Archive for July, 2014


Christobel Mattingley, who was presented with the University of Tasmania’s Distinguished Alumni Award for 2014 at a dinner in Hobart on 1 May, gives a copy of her latest book, Seen but Not Heard: Lilian Medlands’ Birds, to the Vice-Chancellor of the University, Professor Peter Rathjen, for the University Library.






DUnivSA, BA Hons Tas,  ALAA


CRM 2014-11-23 10-43-11 UTAS Distinguished Alumni award, Stonyfell SA crop shrunkBorn in Brighton, a seaside suburb of Adelaide, Christobel Mattingley came to Tasmania with her family as a fourteen year old.

Her studies at the University of Tasmania began in 1948 and in May 1951, she successfully graduated with a Bachelor of Arts with First Class Honours, majoring in German.

Christobel is a prolific writer, having authored over 50 books.  While she lives in South Australia, her Tasmanian connection has been maintained over the decades, including significant writings with a Tasmanian theme.  Amongst these works is King of the Wilderness, a book of great significance to Tasmania, as it places the importance of the Tasmanian wilderness into global view. Meticulously researched over a long period, it is the personal story of a man who was a pioneer in Tasmania’s South-West.  It offers an historical and environmental insight into ideas, people and places of which many Tasmanians would not be aware.

Another significant publication with a Tasmanian connection is Battle Order 204.  It is a vivid account of her husband’s war experiences, which tells of his leaving his Launceston home to become an RAAF bomber pilot based in England.  Again, through Christobel’s meticulous research to recover details of events and personal recollections, the book conveys the message of the horror of war told from an intensely personal standpoint.

Christobel’s writing embodies a keen community concern.  Her children’s books feature characters who may be viewed as desirable models for young people, without detracting from the appeal of the stories.  Many of her books have been translated into other languages and published in Braille and Hear a Book for the visually impaired.  Her writing reflects a passion for causes such as preservation of the environment, Aboriginal rights and heritage, the effects of nuclear weapons on innocent people, and international cooperation.

Christobel’s strongly held principles and concerns are not only expressed in her books.  Her energetic participation in workshops and community events throughout Australia and beyond, and her willingness to share her writing expertise with young people, is represented by a constant stream of activity which has continued to the present day.  Her contribution has been consistently recognised over four and a half decades through a number of awards and accolades.

Notable among these honours are an Australia Council Literature Board Fellowship; the Advance Australia Award for Service to Literature; and for outstanding contribution to the creation of Australian children’s books, the Inaugural Ekidnas Lifetime Recognition Award.  In 1987, the City of South Perth, WA inaugurated the annual Christobel Mattingley Award for Young Writers.

In 1995, Christobel received an Honorary Doctorate from the University of South Australia for service to literature.  The following year she was made a Member of the Order of Australia for service to literature and social justice.

The university of Tasmania is honoured to have Christobel as one of our alumni, and proud to be recognising her in the awarding of the Distinguished Alumni Award for 2014.




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Seen But Not Heard, Lilian Medlands Birdssmall (1)Seen but Not Heard: Lilian Medland’s Birds is Christobel Mattingley’s latest book and her 52nd.  Published by the National Library of Australia in May 2014, this handsome volume contains the paintings of 883 Australian birds by English born Medland who came to live in Australia in 1923.  Commissioned in the 1930s for a Handbook of Australian Birds proposed by important ornithologist Gregory Mathews, with the outbreak of WW2 the book was never published, and eventually Mathews donated the paintings to the National Library. Christobel has written the essay in the book, describing the life and work of this remarkable woman, who, although she lost her hearing at the age of 27 through diphtheria, spent her life painting the birds she loved but could no longer hear.  “I have special empathy with Lilian, because my father, who encouraged my love of birds, lost his hearing when I was a child.  My first writing was published when I was 10 in the nature magazine Wild Life and in the children’s pages of the Sydney Morning Herald, about the birds I loved to watch in our garden and in the bush near our home.  And when I was 11, I actually met the great Gregory Mathews!”

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