/AAP

Joshua Black, Australian National University

Political memoirs in Australia often create splashy headlines and controversy. But we should not dismiss the publication of former Liberal MP Julia Banks’ book, Power Play, as just the latest in a genre full of scandals and secrets.

There is a long tradition of female parliamentarians using memoirs to reshape the culture around them. Banks — whose book includes claims of bullying, sexism and harassment — is the latest to push for equality and understanding of what life is like for women in Canberra.

The power of a memoir

There are many ways to tell your story — from social media posts to podcasts and speeches to parliament.

But there is something enduring about memoir. Sales figures aside, the political memoir can be a significant event. The inevitable round of media interviews, book tours and literary festivals can allow an author to stamp their broader ideas onto the public debate and shed light on the culture of our institutions.




Read more:
The ‘madness’ of Julia Banks — why narratives about ‘hysterical’ women are so toxic


They also have the advantage of usually being written when women have left parliament, and no longer need to place their party’s interests ahead of all others. Indeed, Banks tells us that her story is that of “an insider who’s now out”.

It started with Enid Lyons

In 1972, Dame Enid Lyons (the first woman elected to the House of Representatives and wife of former prime minister Joe Lyons) published Among the Carrion Crows.

In her memoir, she offered a compelling insight into how she dealt with the male-dominated environment of parliament house. She recalled feeling like a “risky political experiment”, as if the very “value of women in politics would be judged” by the virtue of her conduct. She joyfully described how her maiden speech had moved men to tears.

In that place of endless speaking … no one ever made men weep. Apparently I had done so.

She also recorded key moments when she had vigorously presented her views in the party room and the parliament. She asserted the right of women to stand — and more importantly, to be heard — in parliament.

Encouraging women, challenging men

Since Lyons, women have continued to use autobiographies to promote women’s participation in politics and challenge the masculine histories of political parties.

When the ALP celebrated its centenary in 1991, it was the male history that was celebrated. Senator Margaret Reynolds (Queensland’s first female senator) “decided that the record had to be corrected”.

Former Labor minister Susan Ryan.
Former education minister Susan Ryan wanted to encourage other women to go into politics.
Lukas Coch/AAP

Reynolds’ writings on Labor women occurred alongside the ALP’s moves toward affirmative action quotas in the early 1990s. As well as a memoir, she wrote a series of newsletters called Some of Them Sheilas, and a book about Labor’s women called The Last Bastion. In it, she recorded the experiences and achievements of ALP women over the past 100 years.

In her 1999 book, Catching the Waves, Labor’s first female cabinet minister Susan Ryan acknowledged there was “a lot of bad male behaviour in parliament”. But she argued this should not “dissuade women from seeking parliamentary careers”. Importantly, Ryan saw her autobiography as a collective story about the women’s movement and its “breakthrough into parliamentary politics” in the 1970s and 1980s.




Read more:
Why is it taking so long to achieve gender equality in parliament?


While Labor women like Reynolds, Ryan and Cheryl Kernot were publishing their memoirs, few Liberal women put their stories on the public record. Former NSW Liberal leader Kerry Chikarovski’s 2004 memoir, Chika, was billed as the story of a woman who

learnt to cope with some of the toughest and nastiest politics any female has ever encountered in Australia’s political history.

In 2007 Pauline Hanson published an autobiography called Untamed and Unashamed, telling journalists, “I wanted to set the record straight”. But these were exceptions to the rule.

Julia Gillard’s story

Following the sexism and misogyny that disfigured her prime ministership, Julia Gillard’s 2014 memoir My Story helped revitalise the national conversation about women and power. Hoping to help Australia “work patiently and carefully through” the question of gender and politics, Gillard promised to “describe how I lived it and felt it” as prime minister.

Former prime minister Julia Gillard at the Sydney Writers' Festival
Julia Gillard released her memoir in 2014, the year after she lost the prime ministership.
David Moir/AAP

Importantly, she held not only her opponents but also the media to account for their gender bias. Critics like journalist Paul Kelly derided Gillard’s version of history as “nonsense”, but the success of her account suggests otherwise. My Story sold 72,000 copies in just three years.

In her 2020 book, Women and Leadership co-authored with former Nigerian finance minister, Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, Gillard interviewed eight women leaders from around the world, further showing how gender continues to shape political lives.

The risks of writing

A political memoir can be fraught, however. After a decade in parliament, Democract-turned-Labor MP Cheryl Kernot published her memoir Speaking for Myself Again in 2002.
She had hoped it would argue the case for Australian women “participating fully” in politics to promote “their own values and interests and shift the underlying male agenda”.

Former MP Cheryl Kernot
Former MP Cheryl Kernot’s memoir release was overshadowed by controversy.
Julian Ross/AAP

But the release was quickly overshadowed by revelations of an extra-marital affair with Labor’s Gareth Evans (which were not in the book). Her book tour was halted amid the fallout. Kernot later despaired journalist Laurie Oakes — who broke the story — had managed to “sabotage people’s interest in the book”.

