2014 - Seen but Not Heard

2014 – Seen but Not Heard

Lilian Medland’s Birds – Seen but Not Heard

Thank you, Alan, for your kind words and for the invitation to talk about my latest book, Seen but Not Heard: Lilian Medland’s Birds, my 52nd book.  It is indeed an honour to be asked to speak to this conference and a great pleasure to be among professional colleagues again.  I began my career in librarianship in 1951 in the Dept of Immigration in Canberra, then studied for a year on a scholarship of 4 pounds a week at the Library Training School at the Public Library of Victoria before serving as Regional Librarian in the Latrobe Valley of Victoria with its 4 libraries at Yallourn, Morwell, and outlying communities Boolarra and Mirboo North.  A stint at the Brixton Public Library in London did not last, as the shifts were 12 hours long!  After returning to Australia I was asked to set up a secondary school library, then one in a primary school – the first professional librarian to do so in South Australia.  I was proactive in establishing the public library in Burnside, South Australia, and ensuring that a professional librarian was appointed in charge, and I served for many years on the Library Committee.  Three children later, I joined the staff as Reader Services Librarian at Wattle Park Teachers College under Principal Colin Thiele, and was involved in the massive move of books to the new campus of the Murray Park CAE, now part of the University of South Australia.  Books of course were the order of the day in all those libraries.

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CRM and Keturah

Christobel with Keturah de Klerk, who gave her photos of malukuru (Sturts desert pea), Yvonne’s favourite flower, for use in the book Maralinga’s Long Shadow: Yvonne’s Story. Both are holding copies of the book.

See Maralinga’s Long Shadow: Yvonne’s Story.

Maralinga's Long Shadow

Maralinga’s Long Shadow: Yvonne’s Story has at last been published, on 23 March 2016, which has proved to be very timely, with the findings of the Nuclear Fuel Cycle Royal Commission being released for discussion.  I have lodged submissions with both enquiries, the Commonwealth Department of Industry, Innovation and Science, and the South Australian Royal Commission, and have been told that this book and Maralinga the Anangu Story  have been quoted in other submissions.

No nuclear dump on Adnyamathanha landFour generations of Yvonne’s family have been affected by the British nuclear tests at Maralinga from 1953 to 1963, when Yvonne was growing up as a young displaced person on the lands of another ancient Aboriginal people.  There have been five deaths in her family from cancer through three generations, and two of her grandchildren in the fourth generation suffer from genetic defects.

Yvonne herself died aged 61, and this book, beautifully produced by Allen & Unwin, filled with many of Yvonne’s wonderful paintings, archival photos, and superb botanical and landscape photos, is her memorial.  Malukuru, Sturt desert pea, was Yvonne’s birth flower, and the photo on the cover and those within the book were kindly given by Keturah de Klerk.  Other striking photos were provided by Bill Dowling of The Friends of the Great Victoria Desert, and Pam Diment, former director of the Tjutjuna Arts and Culture Centre.  Pam also helped in locating paintings and other photos.  I am grateful to them and all the other people who helped in any way with material for this important book and have acknowledged them in the text.  Royalties for this book go to Yvonne’s family, who are donating $1000 to the Hospital Research fund.

CRM ForwardMarch_CV_V5-page-001

I wrote Forward March  in 2005, after coming home from watching the march in Adelaide, as I do every year with my husband, a World War 2 veteran.  And each year tears fill my eyes as I see more and more how the ageing veterans are limping and hobbling and shuffling as they courageously make the trek to the Cross of Sacrifice in the gardens by St Peter’s Cathedral, whose bells ring out in commemoration.  And my heart aches as I think of the nightmares these courageous men have endured because of where they have been and what they have seen.

But in 2005 interest in Anzac Day had waned, so publishers were not interested.  However, last year was the 100 year anniversary of the fateful landing at Gallipoli in Turkey by the gallant Australian and New Zealand soldiers, so at last the story found a publisher.  Another example of my motto – Passion, Patience, Perseverance and Persistence. Released on 1 March 2016, it is one of the last books published by Omnibus Books before the imprint was closed by Scholastic, and has been superbly illustrated by Adelaide artist David Kennett.

CRM D LittMy website was neglected in 2015 as my husband was ill but  I had to continue working on three major books: Forward March; Maralinga’s Long Shadow: Yvonne’s Story; and Our Mob – God’s Story,  the Aboriginal Christian art book for the Bible Society’s bicentenary in 2017.  I also gave the keynote address at the Australian and New Zealand Public Librarians Conference in Adelaide; hosted and addressed the University of Tasmania Alumni Reunion in Adelaide; spoke at the SAETA (South Australian English Teachers’ Association) Meet the Writers Festival; and flew to Hobart to receive an Honorary Doctorate of Letters from my alma mater, the University of Tasmania, in the Federation Concert Hall.

The University of Tasmania, the fourth oldest in Australia, was celebrating its 125th anniversary in 2015, and I was invited to contribute an essay to its ebook of 125 essays.  So I wrote Merci, Monsieur Maurois, acknowledging the influence of French writer André Maurois on me when I was a student at the University from 1948 to 1950.  It was Maurois’ work as a biographer that initially inspired me to want to write biography.

By coincidence I was also invited to update my own biography in the Gale Research Something about the Author Series –  a 5000 word essay covering the 25 years since I had written the original essay, during which period I had written 19 books.  So it was quite a task.

CRM with magpiesMagpies inspired one of my earliest books and are still part of my life. A family of magpies often visit us, coming to the front door and carolling to announce their arrival.  The dominant female waits right in the porch.  I feed them cheese and meat scraps on the terrace, and when there is a bone I take it to the back lawn, with Mummy Mag flying close beside me.  My study overlooks the back garden and she has learnt to look for me there, and sits on the trellis by the rainwater tank, watching me, calling the others when I come.  Last spring when this photo was taken, three times she brought me a present – a gum twig, always the same length, about 25 cm, and forked at the end.  This must be her preferred sort for nest building.

There is definitely a pecking order for the bone, with the dominant male to the fore.  It was an encounter with a dominant male at Port Willunga south of Adelaide when I was about 7, which planted the seed for my first book ever to be accepted – Windmill at Magpie Creek, runner up for the Children’s Book Council Book of the Year in 1972, re-issued in 4 editions, and translated into Danish and German.

Editions of Windmill at Magpie Creek vertical shrunk