Books and Ideas at Montalto
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One Hundred Years of Dirt – Rick Morton’s unflinching memoir – tells of growing up on a cattle station in Queensland: of witnessing a horrific accident befall his brother; his father’s alcoholism; his mother’s strength. It’s a story of poverty, drug addiction, cruelty, anger and tragedy; of love and endurance. The Age praised its ‘exquisite detail’; Christos Tsiolkas has described it as ‘honest and harsh and beautiful and loving’.
At the heart of the book is the question of social mobility – and it’s a question asked in a time of unfavourable odds. Wealth inequality in Australia is growing. The highest 20% of income earners make five times as much of those in the lowest 20%. In this lowest 20%, we’re most likely to see people who are unemployed, single parents, those aged over 65, migrants from non-English speaking countries, and those living in rural and regional Australia.
For many years, Morton was the social affairs writer for the Australian. One Hundred Years of Dirt blends Morton’s own story with reportage and social commentary on how these issues and stories play out every day across Australia. It is both a story of one man and one family, and a story of this country.
In this discussion with Elizabeth McCarthy at Montalto, Morton shares the process of living and writing his story. Tune in for a discussion about hope and celebrating survival; the lessons we can learn about Australia, and the work we could do to challenge and change inequality.
Presented in partnership with Montalto.
Rick Morton is an award-winning journalist and the author of One Hundred Years of Dirt (MUP, 2018). Dirt is part family memoir, part book of essays about growing up on the outside in Australia. It explores intergenerational trauma, poverty, addiction and mental health and the role of a mother who tried to love enough for the failures of everyone else around her.
Elizabeth McCarthy has worked as a producer and presenter in radio for 20 years. She produces the breakfast show at Australia’s biggest independent broadcaster, 3RRR, and reviews books on 3RRR and ABC Radio Melbourne. In 2019 she was the convenor of the Victorian Premier’s Literary Award for Fiction, and from 2013–2017 she anchored Triple R’s flagship books and writing show, Multi-Storied.
She regularly interviews writers at live events and public conversations for the Wheeler Centre, Sydney Writers’ Festival, Melbourne Writers Festival, and more. She has previously worked as a music reviewer, and from 2002 – 2006 she was the drummer and co-lyricist for Melbourne swamp-rock grrrl band, The Muddy Spurs.