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Department of Premier and Cabinet

Margaret Scott

Significant Tasmanian Women icon

(1934-2005)
Author

Margaret ScottPhotograph courtesy of The Mercury
  
Margaret was born in Bristol, UK in 1934. She migrated to Tasmania in 1959 with her first husband and young son and established herself as one of the most widely recognised Tasmanian writers.

She joined the staff of the English Department at the University of Tasmania in 1966 and went on to become a senior lecturer and then head of the department in 1987. She retired in 1989 to pursue her writing career. After the death of her partner, Michael Scott, she moved to the Tasman Peninsula.

Through the late 1990s she made a number of appearances on the ABC's Good News Week, endearing herself to Australian audiences with her witty repartee. Before ill health curtailed some of her activities she was much in demand as a public speaker and has embraced a number of environmental causes.

A short biographical piece by Jennifer Livett written before Margaret's death described her thus:

Margaret Scott is a distinguished poet, novelist, academic and essayist, whose witty television and radio appearances have endeared her to nationwide audiences. From 1966 to 1989 her lectures inspired students in English at the University of Tasmania, while her friendship led a group of poets and prose authors who have brought Tasmanian writing to new prominence. Publications include four books of poetry; two novels, The Baby Farmer and Family Album; an experiment in mixed-genre, Changing Countries; numerous articles for periodicals here and overseas; a libretto, Southern Oceans; and a book on Port Arthur, the region where she lives and to whose landscape and people she is deeply committed. She writes about her English childhood, education at Cambridge, migration to Australia, family life, history, gardening and her growing love for this island.

(published with permission of Jennifer Livett, from Companion to Tasmanian History)

Margaret's academic achievements included:

D.Litt University of Tasmania (1999)
Ph.D University of Tasmania (1978)
M.A. University of Cambridge (1965)
B.A. (Hons) University of Cambridge (1956)

In 2000 Margaret was appointed to the board of the Port Arthur Historic Site Management Authority, chaired by Dr Barry Jones. Her other activities included:

Board member - Tasman Institute of Conservation and Convict Studies

Member of the Tasman Trust, a body formed to raise funds and initiate projects designed to improve the quality of life in the Tasman Municipality following the 1996 Port Arthur massacre.

Fiction Editor for Voices, (National Library Quarterly) 1995

Visiting Assessor assisting the Literature Board of the Australia Council (1991)

Member and Chairperson of the Literature Panel of the Tasmanian Arts Advisory Board

State Representative for the Association of the Study of Australian Literature

Chief Examiner for English Studies (Tasmania)

Chairperson of the Board of Island magazine (1980-1995)

Member of the Preamble Quest Panel formed to consider responses to the quest for a new preamble to the Constitution (1998-99)

Patron of the Society of Women Writers Australia

Margaret was awarded numerous prizes and grants throughout her distinguished career. Her most recent before her death was in 2005 when she was presented with the Australia Council Writers Emeritus Award.

Margaret was part of a growing Arts community on the Tasman Peninsula. She had been restoring a federation homestead on the Peninsula for 12 years when it burnt down in 2003. She rebuilt on the same site, showing her resilience by saying "it is different...but I adore it!"

Some of her last work [2004] had been assisting in the establishment of a "peninsula conservation and convict studies" course, aimed at post-graduate students.

She was diagnosed with emphysema and this changed her life considerably. She remained optimistic saying, "I can still read, still write, and I still enjoy talking and listening with friends".

Margaret died on 29 August 2005.

Bibliography:

Jennifer Livett excerpt on Margaret Scott in, A Alexander, Companion to Tasmanian History, Hobart, 2005.

Margaret Scott publications available at the State Library of Tasmania include:

The Baby Farmer (1990)
The Black Swans (1988)
Changing Countries : on moving from one island to another (2000)
Collected Poems (2000)
Convict Trail : Tasman Peninsula and Port Arthur (2000?)
Family Album : a novel of secrets and memories (2000)
In the shadows [previously published as The Baby Farmer] 2001
Port Arthur : a story of strength and courage (1997)
Tricks of Memory : poems (1980)
"Uneasy Eden" : peace and conflict in a rural community [pamphlet] (1997)
Visited (1983)

Margaret's poetry has been featured in a number of anthologies including:

The best Australian poetry 2004 (2004)
Effects of light: the poetry of Tasmania (1985)
New music: an anthology of contemporary Australian Poetry (2001)
River of Verse: A Tasmanian Journey 1800-2004 (2004)
A writer's Tasmania. Vol.1 (2000)

Recorded programs:

The nature of gardens [four Australian writers explore what gardens mean] - ABC sound cassette (2001)
That beauty is better than brains : the debate - ABC sound cassette (1994)

Links to interviews with, and articles on, Margaret:

The Tasmanian Honour Roll of Women 2005

ABC Interview - Dr Margaret Scott Profile

The Write Stuff website


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