Interviews with Amazing Authors: Simon Butters

In early October, work experience student Guthrow interviewed author Simon Butters. Simon’s book The Hounded was longlisted for the Children’s Book Council of Australia’s 2017 Book of the Year for Older Readers, and shortlisted for the Queensland Literary Awards 2017 Griffith University Young Adult Book Award. The Hounded is a book about depression and working out who you really are, from one of Australia’s most prolific children’s television writers.

Simon Butters, Author of ‘The Hounded’ and screenwriter for ‘Wicked Science’ and ‘H2O Just Add Water’

 

Guthrow: Why did you go from screenwriting to novel writing, and where did the idea of The Hounded come from?
Simon: Before writing The Hounded, I worked in television screenwriting in live-action drama and animation for children’s television for many years. The industry in Australia is supported by a quota system for the free-to air networks that requires them to produce a certain amount of new shows each year. I won’t bore you with the details, but the upshot is that the industry is not able to produce as much local drama as it used to.

Published by Wakefield Press in 2016, I wrote The Hounded between writing television projects as a way to further my creative writing. I did not write it for the financial rewards, it was a purely creative decision. As far as the idea, I had always been fascinated by perception, and the grey area between the supernatural, faith and psychoanalysis. So, is the dog real, or just his imagination …? That is open for each reader to decide.

 

I was also inspired by images of the dog at night in my youth. Your mind can play tricks on you when you see a shadow, and for a while you think it might be a dog, or a person, but when you walk closer, it just turns out to be a rubbish bin. Turns out, our brains evolved that way to look for danger. So I guess Monty is hyper-aware of danger, and his dog is the result.

G: How did your idea of the novel evolve or was the idea fully formed before you started?
S: When I started the book, I went the other way to my screenwriting training – which is to plan everything relentlessly before you begin. I wanted to go back to a freer way of writing and so I only wrote a short two or three line brief for each chapter – so I only had a rough outline of plot at the start (however I did know what the ending was going to be).

G: Were there any characters influenced by real people?
S: Most of them were influenced by real people – but I cannot tell you who … (but all characters have been heavily fictionalised).

The Hounded’s cover

G: Was the book originally about Monty or the Black Dog?
S: The novel was always going to be focused on Monty, and the dog only ever a passing influence, like a shadow that comes and goes.

G: What inspired you to write a novel that is so upfront and honest about mental health?
S: I guess to be honest, I wrote the novel out of a personal struggle. Being an artist is always a struggle to find that elusive sweet point between making enough money out of it to survive and to also satisfy your creative side. I have been an actor, director, writer, and all of these are tough. The ‘middle way’, where you work and be creative, is what I am trying to achieve in life.

Apart from the obvious analogy of mental health, Monty suffers from an unstated personality disorder, which I researched during development. After being left alone – which is a form of abuse – as a young child, Monty struggles to connect with the reality around him: other people, objects, and even his own body. This is where in the novel, he describes his body as going on autopilot.

 

In writing the ending, I was very concerned that it would be a step too far for young readers. If I went back to write it again, there is one line I would cut, but other than that I really tried to get the balance right between an honest portrayal, within the confines of the world, and not doing anyone harm in reading it. 

G: For a debut novel, The Hounded was very successful. Did you ever doubt your chances of success and how important was it for this novel to succeed?
S: When writing, I certainly didn’t think about success in any way, it was just about getting the job done and something that I enjoyed reading myself.

G: What did you learn from writing this novel?
S: I learnt that you need honesty in writing. You lay yourself bare as a writer like no other creative expression. Your words are your thoughts. That’s confronting …

G: What do you want your readers to learn when reading this novel?
S: I wanted a reader to ponder their own existence and what their purpose is. I believe, like the existentialists (like Silas and his ball, or Sisyphus and his rock) that you find your own purpose in life, and even if that seems insignificant, your actions provide you with purpose. That’s what Monty needs to learn, and that’s what I guess I need to learn. That’s what I think our whole world needs to learn.

Written by Guthrow Taylor Johnson. Many thanks to Simon Butters for his time and generosity, and for his wonderful book!

Want a copy of The Hounded? Visit Wakefield Press at 16 Rose Street, Mile End SA 5031 or shop the book online.

 

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Behind the Books: Meet publicist Ayesha Aggarwal

In this series, we take you behind the scenes to get a glimpse of the glamorous life at Adelaide’s premier publishing house. This week, meet our gung-ho publicist (with a side in sales!) Ayesha Aggarwal.

Ayesha Aggarwal

What made you want to work in publishing – and how did you get your start?

I’ve always been an avid reader with a love of stories. I was the kid that always had to be told to put my book down about five times before I could wrench myself away, much to the annoyance of my mum (who also was 100% responsible for my reading habit in the first place). One of my earliest memories is coming home with every copy of the Mr Men and Little Miss books which I devoured in about a week. When Mum and I went to our local library, the librarians would vacate this bright orange stool so that I could stand on it and watch them check out my latest pile of books. So, really, publishing was always my dream job.

I got my start at Wakefield Press largely thanks to editor extraordinaire Margot Lloyd. We bumped into each other at a friend’s party and drunkenly discussed how much she was enjoying being at Wakefield Press and how I should apply to be an intern there. I dutifully sent in a request for an internship and my timing turned out to be excellent because there was a position as a receptionist opening up. So I applied for the role and had an interview (with three Wakefieldians!!) and I got the job. Whew!

What does your typical day at Wakefield Press involve?

My typical day is a flurry of tasks. I answer the phones and do all kinds of admin-y things as well as looking after various aspects of our marketing and publicity. Most days, I’m halfway through a press release, or adding an event to a newsletter, when the phone rings and I help a customer with a question about our books (quite often this is a budding writer who has questions about the publishing process).

Mainly, though, my job is to liaise with the media about articles, extracts or interviews about our books and to promote all our excellent authors. And I put together all our email campaigns. And flyers.

