Born: Established: 23 Jun 1941 Young ;
Roger McDonald was born at Young, New South Wales, and attended Temora and Bourke primary schools before completing his education at The Scots College, Bellevue Hill, Sydney and the University of Sydney, where he attained a Bachelor of Arts Degree and Diploma of Education in 1962. In the 1960s he worked as a high-school teacher with the New South Wales Education Department and later joined the Australian Broadcasting Commission (ABC), where he trained as a producer and director of schools' radio and television. He went on to direct television, including studio, outside broadcast and film programmes with ABC Education in Hobart and Brisbane. McDonald became poetry editor for the University of Queensland Press in 1969, a position he held until 1976. In this position he had a significant influence on the direction of the 'New Australian Poetry' of the 1970s.
In 1976 McDonald moved to Canberra and took up writing full-time, but continued as part-time poetry editor until the early 1980s. Supported by a fellowship from the Literature Board, he wrote his highly acclaimed novel 1915 (1979) which won several awards. In 1982 the novel was adapted into a seven-part television series. He has since written several novels, television scripts, screenplays, a fictionalised biography of Dame Nellie Melba and a variety of other prose works.
McDonald first drew attention with his poetry and editing for University of Queensland Press, but he is better known as a writer of fiction. His concern for the Australian character and its expression through Australian voices was first explored in his poetry. The metaphysical explorations of his poetry were adapted for his fiction, most notably the searches of each main character in 1915 for an explanation of their existence. The lyrical and poetic passages in 1915 drew some criticism, influencing the simpler prose of McDonald's later work. With Mr Darwin's Shooter, McDonald has successfully moved out of Australian territory in an attempt to reach an international audience.
During the course of his career, McDonald has received a number of grants and fellowships from the Literature Board of the Australia Council. Other literary activities include Australian representative at the Hari Sastra Literature Congress in Sabah, Malaysia, 1973, Writer-in-residence at Department of Language and Literature, Faculty of Military Studies, Royal Military College, Duntroon 1981, Geelong College, 1985 and a judge for the Vogel Awards, 1987 and 1992.