Others, such as Labor’s Ros Kelly, have told their stories in private or semi-private ways. Kelly’s autobiography was privately published as a gift to her granddaughter, but she also gives copies to women in politics, many of whom “have read it, and sent me really nice notes”.

Power in numbers

In the past five years, several women from across the political spectrum have published life stories.

In her memoir, An Activist Life, former Greens leader Christine Milne argued that women should perform feminist leadership rather than being “co-opted into being one of the boys”. In Finding My Place, Labor MP Anne Aly, showed women of non-Anglo, non-Christian backgrounds belong in parliament too. Independents Jacqui Lambie and Cathy McGowan used their memoirs to show female MPs can thrive without the backing of the major parties.




Read more:
Politics with Michelle Grattan: Former MP Kate Ellis on the culture in parliament house


Most recently, former Labor MP Kate Ellis published Sex, Lies and Question Time, which includes reflections on the experiences of nearly a dozen other women in parliament.

For fifty years, Australia’s female politicians have used their memoirs to assert the equal rights of women in parliament, party rooms, and the media. Drawing on that lineage, Banks is the latest to help reveal and disrupt the sexism and misogyny in political life.The Conversation

Joshua Black, PhD Candidate, School of History, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

Scribd Launches in Australia


The links below are to reports concerning the launch of Scribd in Australia.

For more visit:- https://publishingperspectives.com/2021/03/scribd-opens-a-digital-subscription-service-in-australia-covid19/
https://www.booksandpublishing.com.au/articles/2021/03/17/181240/scribd-launches-in-australia/
https://goodereader.com/blog/e-book-news/scribd-launches-in-australia

Hidden women of history: Eliza Hamilton Dunlop — the Irish Australian poet who shone a light on colonial violence


Portrait of Eliza Hamilton Dunlop (no date), colour photograph of oil painting
Wollombi Endeavour Museum

Anna Johnston, The University of Queensland

In this series, we look at under-acknowledged women through the ages.

Eliza Hamilton Dunlop’s poem The Aboriginal Mother was published in The Australian on December 13, 1838, five days before seven men were hanged for their part in the Myall Creek massacre.

About 28 Wirrayaraay people died in the massacre near Inverell in northern New South Wales. Dunlop had arrived in Sydney in February, and the Irish writer was horrified by the violence she read about in the newspapers.




Read more:
How can we achieve reconciliation? Myall Creek offers valuable answers


Moved by evidence in court about an Indigenous woman and baby who survived the massacre, Dunlop crafted a poem condemning settlers who professed Christianity but murdered and conspired to cover up their crime. It read, in part:

Now, hush thee—or the pale-faced men
Will hear thy piercing wail,
And what would then thy mother’s tears
Or feeble strength avail!

Oh, could’st thy little bosom
That mother’s torture feel,
Or could’st thou know thy father lies
Struck down by English steel

The poem closed evoking the body of “my slaughter’d boy … To tell—to tell of the gloomy ridge; and the stockmen’s human fire”.

The graphic content depicting settler violence and First Nations’ suffering made Dunlop’s poem locally notorious. She didn’t shrink from the criticism she received in Australia’s colonial press, declaring she hoped the poem would awake the sympathies of the English nation for a people who were “rendered desperate and revengeful by continued acts of outrage”.

An early life as a reader

Dunlop, the youngest of three children, was born Eliza Matilda Hamilton in 1796. Her father, Solomon Hamilton, was an attorney practising in Ireland, England and India. Her mother died soon after Dunlop’s birth, and she was brought up by her paternal grandmother.

Part of a privileged Protestant family with an excellent library, Dunlop grew up reading writers from the French Revolution and social reformers such as Mary Wollstonecraft.

In her teens, Dunlop published poems in local magazines. An unpublished volume of her original poetry, translations and illustrations written between 1808 and 1813 reveals her fascination with Irish mythology and European literature. She was deeply interested in the Irish language and in political campaigns to extend suffrage and education to Catholics.

Eliza Hamilton Dunlop, King John’s Castle on Carlingford Bay, Juvenile notebook, watercolour and ink.
Milson Family Papers – 1810, 1853–1862, State Library of New South Wales, MLMSS 7683

In 1820, she travelled to India to visit her father and two brothers. The journey inspired poems about colonial locations — from the Cape Colony (now South Africa) to the Ganges River — that explored the reach and impact of the British Empire.

In Scotland in 1823, she married book binder and seller David Dunlop. David’s family history inspired poems such as her dual eulogy, The Two Graves (1865), about the bloody suppression of Protestant radicals in the 1798 Rebellion, during which David’s father Captain William Dunlop had been hanged.

The Dunlops had five children in Coleraine, Northern Ireland, where they were engaged in political activity seeking to unseat absentee English landlords, before leaving Ireland in 1837.

