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Amirah Inglis Biography

Brief biography of Amirah Inglis, prepared by Ros Russell.

February 2004


Amirah Inglis immigrated to Melbourne in 1929 with her Polish-Jewish parents. She was educated at MacRobertson Girls' High School and graduated from Melbourne University with a BA Hons in history, later studying at Canberra University College.

She followed her parents into the Communist Party at the age of eighteen and worked briefly as a trainee librarian in government before working on the communist weekly, The Guardian.

At twenty-one Inglis married the communist intellectual Ian Turner, and she became a devoted and active member of the party during the most turbulent period of its history-the Menzies era, the Petrov Affair, and increasing anti-communist sentiment.

The family moved to O'Connor, Canberra in 1959. She taught music at Lyneham High School, was on the programming committee for Canberra's ABC concerts, and was involved in the Canberra branch of the Communist Party. The marriage ended in 1962.

Inglis' second autobiographical work, The hammer & sickle and the washing up: memories of an Australian woman communist (Hyland House, 1995) describes her struggle to balance her political commitments in a man's world with those of being a wife, mother and homemaker. It also portrays a rudimentary Canberra and Australian National University staff members.

In 1967 Amirah and second husband Ken Inglis went to Papua New Guinea at his appointment as Vice-Chancellor of the University of Papua New Guinea. There she lectured in history at the Administrative College and was involved in women university students' affairs, and worked in the garden curator's office.

Inglis' work as a writer includes numerous essays, articles and reviews; two books on Papua New Guinea, and two books on the Spanish Civil War and Australians involvement therein. Her 1983 book Amirah: an un-Australian childhood (Heinemann) explored the question of migrant identity in Australia, and described the frustrations, challenges and confusion of growing up in a country with different cultural, political, religious and philosophical paradoxes to her ideological communist, atheist parents, themselves loyal to different countries. This work won the Talking Book of the Year Award for 1984.

Prepared by Ros Russell

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