I grew up in the foothills of the Scenic Rim in South East Queensland and had a great country upbringing: climbing trees or our neighbour’s tank stand; building cubby houses; riding our push bikes to the creek where we swam and built dams and floated on air-mattresses and didn’t go home until sunset. It was where kicking off your shoes once you got to school was so normal that our dairy-farm bred zone athletes had to get used to wearing running shoes before competing on a rubberized running track in Brisbane!
My first poem “Peacock Behind Bars” was published in the Brisbane Courier Mail when I was about 8 or 9 years old. I attended Somerville House, the Brisbane Girls High School as a boarder in 1982, where I remember enjoying English, Economics, Geography, Biology and History (but not Maths!), had poetry published in a couple of the annual school magazines, and was accepted into the University of Queensland in 1987.
With the vaguest idea of being a high school teacher, I enrolled in Geography (later Geographical Sciences where I came across my first demographers and town planning lecturers), Psychology and English (mostly Australian literature) subjects and helped form a like-minded group of residents in encouraging and sharing our work. A highlight was self-publishing two anthologies (Union College Poets 1987 and 1988), one of which had a foreword and was launched by Bruce Dawe – something I told my son in March 2013 as he started a year 11 English assignment on Bruce Dawe’s poetry.
While at university I remember sharing a psychology tutorial group with Peter Pike, a senior policeman who was an anti-corruption campaigner and whistleblower during the Fitzgerald inquiry and who later went into the very public life of politics to “stay alive”. Peter told me I’d make a great policewoman – but I’d seen what being a too-honest public servant had done to my father under the Bjeke-Petersen years, so after being awarded the University of Queensland’s Ford Memorial Poetry Medal (1989) for “Mr. Blue (Boy and a Balloon)”, I deferred acceptance into a Diploma of Education that I never took up, and moved to Western Australia with one of my lecturer’s research assistants. We lived in South Perth for 2 years, where I enjoyed the plight of the underemployed university graduate during the recession that Paul Keating declared that we had to have!
At least I got to travel the coast around Mandurah before it’s little villages coalesced into one long suburban strip and canal development through the highest dune complex on the west coast flushed the Peel Inlet. On a bicycle, and in wet wintery conditions, I assessed and reported on the state of every built structure (including inspecting every toilet block, staircase and carpark) for the Department of Planning & Urban Development. We had the pleasure of a coastal geomorphologist to brighten the 5 hour drive north to Geraldton with side trips to sinkholes and a garnet mine near the Hutt River. Without such people I would never have known that Greenhough Shire (before it was amalgamated with Geraldton) was the only coastal council in the country that did not have a petrol station within its bounds and only 10 km of coastline.
In Perth, the city made for cars, I had a bicycle and cruised along the Swan River cycleway, past the remains of the old Swan brewery before it was redeveloped, to work at the University of Western Australia’s Geography Department as a practicals demonstrator and assessment marker for an English cravat-wearing Darwin enthusiast while sharing an office with a paleontology doctorate student who counted pollen under her microscope while listening to Paul Kelly’s music all day! It was during that time that I had skinny legs, fantasized about what carbohydrates I’d be cooking for dinner and had some poetry published with the Freemantle Arts Review (1990-1991).
Around interests in calligraphy and genealogy, I returned to the east coast in 1983 and took up a career and further studies in town planning that led to a 16 year stint in NSW local governments between the North Coast, the south-west fringe of Sydney and the Mid-North Coast.
Currently I reside at Brunswick Heads, just north of Byron Bay on the far north coast of NSW, where squeaky thongs (of the footwear variety) are the sound of my walks back from the beach.
I welcome your comments on the drabbles and poetry. Enjoy!