My Top 15 Favourite Australian Female Writers

Last week, the Aussie Women Writers group asked tweeps (Twitter users) for their Top 10 favourite Australian women writers across all genres.

Of course, I couldn’t keep it to 10, so here are my Top 15 (note: in no particular order).

Non-Fiction (mid­–20th century to now) 

  • Leigh Sales — her book on David Hicks, Detainee 002 is, in my humble opinion, one of the best examples of Australian creative non-fiction around. It’s well-researched, fair and balanced, and well-written. You can’t ask for more than that.
  • Germaine Greer — I nearly listed Germaine in the Pioneer section below for, of course, her work The Female Eunuch is a seminal piece of work in the feminism movement. I also enjoyed her wit on the lawns of the NT Museum and Art Gallery at the NT Writers’ Festival in 2009.
  • Chloe Hooper — I think Chloe and Leigh are together the best creative non-fiction writers in Australia. Chloe presented in a clear and fair-mannered way, in her award-winning book The Tall Man, the story of Cameron Doomadgee’s death in custody on Palm Island.
  • Maria Hill — A professional female military historian in the Australian marketplace, yay! Maria is bubbly in person and has great drive to bring a woman’s perspective to a traditionally male category. Check out her book Diggers and Greeks about Australians in Greece in World War II.

 Pioneer Fiction (late 19th–early 20th century)

  • Katharine Susannah Prichard I was introduced to her novel Coonardoo during my undergraduate literary studies and loved the book. I can’t believe it’s not held in as high esteem as …
  • Stella Miles Franklin My Brilliant Career is clearly a stalwart of Australian literary studies. I’ve also thought of it as our version of Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen
  • Henry Handel Richardson Maurice Guest is another work that looms large in the Australian canon and that all lovers of Australian literature should read.

Contemporary Fiction (mid-20th Century to now)

  • Kate Grenville — My favourite is Idea of Perfection. It’s a great romp through rural life and how romance changes throughout life. This isn’t to ignore her other work, but I think this book is often forgotten.
  • Libby Gleeson — When I was in my early teens, Eleanor, Elizabeth opened my eyes to the beauty of young adult literature. It’s one of the few books in that category I’ve ever read (no, I haven’t read Harry Potter or Twilight).
  • Hazel Edwards —this is a more personal favourite, as I met Hazel in Darwin in 2008 and she was very encouraging of my writing ambition and even helped to brainstorm some titles ideas for my book on Beersheba.
  • Andrea Goldsmith — again, another more personal favourite. I met Andrea through a novel-writing workshop series run by the Victorian Writers’ Centre in Melbourne. Her book Reunion is an daring work about friendships and relationships across life.
  • Leonie Norrington — yep, another personal one. Leonie was the President of the NT Writers’ Centre when I joined the committee in 2003. She’s an incredible person and writer. Her recent book The Devil You Know is another I’d recommend for young adults.
  • Jennifer Scoullar — a personal inspiration. She’s made anthropomorphic writing to a fine art — dare I say she’s even Kafka-esque. Jenny’s now part of the distinguished Penguin rural author stable and I encourage you to check out her latest book Brumby’s Run.

Poetry (late-20th century to now)

  • Dorothy Porter — another pioneer of genre with her verse novels, especially The Monkey’s Mask and Akhenaten. I also fondly remember her as being kind enough to respond to my email questions when I was a second-year undergraduate student writing an essay about books turning into movies — in her case, The Monkey’s Mask.

Short Stories (late-20th century to now)

  • Cate Kennedy — sure Cate’s now written novels (which I also highly recommend) but she managed to grow a public profile from her short stories first. That’s rare in today’s crowded literary marketplace. Her collection of short stories Dark Roots is a must for any writer and reader of short stories.

There are many more Australian female writers I’d like to list including — May Gibbs, Marion Halligan, Elizabeth Jolley, Anita Heiss, Alexis Wright, Delia Falconer, Susan Johnson, Jackie French, Patsy Adam-Smith, Helen Garner … and the list goes on!

Indeed, Wikipedia has some 442 Australian women writers, which is missing some of my top 15.

Who are your favourite Australian women writers, in any category?



About Catherine C. Turner

Catherine C. Turner grew up as an 'Army brat', then became a part-time Army officer, and was full-time Army officer’s spouse for more than a decade. Along the way, she added Afghanistan to the Turner family war service medal collection, which already includes her father's from Vietnam and his father's from Korea and the Pacific in WWII. She has lived and worked in three states and two territories in Australia and has travelled to Europe, the UK, and USA (the last on her American passport). She’s an arts worker with expertise in corporate comunication and book publishing, and holds several qualifications, including an honours degree from University of Canberra, a graduate certificate from Deakin University, and a graduate diploma from RMIT. When she is not writing her first military history book about the Australia Light Horse charge at Beersheba, she fantasises about riding her motorcycle on a top television motor show and becoming the No. 1 Female Ticket Holder for the Geelong Cats AFL team.

Posted on 21 September 2012, in Uncategorized and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 7 Comments.

  1. Thank you Cath! Very generous of you and an interesting post …

  2. I just discovered this post … somehow I missed that tweet as I don’t go on twitter often enough. Love your list. I’d agree with a lot of them though I’d have to have Elizabeth Jolley and Thea Astley in my lost of all time favourite Aussies.

    BTW I was one of two women who did major populating of the Wikipedia Aussie Women Writers category back in 2007. There was only a small handful when we started and between us we added a couple of hundred in a couple of weeks. I add to them when I can. Can you tell me which ones are missing from your list and I’ll see if I can add them easily – unless you’ve done it. (Saves me checking every one of yours to work out the missing ones!)

    • Hi Sue

      Thank you for stopping by and commenting.

      Thanks also for your work in starting the list of Aussie Women Writers on Wikipedia, great work and I appreciate that it would take a lot of work to try and capture them all! 😉

      The ones I listed but are currently missing from the Wikipedia list are:
      NON-FICTION — Leigh Sales — Chloe Hooper — Dr Maria Hill
      PIONEER FICTION — Katharine Susannah Prichard — Henry Handel Richardson
      FICTION — Hazel Edwards — Leonie Norrington — Jennifer Scoullar
      POETRY — Dorothy Porter
      SHORT STORIES/NOVELS — Cate Kennedy

      Thanks again and a Happy New Year!

      • Hi Catherine, I think some of those were already tagged Australian Women Writers – Hooper, Prichard, Richardson, Porter and Kennedy – but I added the category for Leigh Sales and Hazel Edwards. As you probably know, Hill, Norrington and Scoullar don’t have Wikipedia articles at all, so I have added Norrington and Scoullar to the Australian Project page’s list of novelists needing articles. Best I can do right now!

      • Thanks Sue! I really appreciate your help. Happy New Year!

      • Same to you … and thanks for bringing it to my attention. I love improving that area of Wikipedia even though I’ve been less active in recent years.

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