Settler poetry and politics

When The Aboriginal Mother was published as sheet music in 1842, set to music by the composer Isaac Nathan, he declared “it ought to be on the pianoforte of every lady in the colony”.

The cover of the music score of The Aboriginal Mother.
Trove

Dunlop often wrote about the Irish diaspora in poems which were alternatively nostalgic and political. But she also brought her knowledge of the violence and divisiveness of colonisation, religion and ethnicity to her writing on Australia.

Her optimistic vision for Australian poetry encouraged colonial readers to be attentive to their environment and to recognise Indigenous culture. This reputation for sympathising with Indigenous people — and her husband’s arguments with settlers in Penrith about the treatment of Catholic convicts — were widely criticised in the press.

This affected David’s career as police magistrate and Aboriginal Protector: he was soon moved to a remote location. There, too, local landholders campaigned against his appointment and undermined his authority.

Indigenous languages

When David was posted to Wollombi in the Upper Hunter Valley, Dunlop sought to expand her knowledge of Indigenous culture, engaging with Darkinyung, Awabakal and Wonnarua people who lived in the area.

She attempted to learn various languages of the region, transcribing word lists, songs and poems, and acknowledging the Indigenous people who shared their knowledge with her.

Some of Dunlop’s transcription between English and the language of the Wollombi people, dated from 1840.
State Library of New South Wales

She wrote a suite of Indigenous-themed poems in the 1840s, publishing poems in newspapers such as The Eagle Chief (1843) or Native Poetry/Nung-ngnun (1848). These poems were criticised by anonymous letter writers, questioning her poetic ability, her knowledge and her choice of subject.

Some critics were frankly racist, refusing to accept the human emotions expressed by Dunlop’s Indigenous narrators.

The Sydney Herald had railed against the death sentences of the men responsible for the Myall Creek massacre, and Dunlop condemned the attitude of the paper and its correspondents. She hoped “the time was past, when the public press would lend its countenance to debase the native character, or support an attempt to shade with ridicule”.

Dunlop would publish with one outlet before shifting to another, finding different editors in the volatile colonial press who would support her.

Poetry of protest

Dunlop wrote in a sentimental form of poetry popular at the time, addressing exile, history and memory. She published around 60 poems in Australian newspapers and magazines between 1838 and 1873, but appears to have written nothing more on Indigenous themes after 1850. This popular writing also contributed to poetry of political protest, galvanising readers around causes such as transatlantic anti-slavery.




Read more:
Five protest poets all demonstrators should read


The plight of Indigenous people under British colonialism inspired many writers, including “crying mother” poems that harnessed the universal appeal of motherhood.

Dunlop’s poems The Aboriginal Mother and The Irish Mother are linked to this literary trend, but her experience of colonialism lent her poetry more authority than writers who sourced information about “exotic” cultures from imperial travel writing and voyage accounts.

In the early 1870s, Dunlop collated a selection of poetry, The Vase, but she was never able to publish. Family demands and financial constraints precluded it.

Eliza Hamilton Dunlop, Title page, ‘The Vase’, paper.
State Library of New South Wales, B1541

Dunlop died in 1880. Like many women of the time, her writing was neglected and forgotten, until it was rediscovered by the literary critic and editor Elizabeth Webby in the 1960s.

Webby identified Dunlop as the first Australian poet to transcribe and translate Indigenous songs, and as among the earliest to try to increase white readers’ awareness of Indigenous culture. Webby published the first collection of Dunlop’s poems in 1981.

Today, communities and linguists regularly use Dunlop’s transcripts for language reclamation projects in the Upper Hunter Valley.

Last year, 140 years after Dunlop’s death, Wanarruwa Beginner’s Guide — an introduction to one language of the Hunter River area — was published.

At the launch, language consultant Sharon Edgar-Jones (Wonnarua and Gringai) movingly recited one of the songs Dunlop transcribed: revitalising the words of the Indigenous women and men to whom Dunlop listened, when so few white Australians were listening at all.


Eliza Hamilton Dunlop Writing from the Colonial Frontier, edited by Anna Johnston and Elizabeth Webby, is out now through Sydney University Press.The Conversation

Anna Johnston, Associate Professor of English Literature, The University of Queensland

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

A controversial US book is feeding climate denial in Australia. Its central claim is true, yet irrelevant


Ben Rushton/AAP

Ian Lowe, Griffith University

My heart sank last week to see conservative Australian commentator Alan Jones championing a contentious book about climate science which has gained traction in the United States.

Cover of 'Unsettled' by Steven Koonin

BenBella Books

The book, titled Unsettled: What Climate Science Tells Us, What It Doesn’t, and Why It Matters, is authored by US theoretical physicist Steven Koonin. Notably, Koonin is not a climate scientist.

