Australian Women's Register

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    Portrait of Margaret Barbalet 1991, by Virginia Wallace-Crabbe, courtesy of National Library of Australia. Used with permission..


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Barbalet, Margaret Evelyn

Adelaide, South Australia
Author, Historian, Poet and Public servant
Alternative Names
  • Hardy, Margaret Evelyn (maiden name)


Margaret Barbalet is an award-winning children's author, a novelist, poet and short-story writer, a public servant and a historian

(This entry is sponsored by generous donation from Christine Foley.)


Margaret Barbalet was born in Adelaide and raised in Tasmania. She studied history at the University of Adelaide and says she spent much of her youth protesting against the Vietnam war. She taught at Mitchell and Canberra Colleges of Advanced Education, and as a researcher and historian she worked for the Commonwealth Schools Commission, Adelaide City Council and wrote a history of Adelaide Children's Hospital. She has also been an analyst at the Office of National Assessments.

As a children's author she wrote the widely acclaimed The Wolf, which won the 1993 Human Rights Award for children's literature, and was shortlisted for the Younger Readers Book of the Year Award. She was honoured in several categories of the Children's Book Council Book of the Year 2004 for Reggie Queen of the Street.

Barbalet's published non-fiction includes Far from a Low Gutter Girl: the forgotten world of state wards, South Australia, 1887-1940 and a chapter in Canberra Reflects (2001), which accompanied an exhibition at the Canberra Museum and Gallery.

Her novels include Blood in the Rain and Steel Beach, which was shortlisted for the 1983 Vogel Award. Her other books include Lady, Baby, Gypsy, Queen (1992), The Presence of Angels (2001) and Paradise Hotel. Of varied genres, her work has been described as 'capturing the territory of loss'. She is also a published poet.

She was a member of Seven Writers - a group of seven Canberra-based writers whose work often vividly portrayed life 'beneath the surface of Canberra' - and as part of this collective she contributed to Canberra Tales (1988), republished as The Division of Love in 1996, an anthology of short stories about life in Canberra. This work received an ACT Bicentennial Award.

Barbalet has been awarded an Australia Council Literature Grant; an Australian National University H.C. Coombs Creative Arts Fellowship (1998); an ACT Arts Fellowship (1999); an ACT Literature Fellowship (2001); a National Library of Australia Harold White Fellowship (2001) and an Australia Council Literature Grant for a New Work Fellowship (2002).

During a career at the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (1990 - December 2008) Margaret Barbalet was appointed Second Secretary at the Australian High Commission in Kuala Lumpur in 1996. She was posted to Abu Dhabi from 2005-08.

In 2001 she headed the Literature Committee for the ACT Cultural Council. She now lives in Sydney

Sources used to compile this entry: From Lady Denman to Katy Gallagher: A Century of Women's Contributions to Canberra, Australian Women's Archives Project, February 2013,; 'The key to personality', Canberra Times, 13/8/86, p.27; 'Margaret Barbalet', The Australian Magazine, 25-26/3/89; Canberra Times, 8/4/90, p.21; 'Big book culled into a modern Australian novel', Canberra Times, 5/7/92, p.23; 'The not at all secret seven', Sydney Morning Herald, 14/10/95, [page unavailable]; 'The real scribes of Canberra'. Canberra Times, 31/1/97, p.16; 'Return of the seven', Canberra Times, 10/2/96, 11; Canberra Times, 31/1/97, p.16; 'Sense of spirituality', Canberra Times, 18/3/01, p.54; 'Local authors honoured for difficult art of children's book writing', Canberra Times, 21/8/04, p.9.

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Archival resources

National Library of Australia

  • Papers of Margaret Barbalet, 1974-1993, 1974 - 1993, NLA MS 5396; National Library of Australia. Details

Digital resources

Portrait of Margaret Barbalet 1991
Virginia Wallace-Crabbe
National Library of Australia. Used with permission.


Barbara Lemon

Site-wide information and acknowledgements

National Foundation for Australian Women The University of Melbourne, eScholarship Research Centre

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