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