As the title suggests, the book’s bold central theme is that climate science is far from settled, and should not be relied on to make policy choices in areas such as energy, transport and economics.

Jones cited Koonin’s book in a Daily Telegraph column last week. He decried the “nonsense” of governments in Australia and abroad aiming for net-zero carbon emissions, saying it was as though Koonin’s book “didn’t exist”.

So does the book hold up? I have been researching and writing about climate change since the 1980s. I wanted to give the book a fair reading, so I put any preconceived thoughts aside and tried to fairly weigh up Koonin’s arguments. If true, they would be very important findings.

Koonin frames his book as a brave attempt to reveal how the climate science we’ve been relying on all these years is, in fact, uncertain. But the book’s major flaw is to imply these uncertainties are news to climate scientists.

This is patently untrue. Science is never settled. But there is enough confidence in the science to justify significant climate action.

'There's no Planet B' sign with smoke stacks
Scientific uncertainty does not justify climate inaction.
Shutterstock

Uncertainty is par for the course

Koonin opens the book by saying he accepts that Earth is warming, and humans are contributing to this. But he muddies the waters with passages such as the following:

Past variations of surface temperature and ocean heat content do not at all disprove that the (approximately 1℃) rise in the global average surface temperature anomaly since 1880 is due to humans, but they do show that there are powerful natural forces driving the climate as well.

In other words, Koonin says, the real question is “to what extent this warming is being caused by humans”.

Steven Koonin
The book’s author, Steven Koonin, is not a climate scientist.
Kelly Kollar

No rational person could deny that natural forces drive the climate. The climate record shows significant climate changes long before humans existed; clearly we’re not responsible for the planet being much warmer many millions of years ago.

However the five assessment reports of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change have expressed steadily increasing confidence that humans are the dominant cause of global warming this century.

Koonin attacks former US secretary of state and now Biden climate envoy, John Kerry, who once said of climate change “the science is unequivocal”.

It is true to say climate science is somewhat uncertain. Science is always a work in progress. Scientific integrity demands a willingness to look carefully at new data and theories to see if they require us to revise what we thought we knew.

But Koonin is wrong to imply scientists are somehow unaware of, or deny, this uncertainty. To the contrary, I have heard decision-makers express exasperation when we scientists seek to qualify our advice on the basis that our knowledge is limited.

Every reputable climate scientist I know is always willing to look at new data. But policy-makers must make decisions based on the current scientific understanding.

Koonin states, accurately, that few in the general public receive scientific information directly from research papers. Most people receive climate change information after it’s been filtered by governments and the media – which, in Koonin’s mind, often overstate the seriousness of climate change.

However Koonin fails to note the opposite forces at play – governments and media organisations, such as the Murdoch press in Australia and Fox News in the US, which systematically misreport climate science and underestimate the climate threat.




Read more:
Climate explained: why is the Arctic warming faster than other parts of the world?


Polar bears on melting ice
Humans are the dominant cause of global warming this century.
Shutterstock

Ignorance is not bliss

Koonin concludes by questioning the wisdom of reaching net-zero emissions in the second half of this century – a central goal of the Paris Agreement. He argues that when one balances the cost and efficacy of slashing emissions “against the certainties and uncertainties in climate science”, the net-zero goal looks implausible and unfeasible.

This is effectively an assertion that ignorance is bliss: because we don’t have perfect understanding that allows us to make exact projections about the future climate, we should not take serious action to reduce emissions.

Koonin proposes a different response: for society to adapt to a changing climate, and embrace “geoengineering” technology to artificially control Earth’s climate.

Both adaptation and geoengineering have their place in the climate response. But neither are sufficient substitutes for dramatically cutting carbon emissions.




Read more:
Solar geoengineering is worth studying but not a substitute for cutting emissions, study finds


wind turbines
The world must urgently reduce emissions.
Shutterstock

Proceed with caution

Under the Hawke government, science minister Barry Jones was one of the first public figures in Australia to sound warnings about climate change.

Jones and I both appeared on a panel at a landmark climate conference in 1987. I recall Jones, when asked how decision-makers should respond, said we should consider the consequences of both acting and not acting.

If policymakers acted on inaccurate climate science, Jones argued, the worst that would happen is our energy would be cleaner – albeit, at that time, more expensive. But if the science was right and we ignored it, the consequences could be catastrophic.

Jones was essentially describing the precautionary principle, which is contained in a number of international treaties including the UN’s Rio Declaration, which states:

Where there are threats of serious or irreversible damage, lack of full scientific certainty shall not be used as a reason for postponing cost-effective measures to prevent environmental degradation.

The principle demands we act to avoid disastrous outcomes, even if the science is uncertain. Because the uncertainty works both ways: things might get worse than we expect, rather than better.

The fundamental point of Koonin’s book is true, but irrelevant. The science is not settled – but we know enough to act decisively.