What’s the most absurd or surprising thing that’s ever happened to you on the job?

I took a phone call once where the caller wanted to speak with someone who was already on the phone so I asked whether they would like to leave a message. As they were midway through the longest message ever, I realised that I could now put them through to the person they wanted to speak with and told them so but got an earful about interrupting them while they gave me their message instead.

 What’s the best thing about working in publishing?

I think this is specific to small publishers like Wakefield Press but I really love the broad range of genres that we publish. It means I get to work with so many different types of people and dip into different industries all the time. One day I’ll be looking up food magazines and the next I’ll be trawling for blogs about young adult books. It keeps me on my toes because there’s always something new to discover.

What’s the worst thing about working in publishing?

As a publicist it’s my job to keep our authors abreast of all the publicity surrounding their books. The space for books in the media has continued to shrink and we’re publishing five or six books each month that are all pitched to the same major book journalists. At the end of the day, it comes down to luck and timing but it’s never easy to have to tell an author (who may have spent years writing their book) that they haven’t got an interview with Richard Fidler.

What kinds of things do you love to discover in a book (on the job or as a reader)?

I really enjoy when writers write dialogue as it is spoken so you can really get under the skin of the characters (except in the case of Irvine Welsh where the thick Scottish accents took a million years for my brain to comprehend).

What books are on your bedside table right now?

This my seem like blasphemy but when I’m not at Wakefield, I’m usually elbow deep in clay so I’ve turned to audiobooks to feed my reading habit. I’m such a sucker for a funny, insightful read so at the moment I’m revisiting Terry Pratchett’s Discwold series (I just blew through Good Omens and Small Gods last week). I also have Roxane Gay’s Bad Feminist on my to read list as well as Lindy West’s Shrill.

Ayesha moonlights (sunlights, really) as a ceramicist on her days off. Her beautiful pieces can be found on her website, and for a limited time, some seconds pieces are available at Wakefield Press HQ.

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‘It has to be good’: Tony Ayres on telling diverse stories on-screen

This is an edited extract of Tony Ayres’ essay ‘From My Life to All Lives: From Identity to Representation’, in Living and Loving in Diversity: An anthology of Australian multicultural queer adventures (Wakefield Press).

I didn’t have a traumatic time coming out; it happened when I was 16 years old and told my history teacher that I was gay. He randomly took me to an illegal casino to ‘celebrate’. By then, I was an orphan, so I didn’t have to deal with the restrictive expectations of Chinese parents that burden so many Asian queers. Instead, my grappling with sexuality came in another form – the shocking way that I felt I was treated by other (predominantly white) gay men. While I aspirationally saw these men as my peers, they saw me as ‘Asian’, as Other, as undesirable. Another one of life’s strange ironies – my most unequivocal experiences of racism in Australia have been within the male gay scene.

‘Until fairly recently, gay men (being an oppressed minority) have had something of a ‘hall pass’ when it comes to the politics of race and desire, but there is a reckoning on its way.’

This took a fair bit of unpacking because it was like my different identities just didn’t mesh. My way of interrogating this contradiction was to make work about it. I wrote a short story about a gay Chinese guy, titled A Night Out with the Boys, which was published in a number of gay-themed anthologies. I then wrote about my experiences of being gay and Chinese in essay form, which became the basis of a documentary, China Dolls, where I interviewed a number of other gay Asian men about their intersectional experiences and realised that the alienation I felt wasn’t unique. The documentary explored ideas of ‘racialised desire’ and how this might be part of an unreconstructed colonialism at play in the Australian psyche. Interestingly, at the same time that I made China Dolls, there was a short drama made in England (Yellow Fever) and a documentary from Canada (The Queen’s Cantonese) on similar topics. It seemed that in that historical moment (the mid-90s) there was a common recognition among gay Asian filmmakers living in Western cultures that we were being treated in a discriminatory way.

Above: Image from The Family Law (produced by tony ayres)

I’ve kept track of issues of sexuality, race and desire over the years and I don’t think they have gone away, although they have evolved. My sense is that pervasive unconscious bias against Asian men by white gay men will become increasingly untenable as we start recognising the need for racial diversity across society in general. Until fairly recently, gay men (being an oppressed minority) have had something of a ‘hall pass’ when it comes to the politics of race and desire, but there is a reckoning on its way.

The last documentary I made, in 1999, dealt with race and sexuality from a different angle. It was called Sadness, a monologue performed by photographer William Yang, which explored a murder in his family many generations earlier, intersecting with stories of his friends who had died of AIDS-related complications. It was deceptively simple, a 50-minute visually stylised talk to camera, which screened on SBS and travelled around the world to many film festivals, winning a variety of prizes along the way. Making Sadness gave me a sense of completion – I felt that I had explored the intersection between race and sexuality (in this form at least) as much as I could, and that it was time to look at other subjects.

Although I had always operated within the broad spectrum of ‘identity politics’, I was increasingly aware of its limitations. Human beings are made up of a complex amalgam of identities, some coherent, others contradictory. To prioritise one identity over another is always a reductive act. For example, I may have had to face various kinds of oppressions because I come from an ethnic and sexual minority, however, this has been counterbalanced by the privileges I’ve experienced being cis-gendered, male, able-bodied, middle class (these days) and educated. Once you start prioritising one identity over another, you become limited and ideological in your view and you start mythologising what the world actually is. This is exactly the opposite of what I felt I needed to do as an artist. Our job as artists is to speak a different kind of ‘truth to power’; we find the complicated, messy, human truths that intersect against and rupture the reductions and simplifications of ideologies (both of the Left and the Right).

‘What’s changed more significantly than my intentions, though, is the world itself. Diversity of representation is one of the key issues of our times.’

