One of Australia's leading nature poets and talented collector of Aboriginal stories, Roland Robinson was brought to Australia when nine years old. After a brief education, he worked at various jobs, including rouseabout, boundary-rider, railway fettler, fencer, dam-builder, gardener, and ballet dancer, who trained under Helene Kirsova.
Robinson's first published verse appeared in Beyond the Grass-tree Spears (1944). His attraction to the landscape and his associated spirituality saw him connected with the Jindyworobak Movement, becoming one of the movement's most dedicated poets. While working in the Northern Territory during World War II, Robinson came into contact with Aboriginal tribal life, consolidating his interest in Aboriginal lore and narrative. During the 1950s, with the assistance of the Commonwealth Literary Fund, he collected stories from the Aborigines of New South Wales, later publishing them in several collections. In addition to these collections, Robinson published many more volumes of poetry, including Tumult of the Swans (1953) which won the Grace Leven Prize. He also wrote three widely admired autobiographies and a number of prose works on Aboriginal issues. In Minah (1995), it is stated that he 'believed that Aboriginal storytellers speak with a rhythm that transcribed as poetry and narratives in English. He scribed phonetically, making only minor punctuation changes'.
After working as a literary and ballet critic for the Sydney Morning Herald, Robinson was editor of Poetry Magazine (1965-69) and president of the Poetry Association of Australia. His work attracted a number of prizes and he received several honours, including the Patrick White Award (1988), the FAW Christopher Brennan Award (1989) and a D.Litt. from the University of Newcastle (1991).
Jean Kent grew up in rural Queensland. She began publishing poems and fiction in 1970 while she was studying for an Arts degree in psychology at the University of Queensland. She has also worked as a TAFE counsellor while writing and her poems and stories have been widely published in Australian literary magazines and anthologies. Kent has won numerous prizes for her poetry and in 1988 she was a joint winner of the National Library Poetry Prize. Both her first book of poems Verandahs (1990) and her second book of poetry Practising Breathing (1991) have won awards. In Practising Breathing, Kent introduces social issues such as suicide and the death of a child. In 1994 she was awarded a residency at the Nancy Keesing Studio in Paris.
Much of Kent's poetry draws on her childhood memories and in Verandahs, for example, she writes of her parents' and grandparents' homes in Southern Queensland and of her invalid father sitting on his verandah in the afternoons. Her poems also focus on her work as a counsellor.
In 1880, when J. F. Archibald and John Haynes published the first issue of the Bulletin, weekly newspapers were flourishing in Sydney. But, unable to compete in this market, and facing a libel suit, the Bulletin struggled financially. When Archibald and Haynes were jailed in 1881 for libel, W. H. Traill (who had written the libellous article) took over a Bulletin which had become more widely known because of the court case. After Archibald and Haynes were released from prison, Traill employed them and allowed them to buy shares in the business. By 1886 Archibald had obtained a half share of the Bulletin and was once again in the editor's chair.
The early years of the Bulletin brought Traill a considerable profit, but literary reputation would be made later. The content of the early Bulletin was a mix of political comment and sensational news with several unfinished serials and narrative poems, although a few contributions from Adam Lindsay Gordon and Henry Kendall suggest some quality. When Traill secured the services of cartoonists Livingston Hopkins and Phil May, and when a young poet called 'The Banjo' appeared at the end of Traill's term, the period marking the Bulletin's major contribution to Australian culture had begun.
The 1890s are widely regarded as a literary renaissance in Australia. During this decade, the Bulletin played a significant part in the encouragement and circulation of nationalist sentiments that remained influential far into the next century. Writers and illustrators were encouraged to present the 'real' Australia in verse and short sketches with a particular emphasis on the bush, espousing such values as egalitarianism, republicanism and national pride. Much more fiction and verse appeared in the Bulletin during the 1890s than the previous decade and the number of cartoons increased significantly. With his statements on federation, republicanism, socialism and immigration, the financial editor James Edmond contributed a strong voice to political debates that he would continue as editor during the early 1900s.