Read more:
Even without new fossil fuel projects, global warming will still exceed 1.5℃. But renewables might make it possible


The Conversation


Ian Lowe, Emeritus Professor, School of Science, Griffith University

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

2021 West Australian Young Readers’ Book Awards Shortlists


The link below is to an article reporting on the shortlists for the 2021 West Australian Young Readers’ Book Awards (WAYRBA).

For more visit:
https://www.booksandpublishing.com.au/articles/2021/02/18/162734/wayrba-2021-shortlists-announced/

2021 Victorian Prize for Literature Winners


The link below is to an article reporting on the winners of the 2021 Victorian Prize for Literature.

For more visit:
https://www.booksandpublishing.com.au/articles/2021/02/02/162048/mckay-wins-100k-victorian-prize-for-literature/

‘Famously fed up’. How the work of feminist writer Kate Jennings changed Australia


Text Media

Nicole Moore, UNSW

Any social movement needs inspiration. It needs people who can imagine a different future and, more than that, make that future graspable.

Kate Jennings did that for the Australian women’s movement — with her incandescent anger, her sharp tongue and her courage, ready and able to speak straight into the face of power. Her death, in New York aged 72, offers a moment to reflect on the role of writers and literature as forces of social transformation.

many women are beginning to feel the necessity to speak for themselves, for their sisters.

i feel that necessity now.

When Jennings lined up for her turn to speak at a Vietnam moratorium rally on the lawns of Sydney University in 1970, she was a half-drop-out from Sydney’s English Department, living in Glebe.

With the group of determined women libbers at her back, she perhaps wasn’t clear what her speech would do — that it would effectively inaugurate second-wave feminism in Australia and help it become a movement with its own momentum. A new chapter for the world’s longest revolution. But she did know that the time had come.




Read more:
Brazen Hussies: a new film captures the heady, turbulent power of Australia’s women’s liberation movement


When the speech appeared as a performative poem in her 2010 retrospective collection Trouble: Evolution of a Radical, she recalled that the group had conceived it as deliberately incendiary.


Black Inc

“Call the speech what you like — agitprop, political theatre, over the top, in your face — but we were genuinely angry, famously fed up. I wrote the speech at a boil: we were getting nowhere asking the men in the movement to listen to us.”

Written from within the mix of galvanising struggles then being fought around the world, the speech tore shreds off those for whom women’s issues were secondary or trivial. She compared the number of Australian men who’d died in Vietnam with the number of women who’d died from illegal abortions.

It was a shocking thing to do then: a similar comparison, now, of the victims of domestic violence to the number of Australian soldiers lost to recent conflicts or suicide, would be met with outrage too. The speech was hardline, uncompromising, militant.

okay i’ve stopped trying to understand my oppressor

i know who my enemy is

i will tell you what i feel, as an individual, as a woman

i feel that there can be no love between men and women

And that passion came from poetry. It wasn’t the theorists or social commentators who inspired the radical feminism powering the speech, she recalled, but the eloquence of visionaries.

In 2010, she listed Robin Morgan, Ti-Grace Atkinson, Valerie Solanas’s SCUM (Society for Cutting Up Men) Manifesto as her touchstones. This was writing that was “unafraid to be emotional, luminous with rage,” she recalled. “Manifestos and poems that jumped off the page. I loved it.”

Mother I’m Rooted

Jennings’ other extraordinary contribution to the transformational feminism of the 1970s is one of its most revelatory — the huge, collaborative women’s poetry collection called Mother I’m Rooted, published in 1975.

Its confronting title is a distillation of the protest and exhaustion she saw in the poems. With Alison Lyssa, another poet and activist, she planned an anthology as inclusive as possible and advertised for poems — “trying to reach the women Out There”. Within two months they had over 500 replies.

The final volume lists 152 poets, including established ones, unknowns with new feminist pseudonyms, seasoned activists from the old left and many names that would go on to make their marks. It has experimental, Greek-Australian writers contesting the definition of poetry and forthright, white, working-class women writing about the washing — though no First Nations poetry.

It is a beautiful social document now, broken up by lambent photographs of ordinary women together. And its call for women’s control over not just what counted as poetry but over the publishing process itself was hugely influential, arguably changing the literary landscape in Australia forever.

Fierce honesty

Across her writing life, Jennings produced essays, novels, short stories and journalism, as well as poetry, all written with a fierce honesty and wit, refusing what she saw as cant and sentiment.

After she moved to New York in 1979, she continued to write about and for Australia, but often with an outsider’s cynicism. Women Falling Down in the Street, a collection of short stories from 1990, won a Queensland Premier’s Literary Prize and perhaps typified her interest in revisionary engagement with her part in Australia’s cultural life.

The novel Snake, from 1994, explored with concision and power her country childhood on a farm outside Griffith in NSW, and found an international readership.