While identity-based art at its best illuminates inconvenient truths about the tyranny of entrenched power structures and orthodoxies, it can (at its worst) become a kind of solipsism that posits the self (me, me, me) at the centre of all meaning. Nothing exists or is important beyond our own issues and what affects us as individuals. This leads to all kinds of distortions of scale. Suddenly our own oppressions and slights become more significant, more overwhelming than global inequalities, wars, genocides, famines. And this is not something that sits comfortably with me.

Image (above): Scene from Ali’s Wedding (PRODUCED BY TONY AYRES)

Even though I’ve superficially broadened the subject matter I deal with, in many ways I’ve pretty much stayed the same. I’ve always been interested in telling stories from the edge, stories about outsiders and that’s pretty much what I still do. Maximum Choppage was the ABC’s first mainly Asian comedy series, The Family Law is Australian TV’s first all-Asian comedy, Ali’s Wedding is Australia’s first all-Muslim romantic comedy, and Barracuda was about a gay Greek swimmer. What has evolved has been my sense of purpose. I started out making work that was very personal, trying to resolve what was troubling me the most. Nowadays, I’m much more concerned with the politics of representation. It’s important to tell stories from minority or invisible cultures because if those stories aren’t told, those people do not come into existence except as stereotypes or clichés. And that’s what good art can do – it can conjure up lives, it can make us feel for other people. It can be an act of compassion.

What’s changed more significantly than my intentions, though, is the world itself. Diversity of representation is one of the key issues of our times. We are now in a universe where Moonlight can win an Oscar for Best Picture and Transparent can be one of the most celebrated of TV shows. Another way of thinking about it – we live in a world where there is so much content, so many TV shows, that coming from a distinct minority background can be an advantage. It can make your work stand out.

However, there’s one big and important caveat to that. It has to be good. And that’s why I have always placed an emphasis on craft and, in particular, on writing (which is the foundation of most narrative screen arts). Knowing how to tell a story, how to affect an audience, understanding the necessity of suspense and intrigue, surprise and emotion, understanding the difference between mystery and confusion, between plot and story, between trope and cliché, are all crucial to the art of screen storytelling. Without command of the craft, whether your story connects with an audience is accidental.

Another important thing I’ve learned about telling stories from the margins is that while the cultural background may influence the texture, flavour and nuance of the central narrative, it is not the story. This is why it’s called cultural background rather than cultural foreground. The true theme of the work you are making needs to both be deeply embedded in and simultaneously transcend its cultural roots, the way a tree grows beyond the earth that nurtured it.

I’ve had a blessed career, in that I’ve managed to work non-stop since my graduation from AFTRS in 1989, which is almost 30 years now. In that time, I’ve transitioned from making deeply personal and autobiographical work to work that is broader in scope and reach. Yet in that time, I think because of my emphasis on the quality of my work, I’ve managed to remain true to my core interests – telling stories from the margins that reflect Australia’s cultural diversity.

Join chief editor Maria Palotta-Chiarolli and Wakefield Press for the FREE Adelaide launch of Living and Loving in Diversity, as part of Feast Festival, Saturday 24 November, at Treasury 1860. RSVP to maddy@wakefieldpress.com.au to secure your spot.

 

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Behind the Books: Meet events guru Maddy Sexton

In this weekly series, we take you behind the scenes to get a glimpse of the glamorous life at Adelaide’s premier publishing house. This week, meet our events guru, editorial assistant and all-round office doer Maddy Sexton.

Maddy Sexton

What made you want to work in publishing – and how did you get your start?
I wanted to work in publishing since I was about eight, which seems like a lie, but I have a whole collection of ‘published’ work hidden in my parent’s garage with thrilling stories including ‘The Adventures of Starfish’, a story about a starfish (named Starfish) who goes out one day and then comes home (that’s the entire story), among other things. I’d write, illustrate, and bind all of my stories and tell anyone who would listen that one day I would be an author.

I actually came to be in publishing very much by accident, mainly because I never thought I’d be able to crack into the field. A friend of mine used to work at Wakefield Press, and when she got a job in Melbourne, she suggested that I go for the role, and the rest is history. I’m very lucky to be here!

What does your typical day at Wakefield Press involve?
It’s a lot of reading – emails make up most of my material, but I also do a bit of proofreading and editing bits and pieces that come across my desk. My main job is events coordination, so the rest of my day is usually filled with organising book launches and other events for our authors. The rest of the time I’m trying to keep the bookshop stocked up and looking nice, which helps to break up my work a little bit.

What’s the most absurd or surprising thing that’s ever happened to you on the job?
I’ve only been here for a year, so I don’t have any exciting stories really! My biggest surprise was getting the job, followed closely by finding out just how glamorous it is to work in publishing! It’s kind of funny sometimes answering the phone and having a conversation with someone which seems to be quite normal and relaxed, and then just before they hang up you find out you’ve been talking to a TV network producer without even knowing it!

What’s the best thing about working in publishing?
The best thing for me is being able to work on lots of different books in (usually) really small ways, and knowing that although I might not have been credited in the book, I still had something to do with bringing the book into the world. It’s very satisfying, especially if the book was difficult to work on!

What’s the worst thing about working in publishing?
The constant suspicion that I’m not meant to be in publishing, and that someone will walk in and say ‘Hey, what are you doing? You’re not meant to be here!’ and kick me out. Otherwise it’s great!

What kinds of things do you love to discover in a book (on the job or as a reader)?I love when there’s a little ‘A-ha!’ moment in books, where the penny finally drops for you as the reader but might not have dropped yet for the characters. Also, I love weird humour (I read too much Lemony Snicket as a kid), so it’s always good to find a ridiculously placed bit of comedy in a book.

What books are on your bedside table right now?
It’s embarrassing but my bedside table is really just a ridiculously tall stack of unread books that I keep adding to in moments of weakness. One day it will get so tall that I can’t get out of bed, but I’ll probably still add to it. Margaret Atwood’s The Edible Woman is on top, along with The Architecture of Happiness by Alain de Botton. I finished Haruki Murakami’s 1Q84 recently, which I really enjoyed – one less on the stack!

