ABBEY'S CHOICE JUNE 2015 ----- For forty years Ross Gittins has had a ringside seat as the Australian economy has gone through radical change. He's covered forty budgets and sixteen elections, he's watched thirteen treasurers and eight prime ministers wrestle with boom and recession, debts and deficits.
Few economic journalists have earned such respect for their views from participants and readers alike. His even-handedness and his clarity of vision have left countless readers better informed about how the complexities and contradictions of the modern economy affect our daily lives.
Thrown into the deep end as a cadet journalist, Ross covered his first mini-budget lockup in 1974, and was soon covering the financial roller coaster ridden by the Whitlam government. From then on, no government and no treasurer has escaped analysis - he anoints Keating, Costello, and Swan as his three best - and throughout the book he critiques without fear or favour the ministers and bureaucrats who have shaped our economic wellbeing.
This son of a Salvation Army major and one-time accountant is an old school journo through and through. With four decades of printers' ink in his veins, he dissects the newspaper game, remembers the great editors and journalists who have sharpened our minds and his, and lays down some hard facts about a hard future.
Honest, robust and intelligent, Gittins is as insightful and entertaining as the man himself.
Winner of the 2015 Finch Memoir Prize
'Every Child Needs A Champion'
At the beginning of Schools of Fish, Alan Sampson is very much a man bent on success. As a very strict high school principal he was renowned for transforming weak schools into centres of academic and sporting excellence. But the long hours took their toll on his home life. As his marriage ended and his family was torn apart, he was given charge of a troubled city high school on a downward spiral; to make matters worse, in this school was one of the most troublesome students he had ever come across … his own son, Greg. As Alan strives to find a way to tame his son’s behavioural problems at school and at home, he and Greg battle each other as well as the ingrained obstacles in the education system. Only when they both find the courage to step outside the rules do they find their way through to each other … and realise that the best education in life can often be found outside the school system.
Alan Sampson, a Queensland Public School Executive Principal says, 'I wrote my story to show how life’s lessons should shape our education system. The individual should shape the system rather than the reverse. Every child needs a champion.'
A remarkably warm-hearted, uplifting and inspiring story of one boy's survival against the odds. Abdi's world fell apart when he was only fifteen and Somalia's vicious civil war hit Mogadishu. Unable to find his family and effectively an orphan, he fled with some sixty others, heading to Kenya.
On the way, death squads hunted them and they daily faced violence, danger and starvation. After almost four months, they arrived in at refugee camps in Kenya - of the group he'd set out with, only five had survived. All alone in the world and desperate to find his family, Abdi couldn't stay in Kenya, so he turned around and undertook the dangerous journey back to Mogadishu.
But the search was fruitless, and eventually Abdi made his way - alone, with no money in his pockets - to Romania, then to Germany, completely dependent on the kindess of strangers. He was just seventeen years old when he arrived in Melbourne. He had no English, no family or friends, no money, no home. Yet, against the odds, he not only survived, he thrived. Abdi went on to complete secondary education and later university.
He became a youth worker, was acknowledged with the 2007 Victorian Refugee Recognition Award and was featured in the SBS second series of Go Back to Where You Came From. Despite what he has gone through, Abdi is a most inspiring man, who is constantly thankful for his life and what he has. Everything he has endured and achieved is testament to his quiet strength and courage, his resilience and most of all, his warm-hearted, shining and enduring optimism.
A widow and her eight older children are uprooted from their Hampshire farm in 1850, and thrown together on an emigrant ship with 38 distressed needlewomen from London. How they came to be on the boat, and what happened on the high seas and afterwards in Australia, is a vivid tale of family ambitions and fears, successes and catastrophes.
In Lost Relations, historian Graeme Davison follows in his family's footsteps, from the picture-postcard village of Newnham to a prison cell in Maitland, from a London slum to a miner's tent in Castlemaine. He takes us back into worlds now largely forgotten, of water-powered mills, free selectors and Methodist evangelists. The Hewetts were not famous or distinguished, but their story reveals much about the foundations of Australia.