Most significantly, the Bulletin became a site where many of Australia's best-known writers achieved their first publication and developed their writing skills for a large audience. These included Barcroft Boake, Breaker Morant, Will Ogilvie, E. J. Brady, Ethel Turner, Roderic Quinn, Louise Mack, Victor Daley, Price Warung, Louis Becke, Randolph Bedford, Barbara Baynton and 'Steele Rudd'. The verse and short stories of A. B. 'Banjo' Paterson and Henry Lawson often featured in the Bulletin and these two writers initiated the 'Bulletin debate' on the real nature of Australian life, a debate which involved many other writers, including John le Gay Brereton, Francis Kenna, Edward Dyson, A. G. Stephens, Henry Cargill, Joseph Furphy and James Brunton Stephens.
A. G. Stephens joined the Bulletin in 1894, beginning a career which is widely regarded as one of the most significant in Australian literary history. After developing a column progessively called 'Books of the Day' and 'The Bulletin Book Exchange', Stephens took over the inside of the red cover of the Bulletin for his influential 'Red Page'. Here he delivered his opinions on literature with an international scope, but also with a distinct nationalism that encouraged and assessed the new national literature appearing in the Bulletin and elsewhere. From 1897, he directed the publishing arm of the Bulletin and assisted many writers into print for the first time. His editorship secured such publications as Steele Rudd's On Our Selection (1899), Joseph Furphy's Such is Life (1903), and a series of Bulletin anthologies.
Early in the 1900s Archibald suffered a breakdown and was committed to an asylum by his business manager William Macleod. James Edmond, who had joined the Bulletin in 1886, was appointed editor and soon replaced the nationalistic banner 'Australia for the Australians' with the more isolationist 'Australia for the White Man', a slogan which remained intact for almost sixty years. While the Bulletin is celebrated for its contribution to Australian literature, it has not escaped criticism for implicit and explicit racism. Chinese, in particular, were often targets for racist slurs in the Bulletin and Aborigines were frequently portrayed negatively.
The earlier literary renaissance had subsided by 1903, but many of the older Bulletin writers continued to contribute, maintaining the old character of the weekly. A. G. Stephens left in 1906 to start his own journal, the Bookfellow, taking several of his writers with him, including John Shaw Neilson whom Stephens had discovered and nurtured for several years. Archibald had recovered from his breakdown and assisted with the foundation of the Bulletin-sponsored magazine Lone Hand, providing more space for aspiring writers to place their work. Writers who made their first contributions to the Bulletin during this period included C. J. Dennis, Dorothea Mackellar, David McKee Wright, Mary Gilmore, Louis Esson, Hugh McCrae and Jack McLaren. In addition to the writers of the Bulletin, the quality of illustration expanded with contributions from Norman Lindsay, Lionel Lindsay, Will Dyson, Ambrose Dyson, David Low, D. H. Souter, Alf Vincent, Frank Mahony, George Lambert, Percy Leason and Ted Scorefield.
When James Edmond became editor in 1903, S. H. Prior took his place as finance editor. By 1912 Prior was assistant editor and he ascended to the editor's chair after Edmond's retirement in 1915. Archibald had sold Prior his shares to the Bulletin in 1914 and when Prior accepted the duties of managing director after Macleod's retirement in 1927, he attained financial control of the company, a control that he and his family retained until 1960.
During Prior's term as editor, the bush had less influence on the character of the Bulletin and the suburbs became more and more a theme for articles, stories and cartoons. The 'Red Page' editor David McKee Wright (1916-1928) played a significant part in this by asserting that the earlier rural orientation of the Bulletin had lost its power. Inspired by late-Victorian and light Edwardian verse, he encouraged writers to concentrate on metropolitan topics. Younger writers who contributed to the 'Red Page' at this time included Kenneth Slessor, Robert D. FitzGerald, Brian Penton, Zora Cross, Elizabeth Riddell, Alice Jackson and Jack Lindsay. In addition, Vance Palmer, Nettie Palmer and Louis Esson contributed many reviews.
In the late 1920s Prior encouraged Australian writing with a novel contest, attracting 536 manuscripts in 1928 and 275 manuscripts in 1929. Winners in these competions included Marjorie Barnard and Flora Eldershaw for A House is Built, Katharine Susannah Prichard for Coonardoo and Vance Palmer for The Passage.
When S. H. Prior died in 1933, John Webb, a Bulletin employee since 1920, was appointed editor. Holding this position until 1948, Webb reinforced the White Australia policy introduced by James Edmond and asserted an anti-Labor stance despite having little respect for the conservative alternative. David Adams replaced Webb in 1948 and guided the Bulletin through to 1961, a period where the reputation and circulation of the paper steadily declined. The success of the Australian Woman's Mirror (a Bulletin stable-mate) during the 1930s and 1940s helped to keep the Bulletin afloat, but the success of the rival Australian Women's Weekly took many of the Mirror's readers and the Bulletin suffered, providing its shareholders little to no return by the late 1950s.