Keep up to date on the Wakefield Press crew’s day-to-day activities by following us on Instagram! Maddy will be posting pictures, videos and polls to our stories every day. Visit us online or in store at 16 Rose street, Mile End, to see us all in the flesh.

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Behind the Books: Meet editor Margot Lloyd

In this series, we take you behind the scenes to get a glimpse of the glamorous life at Adelaide’s premier publishing house. This week, meet editor extraordinaire Margot Lloyd.

Margot Lloyd

What made you want to work in publishing – and how did you get your start?

I actually used to work for a few hours a week at Wakefield when I was a teenager, helping with mailouts and databasing. At that point, I hadn’t really considered a career in publishing, but it must have planted a seed. Many years later, finding myself at a loose end after finishing a BA, I thought I might enjoy editing so moved to Melbourne to study at Monash. I worked for a couple of publishing houses there, before moving back to Adelaide and starting (again) with Wakefield Press.

What does your typical day as an editor involve?

Mainly reading, which I guess isn’t surprising! Either that or checking emails or other small admin tasks to break up the day. We also have book launches and sales and other events, which are good fun and stop me from feeling like a total introvert.

What’s the most absurd or surprising thing that’s ever happened to you on the job?

Going to India with the Australia Council in 2017 sticks out. That was unexpected and amazing.

What’s the best thing about being a book editor?

Sometimes while I work I feel like an archaeologist with a tiny brush exposing an amazing piece of work. That feeling is pretty neat.

What’s the worst thing about being a book editor?

The constant and incurable worry that I’ve missed something.

What’s your pet editorial peeve (on the job or as a reader)?

Changing tenses halfway through a piece. Mainly because it’s such a pain to fix!

Also, surprisingly enough, exclamation marks. I use them all the time in casual writing, I think as an act of defiance against my work-self(!).

What kinds of things do you love to discover in a book (on the job or as a reader)?

Unexpected humour. While I don’t generally read comedy, I think the ability to make your reader laugh out loud without warning is very underrated.

What books are on your bedside table right now?

I’ve just finished Jane Harper’s latest book – which I thoroughly enjoyed – and I really want to read Elmore Leonard’s Out Of Sight, which Michael Bollen (Fearless Leader) lent to me.
The chances of me getting to it soon are slim to none. There’s always something else that needs to be read first.

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Freda and Me: The Birth of CAAMA, Imparja and Indigenous media in Australia

By Philip Batty

In this extract from our new book Kin, a co-founder of the Central Australian Aboriginal Media Association (CAAMA), Philip Batty, recalls its roots, and the integral role of fellow co-founder Freda Glynn. CAAMA went on to operate Australia’s only Aboriginal-owned satellite television service, Imparja Television, and trained a generation of young Indigenous people who went on to form the nucleus of today’s Indigenous media culture in Australia. 

* * *

(above, From Left: John Macumba, FReda Glynn, Philip Batty)

 

I first met Freda Glynn in 1979, at a demonstration in Alice Springs. At the time, Central Australia was a politically fractured place. The Whitlam Labor Government’s Land Rights Bill had inflamed pastoralists throughout the Northern Territory; the new Aboriginal Legal Aid service threatened the old local judicial system; bigoted police had come under investigation and missions had been abolished and their property handed over to Aboriginal organisations. In this fraught atmosphere it was not unusual to find oneself at demonstrations.

Eight months passed before I met Freda again; this time, at an event that would change both of us irrevocably. It was a tentative public meeting held in Alice Springs to discuss the formation of an organisation that proposed to work towards the establishment of an Aboriginal voice in the media.

The meeting was organised by me and a gregarious Aboriginal man from Oodnadatta, John Macumba. Our first few attempts to hold the meeting failed but on the third try, a number of Aboriginal people attended, including Freda, who voted with the majority to form a new organisation, tentatively named the Central Australian Aboriginal Media Association.

At the time, Freda was a single mother with five children: Sue, Erica, Scott, Robert and Warwick (then a ten-year-old boy). She had separated from her husband, Bob Thornton, and was cleaning hotels to support her family as sole breadwinner.

This made any full time involvement in CAAMA impossible. Although she attended CAAMA committee meetings and helped where she could, it would be another 18 months before Freda took up the position of co-director of the new organisation.

* * *

Freda was born on Woodgreen station, north of Alice Springs, in 1939. Her mother, Topsy Glynn, was a traditional Kaytetye woman who spoke several Aboriginal languages before English. Topsy received training at the station as a cook and subsequently worked for the owners.

Freda’s father, Alfred Price, was the son of Frederick Price, the second last postmaster of the Overland Telegraph Station in Alice Springs. Freda, or more correctly, Alfreda, was given the female version of her father’s name, Alfred. Freda’s only sibling, her older sister, Rona, was fathered by Alfred’s brother, Ronald.

As an infant, Freda was afflicted with a life-threatening illness and was sent, tucked up in a wooden egg box, to the ‘Bungalow’ (aka ‘The Half-caste Institution’) in Alice Springs to receive urgent medical care, accompanied by Rona and her mother. As Freda required prolonged care, her mother was allowed to stay at the Bungalow where she was later employed as housekeeper and head cook. Freda says that this was ‘the best thing that could have happened to me and my family’ as it opened up the possibility of education, employment and a better life in Alice Springs.

After leaving school in the mid-1950s, Freda was immediately offered training and a job at the only photographic studio in Alice Springs, and for 17 years she captured practically every baptism, wedding and birthday in the town. Working alone in the studio’s darkroom, Freda enjoyed listening to the ABC, then the only radio service available in Alice Springs. She says that this gave her a ‘great education’ about the world beyond the confines of Central Australia.