In 2002, after her husband’s death from Alzheimer’s disease, she published Moral Hazard, a short but perfectly voiced novel about a writer making a living on Wall Street to support a dying partner. One of the few Australian novels to confront the operations of capital directly, even pre-empting the 2008 global collapse, it won a number of prizes, including the ALS Gold Medal.

The legacy she leaves is complex and multi-voiced, marked often by a reassessment of her younger self by the older Jennings and, perhaps, by a certain distrust of any shared story she couldn’t control.

But that legacy has been transformative and extraordinary, by any measure.The Conversation

Nicole Moore, Professor of English, UNSW

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

‘I believe in romance’: remembering Valerie Parv, the Australian author who sold 34 million books


Pan Macmillan Australia

Jodi McAlister, Deakin University

She published more than 70 novels and sold more than 34 million books translated into 29 languages, making her one of Australia’s most successful and prolific authors. Yet many are not familiar with her name.

Book cover: Tasmanian Devil

Valerie Parv passed away suddenly last weekend, a week before her 70th birthday. She began as an advertising copywriter, and her first books, non-fiction home and garden DIY guides, were published in the late 1970s. In the 1980s, she began to publish in the genre she was most well-known for: romance fiction.

Her first romance novel, Love’s Greatest Gamble, was published by Harlequin Mills & Boon in 1982. This was, as Parv noted, a book which “broke a few moulds at the time”, featuring a widowed single mother heroine dealing with the fallout of her late husband’s PTSD-induced gambling addiction.

Parv went on to write 56 more romances across various Harlequin imprints. With these books, she was primarily working in the genre known as category romance — most frequently associated with Mills & Boon in Australia, and sold in print at discount department stores like Kmart, Big W and Target.

Book cover: Crocodile Creek

Romance fiction is often derided as formulaic. This is especially true for category romance fiction, as publisher guidelines can dictate things like length, setting and level of sexual content. Parv, however, firmly rejected this notion.

“All fiction has conventions but formula, hardly,” she wrote earlier this month.

“Not when people and their stories are so varied.”

Romance, and aliens

In addition to writing romance, Parv also wrote science fiction novels and a number of non-fiction works. She is the only Australian recipient of the Romantic Times Book Reviews Pioneer award, which honours those who have broken new ground in the development of the romance novel.

Book cover: The Leopard Tree

Parv was unafraid to experiment, enjoining aspiring authors to “write dangerously” rather than to satisfy the market, and often hybridised genres in her work.

She frequently told an anecdote about her 1987 book The Leopard Tree, which raised the possibility its hero might have arrived by UFO.

While she received pushback on this from the English Harlequin imprint Mills & Boon, the book was published by the American imprint Silhouette, where the book, she would say, “became the poster-child for cutting edge romance for some years afterward”.

Completing her masters degree in 2007, Parv’s thesis was inspired by a question often posed to her by aspiring authors: “where do you get your ideas?”




Read more:
What’s next after Bridgerton? 5 romance series ripe for TV adaptation


She explored this question in relation to both her own work and the work of other authors, concluding authors often revisit themes and ideas resonant with their own lives, whether consciously or unconsciously.

In her own work, she observed a consistent preoccupation with characters resolving feelings of alienation, which she linked to the fact her family emigrated from Britain when she was seven, leaving her with a sense of rootlessness.

A writers’ writer

Parv’s professional career is as much a story of community-building as it is the story of an individual author.

An enormous part of her legacy will be her bestselling guides on the craft of writing, including The Art of Romance Writing (1993), Heart and Craft (2009), and, most recently, her part memoir/part writing advice volume 34 Million Books (2020), the title of which is a wink to her own prolific success.

Book cover: Heart and Craft

In her writing guides, Parv focused unerringly on practical advice for writing, but also steered away from prescriptivism.

“There’s no one way to write a romance novel, no ‘secret’ that can be applied to every writer and every story,” she wrote in the introduction to Heart and Craft.

Parv was also strongly committed to mentorship. For 20 years, the Valerie Parv Award was run through the Romance Writers of Australia. Winners of the award — fondly referred to by Parv as her “minions” — received a year’s mentorship with Parv.

Nearly all of Parv’s minions have gone on to have works published. Their numbers include several highly successful romance authors, such as Kelly Hunter, Rachel Bailey and Bronwyn Parry.

In 2015, Parv was made a Member of the Order of Australia for significant contributions to the arts — both as a prolific author and as a mentor.

‘I believe in romance’

As a genre, romance fiction has never enjoyed an enormous amount of respect from outside its readership. For this reason, Parv — like her highly prolific and successful peer Emma Darcy, who predeceased her by four months — may never be a household name, despite her service to Australian literary culture: a fact of which she was well aware.

Book cover: With a Little Help

Despite this, she never ceased to advocate for the genre in which she made her career, and in which she assisted so many others to do the same.

“I will never send up romance in any form, because I believe in romance,” she commented on the Secrets From The Green Room podcast one month before her death.

