Archive for the 'Opinion' Category

Where are the writers for children?

Adelaide Writers’ Week 2010

Last week I attended three days of the week long Adelaide Writers Week. This biennial event is an integral part of the Adelaide Festival of Arts here in South Australia, one of the leading such festivals of its kind in the world. The list of guest speakers is often a who’s who of the writing world. This time was no exception and the impressive parade of talented writers throughout the week was very inspiring. I thoroughly enjoyed the experience.

But where were the writers for children?

They were conspicuous by their almost total absence.

Almost.

Only Markus Zusak could be said to be a writer for children – a debatable point as his audience is best described as Young Adult.

Australia has an impressive number of world class writers for children. They lead the world in their chosen field. They are acknowledged around the globe for their talent and many outsell their adult counterparts. Why, then are they totally ignored festival after festival?

Is this a case of literary snobbery on the part of the organising committee? Or ignorance?

Adelaide Writers' Week 2010

Adelaide Writers' Week 2010

Opinion: a ridiculous state of affairs

Some things really rile me. They get under my skin and irritate me like the itch of a hundred mosquito bites.

Today is a public holiday throughout South Australia for the running of the Adelaide Cup.

Ridiculous if you ask me.

The Adelaide Cup is, at best, a second rate horse race when compared to say the Melbourne Cup. It interests only a few thousand people and for that a whole state grinds to a halt. It just shows how morally bankrupt our state has become. It is a ridiculous excuse for a holiday in an era when our state should be doing everything possible to be productive.

But then – the same thing could be said of many of our public holidays.

I hope you have a wonderful day, and if you live here in SA,  enjoy your break.


Australia Day 2010 honours our writers

Laughing Kookaburra

Laughing Kookaburra

January 26th is Australia Day, a special day celebrating the first landing of European settlers in Sydney Cove, 1788.

The day is celebrated in many ways: family gatherings, picnics, barbecues, going to the beach,  attending sporting events or just having a lazy day in the middle of the Australian summer.

Every year for the last few years Australia Post has celebrated the event by issuing a special set of postage stamps called Australian Legends. This series of stamps features people who have made a major contribution to Australian life and culture.

This year the stamps are called Australian Legends of the written word. They highlight the works of six of our most prominent writers. The writers honoured in this way are Peter Carey, David Malouf, Colleen McCullough, Bryce Courtenay, Thomas Keneally and Tim Winton.

I think it is wonderful that our leading novelists have been honoured in this way. Writers in Australia are often overlooked for the massive contribution they have made to our culture. Each of the writers featured are truly deserving of the honour.

Where are they?

Of course, by featuring these six writers, many other well deserved writers have been overlooked. In the field of novelists another 15 to 20 worthy recipients could have been listed, including Nobel Prize winner J.M. Coetzee. Admittedly, he was born in South Africa but now resides here in my home state of South Australia. Bryce Courtenay was also born in South Africa, so here is an inconsistency in the choice of recipients.  And what of Patrick White, Helen Garner, Kate Grenville, Peter Goldsworthy, Robert Dessaix and Elizabeth Jolley? The list could go on and on. Then you have the great writers who are no longer contemporary, such as Henry Lawson and Banjo Paterson.

My major gripe however is that no poets or children’s authors are represented. Judith Wright, Les Murray, Bruce Dawe and Gwen Harwood have all had significant influences in the field of poetry. That’s just four I could name from dozens of worthy recipents.

Australian children’s authors lead the world in their field. Writers like Colin Thiele, Mem Fox, Sonya Harnett, Ivan Southall and dozens more have had or continue to have a significant impact on young readers around the world.

I guess that Australia Post had a difficult job narrowing the choice down to just six writers, but a little balance in the final six would have been nice.

Links:

  • Australian Legends of the written word
  • Peter Carey
  • David Malouf
  • Colleen McCullough
  • Bryce Courtenay
  • Thomas Keneally
  • Tim Winton


Opinion: about money and elections

One would have had to be in a coma, blind, deaf or in total isolation not to be aware that something momentous happened in the United States today. Elections are fascinating and boring all at the same time. I can’t help wonder, though, that in the present economic and political climate on a global scale, that the real winner today was someone who didn’t become the new president elect. We all know what a difficult time there is ahead for Obama and his colleagues. I don’t envy his job at all.

But that wasn’t why I wanted to write this piece.

Something snapped in my head on Sunday. Someone at church outlined the terrible state that exists in the poor African country of Zimbabwe. Our church has been an active participant in providing drinking water wells there. I immediately thought of the hundreds of millions of dollars – or was it over a billion dollars – that the candidates spent collectively on the right to become the next president.

I think that is obscene.

Even half of that money, if spent on food alone, could save tens of thousands of people from starving to death in Zimbabwe. This story could be repeated a thousand times over around the globe. What about the enormous amounts of American money being poured into the war effort in Iraq?

I’d say that we’ve really stuffed up our priorities. Where is compassion? Where has common sense gone? What are we doing for the billions of people who merely exist from day to day?Think about it: most people in Australia, the United States and Europe spend more each day on a pet than many families of the world have to live on for a week.

Opinion: we can change the world

Sometimes I get a little down – even depressed

I sometimes get depressed watching the television news or reading the newspaper and learning of the absolute depravity of some people. When I go online I discover that the internet seems to be the place where many of them congregate.

Then I spend time with friends or colleagues or the folk at church and I am uplifted again. When I experience the generosity and love and care and courage of others I am amazed and encouraged. Life then is good, people are great and all is well with my world.

Each one of us can do our little bit to make this a better place.

We CAN change the world – one kind, loving, caring act at a time.

Further reading:

  • To read more in my series of opinion pieces click here.