The literary content during this period increased significantly due to the influence of Douglas Stewart who served as 'Red Page' editor between 1940 and 1961. Influenced by Norman Lindsay, Stewart maintained a strong anti-modernist editorial policy which helped to extend Bulletin traditions throughout his term. Except for notable exceptions A.D. Hope and John Manifold who openly refused to publish in the Bulletin, many significant poets appeared under Stewart's editorship. These included Douglas Stewart, Judith Wright, David Campbell, Geoffrey Dutton, Rosemary Dobson, Francis Webb, Nancy Keesing, R. D. FitzGerald, James McAuley, Ray Mathew, David Rowbotham, Nancy Cato, Will Lawson, Roderic Quinn, Roland Robinson, Mary Finnin, E. J. Brady and Vivian Smith. The Bulletin continued to support short fiction, publishing many stories from writers such as Brian James, Kylie Tennant, Henrietta Drake-Brockman, Eleanor Dark, Vance Palmer and Hal Porter. The S. H. Prior Memorial Prize for fiction was awarded between 1935 and 1946.
The prominent literary character of the Bulletin ended in 1961 when it was bought by Consolidated Press and merged with the Observer. Seen by many as outdated, the Bulletin eventually shifted to the news format that continued until its demise in 2008. Archibald himself predicted that the 'clever youth' he had fostered would eventually 'become a dull old man'. As the new editor, one of Donald Horne's first actions was to remove 'Australia for the White Man' from the banner, signalling a change in character which included a greater interest in the Asia-Pacific region and support for immigration reform.
The 'Red Page' gradually changed into a standard book section following Stewart's departure. But, despite this change, many significant writers appeared in the Bulletin during the 1960s and 1970s, particularly fiction writers such as Xavier Herbert, Thomas Keneally, Craig McGregor, Hal Porter, Desmond O'Grady and Frank Moorhouse. The transitional period of the new Bulletin is also remembered for a controversial acrostic poem pseudonymously contributed by Gwen Harwood. Many of the writers who had appeared in the Bulletin since 1880 were celebrated in a 1980 centennial issue. In response to the positive reception of this section a quarterly literary supplement was edited by Geoffrey Dutton, continuing until 1985. But, except for these years, the Bulletin made little contribution to Australian literature after 1961.
In late 2007 James Packer sold his family's media assets, including Australian Consolidated Press, to the private equity firm CVC Asia Pacific. Four months later, CVC announced that the Bulletin would cease publication. The last issue, with a cover story titled 'Why We Love Australia', was published on 23 January 2008 and dated 29 January 2008. Fittingly, it included essays on Australia's national identity by prominent writers Richard Flanagan, Tom Keneally and Frank Moorhouse.
It was edited by Roland Robinson, Grace Perry and others in the first twelve months; Perry became editor in 1962, continuing until 1964. In that year, a special issue that contained the untranslated works of foreign authors drew strong criticism from other members of the Poetry Society. Because of the conflict, Perry left to establish her own magazine, Poetry Australia, pursuing her goals of an international magazine. Robinson, after a short absence from the society, returned as President and primary editor of the magazine in 1965, ensuring that Poetry Magazine retained a strong Australian focus.
Robinson's policies were challenged in 1968 when Robert Adamson joined the editorial committee, bringing his strong appreciation of American writers and non-traditional poetics. In 1969, Adamson's 'Young Poets' special issue introduced many new 'modern' poets to Poetry Magazine, challenging the poetry 'establishment' of writers such as A. D. Hope and James McAuley. After a special meeting of the Poetry Society was called to 'discipline' Adamson, the newer members asserted their voting power over the older generation. Subsequently, Adamson, Greg Curtois and Carl Harrison-Ford were elected to prominent positions in the Poetry Society. Robinson, unable to assert his more traditional editorial policies, resigned in protest.
Poetry Magazine gradually evolved into a periodical that favoured modern poetics. In February 1971 Poetry Magazine was renamed New Poetry, signalling a clean break from the more traditional verse Robinson had fostered in the 1960s. New Poetry became a significant supporter of poets who are generally grouped under the banner of New Australian Poetry.
