Welcome to my website.
From a young age I always loved reading. My mother and grandmother encouraged it. Toys were scarce in our home. But books were plentiful.
I consider myself so lucky to have grown up in Australia at the edge of the Garigal National Park, on Sydney’s breathtaking northern beaches. An area of incredible natural beauty teeming with wildlife.
In many ways it was an idyllic childhood. I had enormous freedom to explore the bush surrounding our home, and to swim in the saltwater lagoon at our doorstep, and the Pacific Ocean, at some of the world’s best surfing beaches. When I wasn’t reading, or helping my grandmother, who looked after me while my mother worked, my playground was outside, amongst nature.
In those days, the thought of pursuing a career as a writer never crossed my mind, or theirs. Authors were mysterious, famous creatures who existed in another world.
In my teens several things happened that changed the course of my life, and eventually led to me becoming a published author. It was a journey full of drama. It happened in the summer of 1970, when I was sixteen, and as a result I was committed to Parramatta Girls’ Home in Sydney, Australia’s most notorious home for girls under 18. A brutal, terrifying place run by staff who ruled with an iron fist. The contrast between life behind the high stone walls surrounding the home and my life outside, could not have been starker.
Without even trying, I was given the unexpected gift of a story that has become important historically. It is very much an Australian story, and yet the themes and events are universal.
Of course, my experience at Parramatta Girls’ Home is one I could have done without. So it may sound strange to call it a gift. But that’s what it was. It helped kickstart my writing career. It’s that old nugget about turning something bad into something good.
My time at Parramatta Girls’ Home was brief – seven months – but it was long enough to see that the human condition has another, darker side. Girls at Parramatta Girls’ Home were routinely exposed to violence.
Because of what happened there, and other similar homes, I will always be on the side of the oppressed.
Girl 43, first published under the title Invisible Thread in 2001, is based on true events. It is blended with my story, and the story of thousands of other young people growing up in an era that saw major social changes across the world.
The Sixties and Seventies were an irresistibly exciting time. The fashion, music, sexual freedom and political change were utterly enticing to a young, impressionable teenager. But for many middle-class parents who came from the previous conservative era, the Fifties, it was a time of intense anger, confusion and family conflict. Many parents thought we were dancing with the devil. Boys with long hair were seen as depraved. Musicians like Jimi Hendrix and The Rolling Stones were deemed an evil influence on the young. For me it was an exuberant time. The hippie movement, the Vietnam war, sex and drugs and rock n’roll – it really was a fascinating, explosive era. Of course, the consequences could not be predicted.
On my website you will find Notes for Teachers and Students studying the Forgotten Australians and forced adoption at school or university.
Parramatta girls are among the Forgotten Australians, the survivors of government policies that resulted in at least 500,000 children growing up in ‘out-of-home’ care in Australia in the 20th Century. Forgotten Australians are also known as ‘Care Leavers’. Many Parramatta girls and others in ‘out-of-home’ care were also victims of state-sanctioned forced adoption practices.
The Notes for Teachers and Students include Discussion Points that will spark plenty of lively debate. That is because the themes and events in Girl 43 are controversial.
Children will always be vulnerable, and some adults will take advantage of their innocence. Education is key. We all have a role to play in protecting young people.
My other novels explore similar themes: family loyalty, patriarchy, women’s rights, divorce, adoption, sexual abuse, cross-cultural friendship, racism and the Stolen Generation. They draw on my own experiences and those of my family, in particular my mother’s life.
Within the pages of my books I hope you will also find hope, and be touched by the enduring determination of the human spirit to overcome adversity, to fight injustice and bigotry, and thrive.
Please do get in touch by email, or leave a comment for general discussion. I am always happy to hear from readers, and in particular anyone who is affected personally by the big issues in my stories.
Thank you for visiting!
A gripping and powerful narrative based on the true story of Parramatta Girls’ Home in Sydney, Australia, a story that illuminates the human drama behind the incarceration and abuse of young girls who were committed to the notorious Home by the Children’s Court and charged with being “exposed to moral danger and neglected.”
First published under the title Invisible Thread (Virago, London) in 2001, the book was republished with the new title Girl 43 in 2014, after the controversial government apologies made by former Prime Minister Kevin Rudd, to the Forgotten Australians, and Julia Gillard, to the victims of forced adoption.
AVAILABLE IN PAPERBACK AND E-BOOK
RESOURCES FOR TEACHERS AND READERS