With the election of the federal Labor Government in 1972 and the creation of the first federal Department of Aboriginal Affairs (DAA), people like Freda were in demand. Employed by the Department in the mid-1970s, she received training in development management at the South Australian Institute of Technology in the Task Force program. She was subsequently offered work back in Alice Springs as a Community Development Officer, assisting people living on the town’s fringe camps.

It was during this period that I first met Freda.

* * *

In mid-February 1980, we presented a written submission to the Department of Aboriginal Affairs announcing the formation of CAAMA and seeking financial support. The Minister for Aboriginal Affairs in the Liberal Fraser Government, Fred Chaney, was receptive but felt that his colleague, Minster for Communications Tony Staley, should fund CAAMA.

While the ministers debated their respective responsibilities, the Institute for Aboriginal Development (IAD) in Alice Springs offered their support. They hired filmmaker Clive Scollay to organise a CAAMA media tour of public broadcasting stations in Canberra, Sydney and Melbourne and, more significantly, to arrange meetings with Chaney and Staley (then a Cabinet minister) to push CAAMA’s case.

Obligingly, the ministers agreed to meet the CAAMA delegation at Parliament House in early April. While Chaney was somewhat equivocal, offering little support for CAAMA, the opposite was true of Staley. When we entered his office, he said, with his feet on his ministerial desk, ‘The government would like to offer you a gift: the old ABC studios and broadcasting facilities in Alice Springs,’ and with that, he lit up a cigar. Stunned at such generosity, we thanked Staley and headed back to Alice Springs. In the meantime, he issued a press release notifying the public of his magnanimous offer. However, on inspecting the ‘studios’ we discovered that they were in a ruinous state and devoid of any equipment. Contact was immediately made with Staley’s office to alert him to the real state of the ‘gift’.

Six weeks later, on 28 May, Staley and Chaney flew to Alice Springs to speak with us. During this critically important meeting, it was resolved that the old studios would be renovated and production equipment installed for CAAMA’s use; that the new ABC studios and offices in Alice Springs would be made available to CAAMA while the renovations to the old studios were completed; and that DAA would consider funding CAAMA’s production and operational costs. I still find it surprising, if not astonishing, that a small, untested group from the desert was able to extract support from some of the most powerful political figures in the nation, including a Cabinet minister. Such, perhaps, was the goodwill that then existed towards Aboriginal people.

At about the same time, the federal government established a committee of inquiry into the ABC (the Dix Committee) and it happened to be holding a hearing in Alice Springs. This represented an unprecedented opportunity for CAAMA, then the only Aboriginal media organisation in the country. John delivered a powerful speech at the hearing, pointing out that the ABC was providing no Aboriginal programming in the country and that it must immediately rectify this ‘appalling oversight’. Two ABC executives present at the hearing – John Newsome and John Hartley – later recalled that John’s speech hit them ‘like a ton of bricks’.

Within a matter of months, CAAMA was contracted to produce radio programming on the local ABC outlet (8AL) and the ABC itself planned to launch its own pilot Aboriginal radio program through the same station and on a national basis. This had major repercussions for Freda. The ABC offered her training and a full-time position at the ABC producing and presenting their local program, which she accepted.

Much else was undertaken during this brief, hectic period: CAAMA played a role in establishing Alice Spring’s first public radio station, 8CCC; the first Indigenous media training programs were created; licence applications were submitted; radio programs were produced; building and equipment were installed; and much more. Indeed, from

January 1980 to June 1981, CAAMA went from nothing but an idea through to a burgeoning organisation, producing and broadcasting daily radio programming in four Aboriginal languages through three outlets: the public station, 8CCC, the regional ABC station, 8AL and the commercial station, 8HA.

In May 1981, John decided to leave CAAMA and Alice Springs. He had been offered a substantial managerial position that he could not refuse in his home town, Oodnadatta. I was concerned that if someone could not be found to replace John, CAAMA might falter. Fortunately, Freda, who was now employed full-time at the ABC but continued to attend CAAMA meetings, readily agreed to leave the ABC and take up the position of co-director, in July 1981.

(ABOVE: Freda Glynn at CAAMA Studios, 1984)

 

A good start had been made in laying the foundations of CAAMA, but the work of turning it into an organisation with its own independent radio and television services, with a strong production capability and well-resourced training program was yet to be achieved.

One of our most important submissions at this time (presented to the federal government in 1983) focused on Australia’s forthcoming national satellite, AUSSAT, due to be launched in 1985. We pointed out in the submission that the satellite would, for the first time, make available a wide range of telecommunication services, including TV, to hundreds of remote Aboriginal communities. We insisted that these communities should be afforded some measure of control over what we described as the ‘avalanche’ of television about to pour into their homes. We also argued that Aboriginal people should be given the ability to produce television programming on their own terms and in their own languages as a way of moderating this forthcoming ‘cultural televisual dominance’.

To back up these arguments, Freda and I attended a number of conferences and seminars in the southern capitals where Freda made impassioned speeches about the potential impact of the satellite. At this point, the federal government was still making up its mind about how AUSSAT would be regulated and who would have access to it.

Our arguments concerning the need for Aboriginal production of Aboriginal programming in the face of the impending satellite were also put to the Australian Film Commission (AFC). Responding positively, the AFC, then headed up by Cathy Robinson, and later Kim Williams, provided CAAMA with enough funding to establish the CAAMA Video Unit at the end of 1983 (later, CAAMA Productions Pty Ltd). Clive Scollay was re-engaged to set up the Unit with four Aboriginal trainees. While technically ‘trainees’, they were thrown into intensive production work, including a number of contracts for government departments. One of the trainees was Erica Glynn.

