Australian Women's Register

An initiative of The National Foundation for Australian Women (NFAW) in conjunction with The University of Melbourne

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Durack, Mary (1913 - 1994)

Dame, AC, DBE, OBE

Born
20 February 1913
Adelaide, South Australia, Australia
Died
16 December 1994
Occupation
Author and Historian
Alternative Names
  • Miller, Mary (married name, 2 December 1938 - )

Summary

On the 31 December 1977, Mary Durack was appointed to the Order of the British Empire, Dames Commander, for her services to literature. In acknowledgment of her accomplishments she was also honoured with an AC (1989) and OBE in 1966. Dame Mary Durack is remembered as being the author of publications that includes Kings in Grass Castles, To Ride a Fine Horse, Sons in the Saddle and Swan River Saga: Life of Early Pioneer Eliza Shaw.

Details

Born in Adelaide South Australia, the daughter of Michael Patrick and Bessie Ida Muriel (née Johnstone) Durack Mary's childhood was spent on the Argyle and Ivanhoe stations in the West Australian East Kimberley area. After being educated at Loreto Convent in Perth she returned to the family properties.

During her lifetime Mary became a prolific writer, with her first known work being Little Poems of Sunshine (1923). Mary and her sister Elizabeth, who also became a noted author, completed their first book together Allabout: The Story of a Black Community on Argyle Station, Kimberley in 1935. Mary also wrote under the name of 'Virgilia' for The West Australian newspaper.

In 1987 Dame Mary Durack became a Fellow of Curtin University and was commended by the Childrens' Book Council in 1965 for The Courteous Savage: Yagan of Swan River (1964), illustrations by Elizabeth Durack. The title was changed to Yagan of the Bibbulmun (1976), illustrations by Revel Cooper, a Bibbulmun descendant, as 'savage' was now considered racist.

Dame Mary Durack was a director and patron of the Stockmans' Hall of Fame and Outback Heritage Centre, and a former executive member of the Aboriginal Cultural Foundation. She was a member of the Australian Society of Women Writers, The Royal Western Australian Historical Society, the National Trust and honorary life member of International PEN Australia.

The Australian Irish Heritage Association of WA conducts the Mary Durack Memorial Lecture commemorating the distinguished writer and their first patron. In 1979 the Western Australian Shires of Mundaring, Kalamunda and the Cities of Armadale and Swan established the Mary Durack Award.

On 2 December 1938 Mary married Capt. Horace Clive Miller OBE (died 1980) and they had six children.

Sources used to compile this entry: http://dargo.vicnet.au/ozlit/writers.cfm?id=242 accessed 14/05/2002, http://www.cbc.org.au/wa/author2.htm accessed 14/05/2002 and http://www.liswa.wa.gov.au/youngwritcomp.html accessed 14/05/2002.

Related entries

Archival resources

JS Battye Library of West Australian History, State Library of Western Australia

  • Papers of the Durack Family, 1886 - 1991, MN 71 MN 71; JS Battye Library of West Australian History, State Library of Western Australia. Details

Mitchell and Dixson Libraries Manuscripts Collection, State Library of New South Wales

  • Florence James - Papers, 1890 - 1993, MLMSS 5877; Mitchell and Dixson Libraries Manuscripts Collection, State Library of New South Wales. Details

National Library of Australia

  • Interview with Dame Mary Durack Miller, author (sound recording), interviewer: Stuart Reid., 1990 - 1991, ORAL TRC 3126; National Library of Australia. Details

National Library of Australia Manuscript Collection

  • Papers of Nancy Cato, 1939 - 1995, MS 757; Cato, Nancy (1917 - 2000); National Library of Australia Manuscript Collection. Details

Anne Heywood

Site-wide information and acknowledgements

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

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