“I’ve been in love, and I know how important it is to my life, and how it is to most people’s lives.”




Read more:
How to learn about love from Mills & Boon novels


The Conversation


Jodi McAlister, Lecturer in Writing, Literature and Culture, Deakin University

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

Starting behind: more than half of young Australian kids living in adversity don’t have the skills they need to learn to read


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Sharon Goldfeld, Murdoch Children’s Research Institute; Hannah Bryson, Murdoch Children’s Research Institute, and Jodie Smith, La Trobe University

Around one in three (36%) Australian children grow up in families experiencing adversity. These include families where parents are unemployed, in financial stress, have relationship difficulties or experience poor mental or physical health.

Our recent study found one in four Australian children experiencing adversity had language difficulties and around one in two had pre-reading difficulties.

Language difficulties can include having a limited vocabulary, struggling to make sentences and finding it hard to understand what is being said. Pre-reading difficulties can include struggling to recognise alphabet letters and difficulties identifying sounds that make up words.

Learning to read is one of the most important skills for children. How easily a child learns to read largely depends on both their early oral language and pre-reading skills. Difficulties in these areas make learning to read more challenging and can affect general academic performance.

What are language and pre-reading difficulties?

International studies show children experiencing adversity are more likely to have language and pre-reading difficulties when they start school.

Language difficulties are usually identified using a standardised language assessment which compares an individual child’s language abilities to a general population of children of the same age.

Pre-reading difficulties are difficulties in the building blocks for learning to read. For example, by the age of five, most children can name at least ten letters and identify the first sound in simple words (e.g. “b” for “ball”).

Boy pointing out letters.
Most five year old children can name at least ten letters and identify the first sound in simple words.
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Children who have not developed these skills by the time they start school are likely to require extra support in learning to read.

1 in 4 children in adversity had language difficulties

We examined the language, pre-reading and non-verbal skills (such as attention and flexible thinking) of 201 five-year-old children experiencing adversity in Victoria and Tasmania.

We defined language difficulties as children having language skills in the lowest 10% compared to a representative population of Australian 5-year-olds. By this definition, we would expect one in ten children to have language difficulties.

But our rates were more than double this — one in four (24.9%) of the children in our sample had language difficulties.

More than half couldn’t name alphabet letters

Pre-reading difficulties were even more common: 58.6% of children could not name the expected number of alphabet letters and 43.8% could not identify first sounds in words.

By comparison, an Australian population study of four year olds (children one year younger than in our study) found 21% could not name any alphabet letters.

Again, our rates were more than double this.

Interestingly, we didn’t find these differences for children’s non-verbal skills. This suggests language and pre-literacy skills are particularly vulnerable to adversity.




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There are several reasons that could explain this. Early speech and language skills develop through interactions children have with their parents. These interactions can be different in families experiencing adversity, due to challenges such as family stress and having fewer social supports.

Families experiencing adversity may also have fewer resources (including time and books) to invest in their children’s early language and learning.

Why is this important?

It is really challenging for children starting school with language and pre-reading skills to catch up to their peers. They need to accelerate their learning to close the gap.

Teacher reading a book to young kids.
It is challenging for children entering school behind their peers to catch up.
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Put into context, if a child starts school six months behind their peers, they will need to make 18 months gain within a year to begin the next school year on par with their peers. This is not achievable for many children, even with extra support, and a tall order for many schools.

Early reading difficulties often continue throughout the primary school years and beyond. Sadly, we also know that the long-term impacts of language and pre-reading difficulties don’t just include poor reading skills, but problems which can carry into adulthood.

These can include struggling academically, difficulties gaining employment, antisocial behaviour and poor well-being.

What can we do?

These results should be concerning for us all. There are clear and extensive social costs that come with early language and pre-reading difficulties, including a higher burden on health and welfare costs and productivity losses.

These impacts are particularly worrying given the significant school disruptions experienced due to the COVID-19 lockdowns. School closures will have substantially reduced children’s access to additional support and learning opportunities, particularly for those experiencing adversity, further inhibiting opportunities to catch up.




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Our best bet is to ensure as many children as possible start school with the language and pre-reading skills required to become competent early readers.

For example, ensuring all children have access to books at home has shown promise in supporting early language skills for children experiencing adversity.

We know which children are at greatest risk of struggling with their early language and pre-reading skills. We now need to embed this evidence into existing health and education services, and invest in supports for young children and families to address these unequal outcomes.The Conversation

Sharon Goldfeld, Director, Center for Community Child Health Royal Children’s Hospital; Professor, Department of Paediatrics, University of Melbourne; Theme Director Population Health, Murdoch Children’s Research Institute; Hannah Bryson, Postdoctoral Researcher, Murdoch Children’s Research Institute, and Jodie Smith, Research Fellow, La Trobe University

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

Brittany Higgins’ memoir will join a powerful Australian collection reclaiming women’s stories of trauma. Here are four


Marina Deller, Flinders University

Brittany Higgins has signed a book deal with Penguin Random House Australia. Not just any book — a memoir.

