- 21 September 1902
Wyalong, New South Wales, Australia
- 19 October 1981
Manly, Sydney, New South Wales, Australia
- Author, Cultural Commentator, Political activist, Social activist and Teacher
- Alternative Names
- Cusack, Ellen Dymphna (Nell) (birth name)
- Freehill, Dymphna (married name)
Dymphna Cusack was one of Australia's most prolific and translated writers. Educated at St Ursula's College, Armidale she won an Exhibition and Teaching Scholarship to the University of Sydney, graduating with a Bachelor of Arts and a Diploma of Education. While at the University of Sydney, she developed life-long friendships with fellow authors Florence James and Christina Stead, and lawyer Marie Byles. After graduating she worked as a teacher until her early retirement in 1944 due to ill-health.
Cusack's literary career took off in 1935 when her first novel, Jungfrau, was published to critical acclaim. A further eleven novels, seven plays, three travel books, two children's books and one non-fiction book followed. Two of her novels were collaborations: Pioneers on Parade (1939) with Miles Franklin; and Come In Spinner (1951) with Florence James.
Cusack's books were translated into over 30 languages worldwide, making her one of Australia's most translated authors. Her anti-bomb play, Pacific Paradise (1955), written in response to the United State's atomic tests on Bikini Atoll, sealed her reputation across Asia, Eastern Europe and the Pacific.
During the 1950s and 1960s Cusack spent long periods overseas with her partner (later husband) Norman Randolph Freehill, a journalist and founding member of the Community Party of Australia. After returning to Australia in 1962 she became associated with Faith and Hans Bandler, leaders of the Aboriginal rights movements.
In 1963 Cusack was a foundation member of the Australian Society of Authors. In 1975 she was named Woman of the Year by the Union of Australian Women. In 1976 she refused the Order of the British Empire due to her republican ideals, but in 1981, soon before her death, she was appointed a Member of the Order of Australia (AM) for her contribution to Australian literature.