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    Dorothy Johnston, courtesy of ACT Writers Centre.


  • From Lady Denman to Katy Gallagher: A Century of Women's Contributions to Canberra

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Johnston, Dorothy (1948 - )

January 1948
Geelong, Victoria, Australia
Author, Novelist, Poet and Writer


Dorothy Johnston is an award-winning novelist, poet, short story writer, and author of reviews and literary essays. Her crime writing portrays the darker side of Canberra.

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


Dorothy Johnston was born in Geelong, Victoria, in 1948. She trained as a teacher at the University of Melbourne, taught English, and was an education researcher. She moved to Canberra in 1979.

Johnston's books include Tunnel Vision (1984), Ruth (1986), Maralinga My Love (1988), One For The Master (1997), The Trojan Dog (2000) and The House at Number 10 (2005).

Johnston's short stories have appeared in numerous anthologies, including Amnesty (1993), Mother Love (1996) and Below The Waterline (1999), and her essays and reviews have appeared in numerous literary journals.

Johnston says 'crime fiction is my way of writing about Canberra'. The Trojan Dog is about white collar crime in a government department, while The House at Number 10 is set in a Canberra brothel, inspired by the ACT's decriminalisation of prostitution. Writing about Canberra is, she says, relatively scarce, and she considers herself to be partially redressing this imbalance in Australian literature.

Johnston was a member of Seven Writers - a group of seven Canberra-based writers whose work vividly portrays 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. The work was funded with an ACT Bicentennial grant.

Her other awards include:
Miles Franklin Award (shortlisted, 1986 and 1997)
ABC Bicentennial Literature Award (shortlisted)
ACT Book of the Year (joint winner 2001),
Inaugural Davitt Award for the best crime novel published by a woman (runner up, 2000)
The Age Best of 2000, crime section.

Johnston has also run book groups through the Centre for Continuing Education at The Australian National University.

In 2005 she took up an Australia Council residency at Ledig House International Writer's Colony in the United States.

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,; 'Author takes oldest profession to streets of Canberra. Canberra Times, 21/10/05. 'A capital defence', Canberra Times, 29/10/05, 'Panorama' liftout, p.11; 'Adelaide Writers' Week: Good things come in three', Artstate, Issue 13, 2006, p.10; '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; 'And then there were five', Canberra Times, 21/11/98, 'Panorama' liftout; Australian Humanities Review. September-November, 2000. Cyberspace and Canberra Crime Fiction. Accessed 18 May 2006. .

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Archival resources

National Library of Australia

  • Maralinga cycle, 1988, 1988, MS 8194; Johnston, Dorothy, 1948-; Johnston, Dorothy (1948 - ); National Library of Australia. Details

Digital resources

Dorothy Johnston
ACT Writers Centre
ACT Writers Centre


Barbara Lemon

Site-wide information and acknowledgements

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

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