Digging through the myths around Australia's most famous artist, many of which he created himself as a masterful self-promoter, this book is the biography that Sidney Nolan deserves.
In an authoritative, insightful and often irreverent biography that fully charts Nolan's life and work, Nancy Underhill peels back the layers from a complicated, expedient and manipulative artistic genius. She carries the story from Nolan's birth in 1917 to his death in 1992, tracing his early life, his experience as a commercial artist, his involvement in the Angry Penguins magazine, his painting and set design, his difficult marriages and friendships with some of the twentieth century's most famous figures: Patrick White, Albert Tucker, Benjamin Britten, Robert Lowell, Stephen Spender and Kenneth Clark.
The first full-length biography of George Ingle Finch - maverick Australian mountaineer, scientist, concert pianist and father of actor Peter Finch.
George Ingle Finch, mountaineer, soldier, scientist, rebellious spirit, boy from the bush, was in his day one of the most famous men in the world. In 1922 he stood at the highest point on Everest, a feat not bettered for 30 years. He invented the predecessor to the puffer jacket and pioneered the use of oxygen in climbing. A World War I hero whose skills also helped save London from burning to the ground during the Blitz of World War II, he was a renowned scientist who was personally chosen by Nehru, the first Indian prime minister, to help lead his nation into the modern world. With a private life torn by war and misguided by social norms, a reputation as an outsider among the British alpine climbing establishment, and some rough and ready 'colonial' habits, Finch was a brilliantly colourful character - so why has he vanished from the pages of history?
In this first full-length biography, Robert Wainwright surveys the man who is now best known as the father of Academy award-winning actor Peter Finch - but who was so much more.
The inspirational story of how a boy diagnosed with severe autism went on to become one of Australia's best-known international artists and the creator of Laser Beak Man.
When Judy Sharp took her three-year-old son Tim to a pediatric specialist she was told that his autism was so severe he would never be able to communicate with her, talk or learn to live in a normal household. The advice at the time was that he would be better off in an institution. More than twenty years later, Tim is a world-famous artist, whose joyful paintings and drawings involving the super hero he created, Laser Beak Man, have been exhibited around the world. Laser Beak Man's appeal is so widespread it's gone on to inspire, among other things, an eight part animated children's TV series and an off-Broadway play in New York.
Tim's journey from an autistic child unable to communicate even with his mother to an artist and acclaimed public speaker (Judy and Tim received a standing ovation for their presentation at Sydney's 2014 TEDx Conference) has involved many hurdles, moments of despair and incredible hard work from Tim, Judy and those that helped them. But it's ultimately a triumphant story of love and hope that will inspire and delight everyone who reads it.
Alex’s Wellington, a twin-engine bomber, was shot down over Germany in 1941. At first hospitalised with hopes of repatriation, he unexpectedly found himself a prisoner in a German POW camp. Throughout those trying four years he was held captive, Alex kept a secret diary. This book reproduces his diary entries in a fascinating account of all aspects of life in a wartime prison. He describes being part of the infamous ‘Long March’ during which he and his comrades were strafed by Allied aircraft; 60 POWs were killed and 100 wounded. Alex escaped the march with a mate, passing through the front lines between the British and German forces to commandeer a German mayor’s car and drive back to Brussels to take the next aircraft to freedom. Alex’s charm and optimistic outlook will buoy the reader throughout, and the camaraderie between he and his captive comrades is always entertaining. This is an authentic World War II adventure - from being shot out of the sky, to incarceration and the ultimate triumph of escape and the end of the war.