Moves were also made in 1983 to establish CAAMA’s own independent radio broadcasting network. A detailed application was made late that year to the Australian Broadcasting Tribunal (ABT) for a licence to operate a public radio station in Alice Springs with repeaters at the Aboriginal communities of Hermannsburg, Ali Curung and Santa Teresa. A year later, the ABT convened a public hearing in Alice Springs at which Aboriginal organisations and people throughout the Northern Territory came to speak in support of the application, including Pat Dodson, then director of the Central Land Council. After a brief deliberation, the ABT officially awarded CAAMA its long-awaited broadcasting licence in September 1984; the first ever awarded to an Aboriginal organisation. In making its decision, the chairman of the ABT, David Jones, said it was ‘an historic occasion in Australian broadcasting’.

The new station was located in Little Sisters, a renovated former Catholic convent on the southern outskirts of Alice Springs, next to a town camp, also named Little Sisters, which could sometimes become extremely rowdy. On occasion, when one of the radio announcers failed to turn up, Freda would grab her teenage son Warwick to fill in. This experience later formed the basis of Warwick’s award-winning short, Green Bush (2005).

The old convent also accommodated the CAAMA video unit, audio-visual library, administrative offices and other facilities. In 1984, a recording studio was constructed next to the convent and a recording label, CAAMA Music, created. Within three years the label had grown into a substantial business, selling more than 30,000 cassettes and CDs annually, from a catalogue of some 40 albums. The recording studio was managed by music producer Bill Davis, working with Aboriginal trainees including Mark Manolis, who later found work in the recording industry. Bill and his team later produced a series of award-winning radio programs for schools located in Aboriginal communities throughout the Northern Territory known as Bushfire Radio.

In 1984, the federal government finally made a decision about who would have access to the national satellite, AUSSAT. Briefly, Minister for Communications Michael Duffy decided that licences would only be granted to commercial television operators to provide services from the satellite. Further, the Australian Broadcasting Tribunal would decide who was to be awarded these licences through a competitive process after public hearings. If anyone else wanted access to the satellite, they would have to negotiate with the successful licensees.

This meant that community-based bodies like CAAMA would have to beg these commercial operators for access with no guarantee of success. It seemed, at the time, as if we were completely locked out. There was however one small chink in this seemingly impenetrable armour. CAAMA could create its own commercial TV company and bid for one of the licences in its own right and thus obtain unfettered access. Indeed, one of the satellite’s service areas covered all of those towns and regions that CAAMA had always wished to reach.

This created a huge dilemma. CAAMA had no interest in operating a commercial TV service, but if it did not submit a licence application, it would have no guaranteed access to the satellite. I remember having long, anxious discussions with Freda and the CAAMA committee about whether to apply for the licence. We would have to broadcast predominantly commercial television programming, yet CAAMA was established to counter such material. In short, we would be forced to sup with the devil. In the end, we decided to apply for the licence as there was no alternative.

We created, on paper, a television company, Imparja (meaning ‘track’ in the Arrernte language) to facilitate the bid. One small problem remained, however: CAAMA had no money to actually establish the service. Freda and I conducted a tour of Indigenous television satellite services in North America. In Canada, we visited the remote Arctic Circle, where satellite technology had been delivering TV programming in the Inuit language for many years. Here, we were warmly welcomed by representatives of the Inuit Broadcasting Corporation who offered to appear at the hearing (via satellite) in support our application.

The first hearing was held on 6 August 1985 in Alice Springs. Two contenders had applied for the licence, CAAMA and the Darwin-based commercial TV station, Channel 8, which was acquired in the middle of the hearing by media magnate and Australia’s richest man, Kerry Packer. We had 24 Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal witnesses to support our case, including eye surgeon, Fred Hollows; the former head of the reserve bank, H.C. ‘Nugget’ Coombs; Minister for Education in the South Australian government, Lynn Arnold, (later premier of that state); Rosemarie Kuptana, head of the Inuit Broadcasting Corporation (via satellite); and many Aboriginal community representatives.

While we were able to put forward a convincing case in terms of our Aboriginal programming and special audience needs, we did not of course have experience in operating a television station. More problematically, we had been unable to secure financial support, despite several funding submissions to the federal government. In sharp contrast, Channel 8 had the required funds and the technical experience. They planned to relay their existing commercial television material through the new satellite service, together with some local news, but there would be no programming for the substantial Aboriginal audience.

Freda and I held out little hope of winning the bid. In fact, our whole team did. We were therefore astonished when the ABT decided that neither CAAMA nor Channel 8 qualified for the licence and that another hearing would be called to decide the matter. In short, CAAMA had ‘impressive’ programming, but zero finance, while Channel 8 possessed the finance, but no Aboriginal programming. The next hearing was set down for 17 March 1986, giving both parties six months to re-boot their applications. As the communications academic Eric Michaels suggested, the ABT sent both applicants on a ‘treasure hunt’: ‘CAAMA had to come back with six million dollars’, while Channel 8 had ‘to find some Aboriginal content’.

With the real prospect of winning the licence, Freda, myself and other CAAMA staff (including ‘Shorty’ O’Neil, formerly of the North Queensland Land Council), organised an intensive round of new meetings with government funding bodies. In the end, we were able to obtain an undertaking that if CAAMA won the licence, the funds would be forthcoming, subject to ministerial approval.

About 30% of this money was to come from the Australian Bicentennial Authority, which had been established to celebrate, in 1988, the 200th anniversary of European settlement in Australia. The Authority had substantial funding for ‘nationally focused’ Aboriginal projects and an Aboriginal-owned satellite television service appeared to fit the bill. Some city-based Aboriginal groups protested against CAAMA accepting the bicentennial ‘blood money’ and, on several occasions, Freda fronted up to these groups to argue that all government funding to Aboriginal organisations could be described as ‘blood money’. Indeed, at a particularly hostile meeting, I remember thinking back to the first time I met Freda when she was confronted by the all-white Citizens for Civilised Living. On this occasion, it was an all-Aboriginal crowd she faced with the same bravery.

