In March 2021, I was fortunate to be able to return to Hobart and was invited to present a talk for the Tasmanian branch of the Professional Historians’ Association. It was called ‘Writing Narratives: Writing Lives,” and was held in the Allport Library at the Hobart Library, and I am grateful they put it online. It was about my work-in-progress, which is a biography of Musquito that works in the people around him.
The recording is here: https://soundcloud.com/libraries-tasmania/phat-talk-dr-naomi-parry
In October last year, despite the vagaries of the pandemic, I was fortunate to begin teaching in the Diploma of Family History at the University of Tasmania. I work in the digital sphere, so haven’t relocated, but it’s a homecoming nonetheless and I’m very happy to be doing it.
One of my jobs has been to coordinate a webinar series, and I’m very pleased to announce that the first one will be on Wednesday 24 March 2021 at 6pm, via Zoom. The series explores the ways that family history has informed the thinking of historians, writers and artists. Our first is a conversation between Professor Victoria Haskins of the University of Newcastle and Purai Global History Research Network and Victoria University PhD researcher Kath Apma Travis Penangke.
It’s open to anyone and it’s free, so please register! Please tune in if you can (and we’ll record it). Register here.
At dawn on Anzac Day 2020, I lit a candle and took it to my front gate, with a transistor radio tuned to the ABC broadcast of the service from the Canberra War Memorial. My neighbours slipped out too and we stood on the roadside, four women keeping vigil. Our candles barely flickered in the stillness. As the bugle of the Last Post travelled through the radio we came to understand that other notes were floating from the darkened houses up and down our valley. Buglers and trumpeters and trombonists, all playing in isolation, making an orchestra that held us all. As the music faded for the Minute’s Silence the birds filled in the space, our own magpies adding their wardles to the raven caws from Canberra. Time and sound and life looped in a moment of copper light and brass notes and birdsong, of candle flame and radio waves, of communion and remembrance for what has been endured.
At the year’s beginning the air had been thick with the smoke of burning forests and animals. We lived with the scream of sirens and the thrum of helicopter blades and fingers of flame along our ridges and clifftops. The valleys were charged with fire until February, when strafing rain brought floods. We coiled all this fear into our chests and forgot how to breathe.
And then the pandemic.
Concussion happens when the frail vessel of a body hurtles towards something and is suddenly stopped. The collision and agitation alters our brains – the first psychologists of the Great War attributed shell shock to concussion, thinking it was caused by sound, percussion, instead of by trauma. The virus stopped us. The shutdowns separated us from each other and our critical moments of connection: our Blue Mountains Music Festival, the Anzac Day marches, Winter Magic, every musician’s gig, the dancing, the choirs, the libraries, our jobs, our families. Everything that made us human; our embraces, our very breath, was a danger. In the shock we became inarticulate and distracted. Time lengthened, and slipped.
In those days I walked in Darug and Gundungurra country. Fire and rain had stripped the plateaus back to elemental forms, to rock and carbon. I could see the bones of the country, the layers of sandstone and lava. Horizons once wooded looked like rows of burned match heads. The trees that survived had dropped their bark in tiles and their ivory trunks were etched with smoke stains. There was no birdsong, or insects.
We are emerging from isolation. The fire grounds are changing. Grasses begin to run across the scorched soil, little threads of hope. New leaves spin from the carbonised trunks of gum trees in stained glass colours; ruby and emerald, brass and copper. The landscape fills with young xanthorrhoea, their bases like a brocade, exploding pale green.
From each one rises a single spear, sheathed in a bridal lace of tiny cross-stitched flowers and spangled with sweet nectar. They are beacons, pennants borne by the vanguard of regeneration.
No battle leaves things unchanged. The fragile new bush is volatile. The smoke from the fires still circles the planet in the stratosphere and the pandemic continues to rage.
We cannot rest yet, and we cannot forget.
I’m really pleased to announce that a couple of months ago I was notified that I’ve received a project grant from the Australia Council for the Arts to further my work on Musquito. This funding means I can take some time out and write, and I am so very grateful!
This morning I had the pleasure of doing breakfast radio in Canberra with the wonderfully clever Dan Bourchier, to talk about my work here as writer-in-residence on The Level and Endeavour House, where I am hosted by the Australia Institute. It was a great interview and if you care to listen, it’s about 1:45 into this segment.
I’m really pleased to announce that I’m starting my new year in Canberra, where I’m the inaugural writer-in-residence for the Australia Institute at The Level, in Endeavour House. It’s a funky co-working space in Manuka, and I’m very happy to be here.
I’m working on my long-cherished project about Musquito, and I can’t begin to tell you how encouraging it is to receive this support from the Australia Institute, which is an organisation devoted to progressive ideas and social change. Great people, and as well as that the food in Manuka is to die for! It’s quite strange to be entirely alone and have no one to look after, but also wonderful.
In March I addressed a lunchtime seminar of the Royal Australian Historical Society and talk to them about the book. The Society then suggested I turn the talk into a podcast, so I had a go. It was interesting recording the podcast – I tried to use the radio trick of talking like you are having a conversation with a friend, except if I really was having a conversation with a friend it wouldn’t sound as formal or polite as this.
There is no MP3 for this, you have to watch it on YouTube, but that’s cool because then you can see the images I’m talking about.
Megalong Books invites history buffs and students and teachers to an afternoon at Katoomba Falls Kiosk with Katoomba local Dr Naomi Parry and Sydney University’s Professor Stephen Garton, two of the four authors of a New South Wales and the Great War, a new book that Governor David Hurley called “visually arresting and authoritative account of NSW during and after the Great War”.
When the Great War began in August 1914, the people of New South Wales took up the call to arms. NSW sent more people than any other state to serve overseas and many more worked and volunteered to support the war effort. But the economic, political and emotional strains of war, and the loss of so many young men, and some women, in the service of their country, fanned social and political divisions and wrought lasting changes to the society to which serving men and women would return.
New South Wales and the Great War tells this story. It is drawn from the rich visual and written records held by the Anzac Memorial, the State Library of NSW, NSW State Records, the NSW Department of Education and the University of Sydney, as well as collections from Bourke to Gilgandra and Newcastle to Lithgow.
It is the official publication of the NSW Centenary of Anzac Advisory Committee and over summer it was distributed, free of charge, to all public and Catholic schools in New South Wales and to most libraries.
This event is an opportunity to meet the authors and the publisher learn about the writing of this important publication.
Venue: Katoomba Falls Kiosk, Cliff Drive, Katoomba
Date: Sunday 30 April 2017
Entry by gold coin donation.
Megalong Books will be selling copies on the day.
Today is the tenth anniversary of the submission of my PhD thesis, ‘”Such a longing”: black and white children in welfare in New South Wales and Tasmania, 1880 to 1940’. I graduated in September 2007, after a revision or two. I’ve had a pretty good run since then – a couple of years as a project officer, a couple as a cultural development officer, three wonderful years as a research fellow on the Find & Connect web resource, before heading to the Dictionary of Sydney and writing New South Wales and the Great War. And now I’ve come back to the substance of my PhD, in a way, working as a senior policy officer at the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sex Abuse.
Workwise, it’s all been good and I’m pretty happy with that particular life choice. My son was born 18 months after I started my PhD, which I don’t really recommend, although he is the best thing I’ve ever done. Once when he was four and tucking him into bed he told me he wanted to stay up to help me write my PhD. It seemed like it would take forever and it did because he was six before I was done with it. Now, of course, he’s six foot two. Ten years. Wow.