When Martin McKenna was growing up in Garryowen, Ireland, in the 1970s, he felt the whole world knew him as just that stupid boy. Badly misunderstood by his family and teachers, Martin escaped from endless bullying by running away from home and eventually adoptingor being adopted bysix street dogs. Camping out in barns, escaping from farmers, and learning to fend for himself by caring for his new friends, Martin discovered a different kind of language, strict laws of behavior, and strange customs that defined the world of dogs. More importantly, his canine companions helped him understand the vital importance of family, courage, and self-respectand that he wasnt stupid after all. Their lessons helped Martin make a name for himself as the Dog Man in Australia, where he now lives and dispenses his hardearned wisdom to dog owners who are sometimes baffled by what their four-legged friends are trying to tell them. An emotional and poignant story seasoned with plenty of Frank McCourtstyle humor,The Boy Who Talked to Dogs is an inspiration to anyone whos ever been told he or she wont amount to anything.
A fearless and funny quest for love, connection and a faithful man who can dance, this is a truly sexy memoir for the adventurer in all of us.
London-based journalist and music critic Jane Cornwell has always thrown herself head and heart first - along with everything else - into relationships. A fascination for other cultures, and the music and men of other cultures, has resulted in adventures as audacious and comic as they are enlightening and erotic.
Travelling the world in search of love, great music and good stories, Cornwell collects relationships the way the rest of us pick up souvenir tea towels or snow domes. She writes of the young Greek bartender on Skyros during the island's bacchanalian goat festival; the Jamaican gangster who got her stoned on a beach cliff top in Negril; the Congolese ex-con in Paris who wooed her with perfume and lingerie; the young Afro-Cuban dancer in Santiago de Cuba who persuaded her to buy him jeans, trainers and a mobile phone; her nearly romp with a security guard in a Colombian love hotel.
It's a look at rituals and subcultures: Afro-Cuban Santeria. The whirling dervishes of Turkey. Congolese sapeurs in Paris. The New Age scene in Los Angeles. Stand-up comedy. Internet dating.
This is also one woman's journey through music. From acid-house raves in London to salsa in Cuba, from reggae to pan pipes, Sufi trance to Womad, it's a tribute to music's power to heal, inspire and transport.
Greta Scacchi said "A restless, reckless, sensual quest for the road less travelled - I'm buying copies for all my girlfriends".
And here's what Brian Nankervis, co-creator of Australia's long-running and coolest rock-trivia TV show, RocKwiz, had to say "Trippy, sweaty, funny, passionate, romantic, surprising - Jane Cornwell is a woman seeking anything but the ordinary and her book pulses with rhythm, desire and yearning".
Debut book from Zoe Norton Lodge, Writer and Presenter on ABC's The Checkout, Co-founder of Story Club
Zoe Norton Lodge is an outstanding talent and the very brightest of rising stars on the Australian creative landscape. She's so excellent that I'm even willing to write wanky things like that for things like this. Julian Morrow, The Chaser.
Zoe Norton Lodge grew up in Annandale, Sydney in the eighties and nineties. God's country. Heartland of the Inner West. Because of its location an always fertile mix of working-class, migrant, genteel, intellectual and eccentric residents. As she got older she noticed Annandale was changing, and she started hearing new words like 'architect' and 'labradoodle', and eventually entire weeks would go by with no backyard bomb explosions.
These stories about neighbourhood warfare, wacky relatives, quashed dreams and facial disfigurement are told with Norton Lodge's characteristic comic verve and eye for absurdity and menace, inspired by her family, friends, acquaintances and nemeses.
Their highlights include Greek grandparents who have lived in mutual resentment for decades and beat each other up with colanders, children who dabble in amateur porn and are sent to school with cat-food sandwiches, 'distressed' furniture, rampaging eczema, flying babies and other suburban wonders.
'We were all propagandists; the only differences were our goals.'
Looking for respite from her crumbling marriage and determined to stop a coal seam gas mine near her Sydney home, filmmaker Anna Broinowski finds wisdom and inspiration in the strangest of places: North Korea. Guided by the late Dear Leader Kim Jong Il's manifesto The Cinema and Directing, Broinowski, in a world first, travels to Pyongyang to collaborate with North Korea's top directors, composers and movie stars to make a powerful anti-fracking propaganda film.