Following the second, tumultuous hearing, the ABT awarded the licence to CAAMA in August 1986, stating that ‘on balance’, CAAMA could provide a more ‘comprehensive’ service. Channel 8 had made some limited attempt to develop Aboriginal programming but it failed to impress the ABT. Miraculously, once we had secured the license, the funding bodies made good on their promise to provide the required $6 million funds. The decision produced a near hysterical response from the conservative Northern Territory Government. As recorded in Hansard, Chief Minister Ian Tuxworth thundered, ‘This is a joke … giving a television signal that covers one-third of the Australian continent to a group … that is incapable, incompetent and unfinancial (sic), is madness.’ Channel 8 launched an appeal against the decision, but that too failed. By the end of 1986, CAAMA was ready to build its own satellite service, Imparja Television.

* * *

Along with the licence came $3.5 million in promised funding to train over 30 Aboriginal ‘media cadets’ in association with the Australian Film Television and Radio School, to be coordinated by the School’s Julie Wiggins. Two of these trainees were Warwick Thornton and Rachel Perkins.

One could say that Warwick grew up with CAAMA. Indeed, Freda used to refer to him and his sister Erica as her ‘CAAMA babies’. As a 12-year-old, Warwick could often be found riding his BMX bike around the CAAMA radio studios, pestering his mother. As we have seen, his initial role at CAAMA was that of a ‘fill-in’ radio announcer, up until he had his own program. When he took up one of the new traineeships after the license victory, he received on-the-job training, using the CAAMA video unit’s new camera equipment. It was clear from the outset that he had a particularly acute ‘eye’ and aesthetic sensibility, which would lead him onto a successful career. Rachel Perkins had grown up in the southern cities, but she too had close ties with Central Australia. Her famous activist father, Charlie Perkins, was born in the region and, like Freda, had spent time as a child at the Bungalow home in Alice Springs.

Rachel had quite different interests to Warwick. When I first met her, she was halfway through a Dostoevsky novel and already talking about films she planned to make. My immediate thought was, this young woman will go far.

With the training program underway, work began on the establishment of Imparja TV, and after a frantic 12 months or so, Imparja went to air on 15 January 1988.

Rachel’s father, then head of the Aboriginal Development Commission, officially launched the station before a crowd of some 500 guests. In a subsequent press interview, Freda said: ‘After all the hard work, this is a proud moment for our mob.’ And, indeed, it was.

 

This is an edited extract from Philip Batty’s essay ‘Freda Glynn and the evolution of CAAMA: a personal reflection’, in Kin: An extraordinary Australian filmmaking family (Wakefield Press).

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The art of Nicholas Folland

Over the last two weeks we’ve been sharing summaries of and extracts from some Wakefield Press gems, in blog posts put together by work experience student Maddy. (And yes, we briefly had two Maddys in the office! Never enough Maddys, we say.) This is the last post of the series.

 

Cover of Nicholas Folland by Lisa Slade

 

Nicholas Folland follows the life and work of the well-known artist. This book displays Folland’s passion for jewels and other miscellaneous translucent glassware, and how artfully he works an ambience into a piece. Stunning to look at, this book allows one to explore their taste in polished crystal and how they could work it into the atmosphere.

Folland’s talent for transforming attractive objects into even more glamorous artworks transcends all expectations and leaves you breathless. Repurposing once-useless crystalware into pieces of history and identity which speak to the audience, Folland’s journey is set throughout the pages in an essay format, easy to pore over and digest.

 

Found crystal vases, LED lights, by Nicholas Folland

Untitled (10-14) (2013)

 

Found crystal vases, LED lights, by Nicholas Folland

Untitled (1-6) (2013)

 

Taxidermy deer, chandelier, by Nicholas Folland

Dear (2013)

 

Chandelier, refrigeration unit, 12W lighting, by Nicholas Folland

The Door Was Open … (2005)

 

Crystal and glassware, table, lightbox, cinefoil, by Nicholas Folland

Goodnight Sweetheart (2011)

 

Under construction, by Nicholas Folland

Fides (2012)

 

Crystal decanters, polyester resin, timber, aluminium, lightbox, by Nicholas Folland

Untitled (boat 5) (2008)

 

Cast crystal, timber, lightbox, by Nicholas Folland

Reclining Nude (2011)

 

Mixed media installation, by Nicholas Folland

Raft 2 (detail) (2009)

 

About the author

Lisa Slade spent her childhood in Hunter Valley, New South Whales, before moving to Newcastle to be a university lecturer. Relocating to Adelaide, Slade spent her time being Project Curator at the Art Gallery of South Australia, additionally curating exhibits whilst lecturing in art history between The University of Adelaide and The Art Gallery of South Australia. Slade has written many books before, a self proclaimed expert on art and writing, she skillfully weaves between words and pictures in a balance to let readers fully understand Folland’s art.

 

This book is available at our bookshop on 16 Rose Street, Mile End, or online.

We hope you’ve enjoyed this series by Maddy, and happy browsing!

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Baudin’s Voyagers and The Art of Science

Over two weeks we’re sharing summaries of and extracts from some Wakefield Press gems, in blog posts put together by work experience student Maddy. (And yes, we briefly had two Maddys in the office! Never enough Maddys, we say.)

 

Cover of The Art of Science by Jean Fornasiero, Lindl Lawton and John West-Sooby

 

The Art of Science tells of the rich history around Nicholas Baudin’s Voyagers from 1800 to 1804. Flip through the pages and join explorers as they discover and chart Australia. Beautiful scientific drawings illustrate exquisite flora and fauna, as Baudin’s voyagers collected over 100,000 specimens.

One of the most lavishly equipped scientific explorations to ever leave Europe, Baudin’s expedition uncovered the beauty in the Australian outback.