Higgins says her book will be a chance to tell “a firsthand account of what it was like surviving a media storm that turned into a movement”.

Memoir can help readers explore and understand trauma from a very personal perspective. Research suggests writing can be used to work through, or even heal from, trauma. It is a chance for a writer like Higgins,
who alleges she was raped in a senior minister’s office, to reclaim her story.

Here are four powerful Australian examples of women’s memoirs about trauma and abuse.

1. Eggshell Skull by Bri Lee

book cover: eggshell skull

Allen & Unwin

Sydney-based author, writer, and researcher Bri Lee witnessed justice and heartbreak while working as a judge’s associate in the Queensland District Court. Two years later, she took her own abuser to court.

Although the abuse occurred in childhood, Lee pursued a conviction for the perpetrator (a family friend) in young adulthood. In her 2018 book, she acknowledges that the longer the time between an incident and investigation, the more potential hurdles may arise; her journey for justice is far from straightforward.

Lee acknowledges this in the way she explores personal, public, and legal discourse surrounding abuse. She jumps back and forth in time, and weaves her story with others in the Australian legal system in a blend of journalistic and personal storytelling. This approach also acknowledges trauma can affect memory. Details can be unbearably clear, difficult to remember, or both.

Through poetic reflection, and searing critique, Lee carves a space for her story.




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2. No Matter Our Wreckage by Gemma Carey

book cover: No matter our wreckage

Allen & Unwin

From age 12, Gemma Carey was groomed and abused by a man twice her age. In young adulthood, Carey discovers her mother knew about the abuse. When her mother dies, the enduring effects of this betrayal surface.

Family memoirs are often taboo; family memoir about child abuse and complicity even more so. Despite fraught themes, the Sydney-based author and academic writes with rigour and honesty. Her 2020 memoir asks us to examine social — and family — structures which allow these injustices.

Carey’s tone is dark but inquisitive. She speaks directly to readers, incorporating research, and unpicking the threads of trauma and grief.

Carey emphasises writing about abuse doesn’t always fit a mould. In an interview, she explains, “Writing trauma stories that will change societal narratives around abuse and victims involves showing the contradictions that exist in trauma and grief”.

In her book, she reflects on her younger self,

I was broken and trying to work out how to fix myself … no one had ever given me the tools… I had to figure it out on my own.

This rebuilding took time. At 12, Carey buried her experience, at 17 she successfully took the perpetrator to court, in adulthood, she wrote her memoir.




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3. The Anti-Cool Girl by Rosie Waterland

book cover: the anti cool girl

Harper Collins

In The Anti-Cool Girl (2018), comedian and writer Rosie Waterland reveals a turbulent childhood; drug and alcohol-addicted parents, absent family, death and loss, poverty, mental health struggles, and sexual abuse experienced within the Australian foster care system.

Waterland writes unflinchingly. She tackles difficult subjects with intelligence and humour. Each chapter is addressed to herself: “You will be in rehab several times before you’re ten years old”, or “Your foster dad will stick his hands down his pants, and you will feel so, so lucky”. Like Carey, Waterland acknowledges trauma often manifests in ways which might seem “odd” or “unconventional” to others.

While comedic throughout, Waterland approaches her trauma with care and, understandably, anger. She later lamented that she was unable to name her abuser, due to fears of litigation.

The Anti-Cool Girl, blending humour and pain, remains a testament to Waterland’s endurance and survival.

4. The Girls by Chloe Higgins

book cover: the girls

Pan Macmillan

Chloe Higgins’ sisters — Carlie and Lisa — died in a car accident when Higgins was 17. In her 2019 memoir Higgins — a Wollongong-based author and academic — asks us to consider the nature of ongoing grief and the way trauma stretches over different experiences.

Higgins’ grief influences her sexual experiences in often troubling ways — but the way she discusses it is revolutionary. She explores the weaponisation of sex, how it is a form of self-harm; sex and substance abuse, and the pleasures and pressures of sex work.

She jumps between stories of gentility (caring lovers, exploration, sex clients who felt more like friends) and horror stories featuring coercion and fear, threats, and sex without consent. Higgins examines her own experiences and links them to memory, identity, and control.

In her Author’s Note, Higgins reflects: “Publishing this book is about stepping out of my shame”.

These are not the only parts of me, but they are the parts I’ve chosen to focus on … Since that period of my life, I have begun to recover.

These books signal the importance of memoir as a platform where personal trauma stories are told, reclaimed, and witnessed. They are a valuable (and intimate) contribution to the conversation about trauma and sexual abuse in Australia.




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Inside the story: writing trauma in Cynthia Banham’s A Certain Light


The Conversation


Marina Deller, PhD Candidate, Flinders University

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.