The Director is the Commander centres around the bizarre twenty-one day shoot Broinowski did in North Korea to make her documentary, Aim High in Creation! She meets and befriends artists and apparatchiki, defectors and loyalists, and gains a new insight into the world's most secretive regime. Her adventures are set against a parallel exploration of propaganda in general: both in its ham-fisted North Korean form and its sophisticated but no less pervasive incarnation in the corporate West. Funny, multi-layered and utterly compelling, The Director is the Commander is a gripping account of an extraordinary journey inside a nation we can usually only see from the outside looking in.
'The Collesses. Theirs is the story of Australia itself. Convicts, bushrangers, cattle thieves, pioneers, punters, graziers, ANZACs; floods and droughts, boom and bust, they lived right through it all. Their story is every bit as comprehensive as Dorothea Mackellar's "I love a sunburnt country". They were right in the thick of our founding cultural history; they helped to make it, helped make this land. From Bird's Eye Corner to the far corner country. Henry Colless's line - corner to corner, through the middle of everything. And it is not a line without trace. George, William, Henry, they each handed on their sterling character - a more telling legacy than money can buy.'
Henry Colless, one of the old pioneers. In his mid-teens he set out as a carrier across the Blue Mountains and then further along the track to the northwest. He was still a teenager when he helped his father and his brother establish legendary Come-by-Chance. He was one of the early settlers in Bourke, and later became one of its leading lights; and he drove a great mob of cattle across the corner country to establish the first station at Innamincka.
This is his story.
Jean Martin was a pioneer of sociology, inventing a version of the discipline that was uniquely suited to Australia in the post-war period. Jean Isobel Martin (1923-79) made herself a sociologist before the discipline was established in Australia. Regarded as a founder of Australian sociology, her writing, teaching and policy helped shape Australia in the period of economic growth and social development that followed World War II. The Martin Presence is a biography that examines her life and her work across the concerns of the time - the needs of country towns, the factory work floor, families and urban structure, poverty and inequality, education and immigration - and explores her far-reaching influence on the social sciences in Australia.
It looked bleak and predictable for little Keelen Mailman: an alcoholic mother, absent father, the horrors of regular sexual and physical assault and the casual racism of a small outback town in the sixties. But somehow, despite the pain and deprivation, the lost education, she managed to absorb her mother's lessons: her Bidjara language and culture, her obligations to Country, and her loyalty to her family.
So it was no surprise to some that a girl who could hide for a year in her own home to keep her family together, run as fast as Raylene Boyle and catch porcupine and goanna, would one day make history. At just 30, and a single mother, Keelen became the first Aboriginal woman to run a commercial cattle station when she took over Mt Tabor, two hours from Augathella on the black soil plains of western Queensland. This is the heartland of Bidjara country, after all, the place her mother and grandparents and great-grandparents had camped on and cared for, and where their ancestors left their marks on caves and rock walls more than 10,000 years ago.
In this unflinching memoir, the warmth of Keelen's personality, her determination and her irresistible humour shine through as she recalls her extraordinary life.
In this remarkable memoir, Anna Goldsworthy recalls her first steps towards a life in music, from childhood piano lessons with a local jazz muso to international success as a concert pianist. As she discovers passion and ambition, and confronts doubt and disappointment, she learns about much more than tone and technique. This is a story of the getting of wisdom, tender and bittersweet.
With wit and affection, Goldsworthy captures the hopes and uncertainties of youth, the fear and exhilaration of performing, and the complex bonds between teacher and student. An unforgettable cast of characters joins her: her family; her friends and rivals; and her teacher, Mrs Sivan, who inspires and challenges her in equal measure, and who transforms what seems an impossible dream into something real and sustaining.