 

View of our anchorage in North West Bay, D’Entrecasteaux Channel, 29 Nivose, Year 10 (19 January 1802) Archives nationales de France, série Marine – 5JJ51

View of Anchorage in North West Bay

 

From The Art of Science

Red-necked pademelon by Charles-Alexandre Lesueur

 

From The Art of Science by Jean Fornasiero, Lindl Lawton and John West-Sooby

Grey Stinkwood from a drawing by Pierre-Joseph Redouté

 

From The Art of Science by Jean Fornasiero, Lindl Lawton and John West-Sooby

Aracana sp. (? ornata) by Charles-Alexandre Lesueur

About the authors

Jean Fornasiero is Emeritus Professor of French Studies at the University of Adelaide and a Fellow of the Australian Academy of the Humanities. Lindl Lawton is Senior Curator at the South Australian Maritime Museum. John West-Sooby is Professor of French Studies at the University of Adelaide.

About the book

This book was published to coincide with the touring exhibition The Art of Science: Baudin’s Voyagers 1800–1804. This exhibition showcases more than 350 works from the Lesueur Collection held by the Museum of Natural History in Le Havre, Normandy, France. The exhibition has toured nationally, visiting Adelaide, Launceston, Hobart, Sydney and Canberra, before finishing up in Perth. It opened at the Western Australian Museum in September and runs until 9 December 2018. See more here.

The book is available at our bookshop on 16 Rose Street, Mile End or online.

Click here to view an extract.

Happy browsing.

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An extract from The Hounded by Simon Butters

Over two weeks we’re sharing summaries of and extracts from some Wakefield Press gems, in blog posts put together by work experience student Maddy. (And yes, we briefly had two Maddys in the office! Never enough Maddys, we say.)

In this extract from The Hounded, Monty finds himself alone with beautiful Eliza from next door, and in her bedroom no less …

 

“You enjoyed it, didn’t you? Watching her suffer like that?”

The Hounded

“What if I did?” she grinned.

What if she did? She was not going to hide it. She’d accepted her nature long ago. It was now up to me to accept the darkness. I’d got her so wrong.

“I’m sorry,” I said. “It was my fault.”

Her look softened and she shook her head in disdain, refusing my apology. A knock on the door startled us.

“Quick! Get in there,” she ordered.

I hurried into her bathroom. She closed the door on me, and I stood in the dark, trying not to move. Blood gushed through my veins. The noise was a roaring loudspeaker in my ears. I was sure the sound would give me away. Wasn’t there some Voodoo guy in Haiti who could stop his heartbeat, just by thinking about it? Now, that was control. I thought I’d give it a go and held my breath. I concentrated on my heart, willing it to stop, or at least slow down a bit. It didn’t work. I just made myself dizzy.

“Eliza, dinner’s ready.”

“Thanks Doreen,” Eliza replied. “But I’m not hungry.”

I pictured the scene in the bedroom. Doreen would have the door open just enough to peer in tentatively. Eliza would be seated on the end of her bed, bolt upright with not a thing out of place. By the tension in her throat, I could hear Doreen was unnerved.

“But your father won’t like that,” she whimpered.

“I don’t care what he likes,” Eliza said calmly.

The door closed. A few seconds later, Eliza came into the bathroom to find me holding my breath. I gasped. I began to wobble. A floating gaseousness invaded my feet. I reached out for the shower curtain but missed and passed out. I woke to find myself upside down behind the toilet.

“Why are you such an idiot?” she asked.

“Just the way I am,” I replied.

 

Blurb

On his fifteenth birthday, Monty is at rock bottom. Ignored by his parents, bullied at school, and with a brain that’s prone to going walkabout, he’s all by himself.

Until he meets the black dog for the first time.

It’s just like any other dog, except that only Monty can see it. And it talks. And Monty’s not sure whether it’s a friend – or a foe.

The black dog gets him talking to pretty, popular Eliza Robertson for the first time. It takes him to places he’s never been.

Eventually it will take Monty, and the people around him, to the very edge.

 

Notable achievements

The Children’s Book of the Year Awards: Notable Book

Queensland Literary Awards finalist

Shortlisted for the 2014 Adelaide Festival Unpublished Manuscript Award

 

About the author

Simon Butters is a screenwriter in film and television, living in the Adelaide Hills with his two hilarious kids, a very busy wife, and a scruffy little dog that definitely doesn’t talk but does do a weird grunt when patted behind the ear. Simon’s credits include Wicked Science, H20 Just Add Water, Maiko: Island of Secrets, and others.

 

We hope you enjoyed this extract from The Hounded. The book is available at our bookshop on 16 Rose Street, Mile End or online.

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Discovering William Dobell with Christopher Heathcote

Over the next two weeks we’ll be sharing summaries of and extracts from some Wakefield Press gems, put together by work experience student Maddy. (And yes, we briefly had two Maddys in the office! Never enough Maddys, we say.)

 

Discovering Dobell by Christopher Heathcote

 

Discovering Dobell delves into the riveting, yet humble, narrative of an aspiring artist hailing from New South Wales. Sir William Dobell challenges mediums and pushes the boundaries of his works, captured beautifully in this inspiring text. Although Dobell’s pieces reflect a theme of tragedy and loss, Heathcote is able to draw out the beauty and truly capture the essence of his works. Dobell has the unique ability to adapt his technique when creating the character in subject, seizing the crux of said subject and letting it flourish into his art. This talent allows viewers to really see the emotion and meaning behind his works.
From concepts and sketches to fully developed pieces poured over for months or years, Dobell pursued art until the end of his life. He thrived every second of it.

 

Oil on hardboard, William Dobell

Abstract – Three figures (1960, detail)

 

About the author/book:

Heathcote’s passionate analysis into the world of Sir WIlliam Dobell provides fresh insight to Dobell’s pieces. His exploration of Dobell, among others, prove that he is willing to go in depth to prove to others the gripping true tales of what it takes to become someone. Heathcote’s distinct talent for weaving together a stunning narrative from scraps of knowledge show time and time again that cinderella stories can spring from anywhere.

 

Oil on hardboard, William Dobell

The Torrent (1952)

 

This book is available at our bookshop at 16 Rose Street Mile End or online here.

Happy browsing.

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