The Late Great: Ruth Park
For generations of children and adults alike, Ruth Park was a mainstay of Australia’s literary community. Ruth Park died on 14 December 2010, aged 93. With Michael Williams, acclaimed actor Anne Phelan and writer Lili Wilkinson discuss the legacy of her works including Playing Beattie Bow, The Harp in the South, and the much-loved The Muddle-Headed Wombat.
Phelan recounts her first encounters with Park’s writing — cast as Mumma Darcy in the television adaptation of The Harp in the South — and Park herself. With Sydney’s Surry Hills looming large in her stories, the three panellists discuss the power of that setting and the eccentrics who populate the suburb in Park’s depiction.
Wilkinson recalls the depth and feeling she found in the pages of The Harp in the South, Park’s “massive amount of respect for young people and the things that young people can achieve”, and her concern for the environment evident in My Sister Sif. The panellists also ponder the late writer’s capacity for both bleakness and humour, and the ways in which she endeared her work to young readers and adults alike.
Marion Halligan has published some 20 books. Her novel Valley of Grace won the 2010 ACT Book of the Year Award. One of Australia’s most important writers, she was awarded an AM in 2006. Her most recent book is Shooting the Fox.
Lili Wilkinson is the award-winning author of twelve YA novels, including Pink, Green Valentine and The Boundless Sublime. She established the insideadog website, the Inky Awards and the Inkys Creative Reading Prize at the Centre for Youth Literature, State Library of Victoria. She has a PhD in Creative Writing, and lives in Melbourne with her husband, son, dog and three chickens. Her latest book is After the Lights Go Out.
Anne Phelan has been an actor since 1968. She’s appeared in shows from Prisoner to Neighbours and almost everything in between, including four years as Kate in Bellbird.