Jill Jones has been widely published in most of the leading literary periodicals in Australia, as well as in a number of print and on-line magazines in New Zealand, Canada, the USA, India and Britain. She has worked in a number of different fields, including legal publishing, journalism, government information, public policy and arts administration. She has been the recipient of two Australia Council grants and has also been involved in literary publishing. She was a co-founder, with Laurin McKinnon, of Black Wattle Press, and she has been a regular reviewer of books, theatre, film and music for a number of periodicals.
Jones has played an active part in Australian literary life. She was one of six poets who contributed to Parallel Visions : Parallel Poetry, a booklet of poems written about paintings in the Art Gallery of NSW and performed as part of the Parallel Visions exhibition in March 2003. She was a co-convenor of 'The Whole Voice', the second national conference on poetry, held in Sydney in 1995. She and her fellow convenors were guest editors of an issue of Southerly (vol. 57, no.1 Autumn 1997) in which proceedings from this conference were published. With Michael Farrell she co-edited a selection of Australian poetry on sex for an edition of Slope magazine.She served as a judge for the 1995 NSW Premier's Literary Awards, the inaugural Broadway Poetry Prize in 2001 and the Roland Robinson Prize in 2002. She was a member of the Sydney Writers' Festival committee in 1996.
Jones has been involved in collaborative projects which include the DiVerse series of readings at galleries and museums in Sydney, and c-side, set up by poet James Stuart to provide a virtual and physical space for artistic performance and interaction.
Jones has written in the genres of poetry, short stories, cultural and literary criticism and women's studies. She maintains a weblog at: http://rubystreet.blogspot.com/
A fifth-generation Australian, Nancy Cato began writing verse when she was still a child. She went to the first Montessori kindergarten in Australia, then was educated at Presbyterian Girls' College, winning SA's Tennyson Medal for English Literature in 1933. She studied English Literature and Italian at the University of Adelaide, graduating in 1939, then completing a two-year course at the South Australian School of Arts. She worked on the Adelaide News as a cadet journalist 1935-41 and later as an art critic, 1957-8.
She married Eldred Norman, well-known in SA as a racing car driver, in 1941, and lived in Hope Valley. The couple had three children. Nancy says of this time (in a personal communication) that she was "'trying to write' while bearing and bringing up three children - three in three years. This was exhausting for everybody. I used to get up at four in the morning to work on my current novel, as the babies were awake by six." Her first story was published in 1943. She travelled in a jeep with her husband to Alice Springs (before there was a sealed road) and around the Northern Territory. In the late fifties she travelled alone to Italy, a visit she described for Rosemary Pesman's anthology Duty Free (1996). She felt that this was turning point in her writing, widening her horizons and giving a new perspective on Australia and Australians. She later also travelled in the Pacific area.
She moved to Noosa, Queensland, in 1967, and from there maintained her battle for the protection of Australia's flora and fauna from property developers. She also fought for the rights of Australia's indigenous people. She was made a life member of the Noosa Parks Association and an honorary park ranger for her contribution to the ecological and environmental protection of the area. She received the Advance Australia Award for her campaigning for the environment.
In addition to writing fiction, Cato was a poet, a freelance journalist and an art critic working for various newspapers throughout Australia. In 1950 she edited the Jindyworobak Anthology (1951); was a founding member with Roland Robinson and Kevin Collopy of the Lyre-Bird Writers (1948), formed for the purpose of getting Australian verse published, and co-edited the Southern Festival : a Collection of South Australian Writing (1960). She was actively involved in the South Australian Branch of the Fellowship of Australian Writers (1956-1964) and the Australian Society of Authors (1963-1964). She travelled widely throughout the country helping to promote the publication of Australian writing.
In 1978 she re-wrote her trilogy of historical novels (1958-62) set on the River Murray and combined them under the title All the Rivers Run. This was published simultaneously in Australia, England and the USA and was made into a highly acclaimed television series in 1982. She was involved in the SA branch of the Fellowship of Australian Writers (1956-64) and the Australian Society of Authors (1964-96). She was awarded the AM in 1984, and an Honorary Doctorate of Letters (University of Queensland) in 1990 for her services to Australian literature. Her books have been translated into eight languages.
Cato's non-fictional writing includes the histories The Noosa Story (1979) and River's End (history of Goolwa, with Leslie McLeay, 1989). Her daughter Bronley Norman (qv) is a playwright.