Emeritus Professor Elizabeth Jolley
One of Australia’s defining authors
Elizabeth Jolley (1923 -2007) was one of Australia’s defining authors, her bleak, black humour challenging established notions on how Australia should be depicted and refusing to conform to such trivial formalities as genre. Over the course of her distinguished career she wrote 15 novels and four short story collections. She was a cherished figure at Curtin for more than 20 years.
Born in Birmingham, England as Monica Elizabeth Knight, to an English father and Austrian mother, she experienced what she later described as a “mysterious world for us children” in a home often crowded with European refugees as the Second World War drew near.
Jolley emigrated to Australia in 1959 with her husband, Leonard Jolley, and their three children when Leonard was appointed Chief Librarian of the Reid Library at the University of Western Australia – a position he held until 1979.
Despite writing throughout her younger years, Jolley’s first book, a collection of short stories entitled Five Acre Virgin and Other Stories, wasn’t published until 1976, when she was 53 years of age.
In 1978, she started teaching part-time at the Western Australian Institute of Technology (now Curtin), becoming Writer in Residence in 1987. In 1998 she was appointed Professor of Creative Writing and later became Emeritus Professor in Curtin’s School of Communication and Cultural Studies.
Jolley was highly celebrated throughout her career, winning several international literary prizes and every major Australian award for her fiction. She received honorary doctorates from Curtin (1988), Macquarie University (1995) and the University of Queensland (1997). She also received many civic awards, including the Western Australian Citizen of the Year Award in 1987, the Order of Australia for Services to the Arts in 1988, and was named a Living National Treasure by the National Trust of Australia (NSW) in 1997.
Many of her works have been adapted to the screen, such as A Gentleman’s Agreement (ABC, 1991), The Night Belongs to the Novelist (Chris Wilcox, Yowee Films, 1986), and The Well which was shown at the 1997 Cannes International Festival of Film. Her novels The Newspaper of Claremont Street and Milk and Honey have also been made into plays, by David Britton and Ingle Knight respectively.
She greatly valued Curtin, for providing her “a room of her own” in which to write, contact with literary colleagues, and the opportunity to work with young writers. In return, she was equally valued by Curtin staff and students.
Curtin has recognised her work with the naming of:
- The Elizabeth Jolley Research Collection
- The Elizabeth Jolley Lecture Theatre
- The Elizabeth Jolley Lecture Series
|1983||The Age Book of the Year Award for Mr Scobie's Riddle Western Australian Premier's Book Awards for Mr Scobie's Riddle|
|1985||New South Wales Premier's Literary Awards Christina Stead Prize for Fiction for Milk and Honey|
|1986||Miles Franklin Award for The Well|
|1987||Western Australian Citizen of the Year|
|1988||Officer of the Order of Australia (AO) for services to literature Western Australian Institute of Technology (Curtin) Honorary Doctorate|
|1989||The Age Book of the Year Award joint winner for My Father's Moon Canada/Australia Literary Award|
|1993||The Age Book of the Year Award joint winner for The George's Wife Western Australian Premier's Book Awards Premier's prize for Central Mischief|
|1994||National Book Council Award Banjo for The George's Wife|
|1995||Macquarie University Honorary Doctorate|
|1997||Australian Living Treasure University of Queensland Honorary Doctorate|
|1998||Miles Franklin Award shortlist for Lovesong|