Justine Vlachoulis

Raised in Whyalla and now residing in Adelaide, Justine Vlachoulis studies literature and film at The University of South Australia. She endeavors to explore the stigmas and stereotypes surrounding the contemporary sex industry, while also sifting through the past to discover and retell the comical and thrilling stories of her Greek migrant family. When not rambling to anyone who will listen as to why Anton Chekov and Thomas Hardy are her literary heroes, she enjoys baking, photography, and short walks.

I Found You in the Supermarket

I’m in a supermarket trying to find you. This was one of the last places I saw you. I drift past pyramids of orange and avocado and stare across at shiny packets of red meat. My legs carry me to a loaf of Wonder White bread. All the voices start singing in my head. All the voices wishing you weren’t dead…   

Agapia Mou, my love,’ she whispered.    

In the village, Agía Eiríni, Saint Irene, in a crumbling house, alone in the dark, a mother held her baby and prayed. 

The baby still wrapped in it’s amniotic sac, a caul of hunger and want, was doomed by the poverty WWII brought as German and Italian soldiers filled their bellies while waiting for war. 

The next morning the mother filled threaded bags with olives from the family grove. Beneath the shade of a nearby tree, baby George lay asleep.

Mother Adrian wasn’t lean and tall like the women from Athens or Thessaloniki. Rather she had wide hips and a beaming mouth that stretched across her square jaw. Under the beating sun two rows of perfect white teeth flashed bright, as sweat seeped its way into her short black hair. It never aged white or grey. 

After George, she gave birth to another boy, but before them, there were seven more. The first son Andrew died, and when three girls followed, Olga, Ketie, and Reubina, Mother Adrian and Father Gerasimos despaired. Who was going to work? But five babies came along, and they were christened Danny, Andrew, Thomas, George and Sammi. All the children were blessed with mesmerizing hazel eyes, but from their heads grew unruly tangles of dark brown frizz. George’s hair grew to be closer to black then it was brown. The day after each birth, Mother Adrian laboured in the groves wearing her thin floral dress and brown leather sandals. 

There was a year when all the Vlachoulis children went to school at the same time. They’d leave in the morning and return in the afternoon and they’d each wait their turn to use the household pencil to do their homework. 

In the mornings, the three youngest, Thomas, George, and Sammi would sprint through blades of grass to suckle on hard rough udders and in the evenings steal fruit and scamper home to offer their treasures. 

The Vlachoulis house was small, so the boys shared a bed, and so did the girls. They lived in an area of Agía Eiríni called Vlahoulata, and Vlahoulata was small, so the village rooster’s song carried far enough for all to hear. Thomas, George and Sammi called the village rooster ‘rooster clock’.   

One morning, when the sun hadn’t yet stretched its rays, and the world was still painted in pastel hues of purple and blue, tiny pairs of feet crept through Agía Eiríni’s empty streets. Three small figures darted from one house to the next, bare little tummies holding their breaths. The boys were all the village had seen since their Father Gerasimos had stumbled around drunk a few hours earlier. 

Asleep inside the shade of a wooden hut, was their rooster clock. His scraggy feathers and clawed feet were whisked away by a child’s sturdy hands. With heads held high Thomas, George, and Sammi walked in a line, and George held rooster clock clamped to his chest. 

They went to a clearing, and the sun rose higher, casting olive tones on their skin.    

George gave the orders. 

‘Thomas hold the neck.’

Thomas secured the neck. 

‘Sammi, feet.’

Sammi secured the feet.

Then George swung an axe he’d stolen from Father Gerasimos over his head and brought it down through the bird’s stomach. The boys watched with gleaming teeth as rooster clock’s insides showed. They stroked tentative fingers over dripping red feathers and then dug determined thumbs into slimy pale guts, each of them searching for the round prize with ticking hands. 

The minutes dragged on, but eventually, each boy had to stand back. 

Sammi frowned, and pointed a gunky finger at the bird, ‘Where is it?’   

Thomas shook his head, ‘I don’t know.’

They both looked up to George, who stood with the axe over his shoulder, but he looked back at them, just as confused. 

With a shrug, he said, ‘I don’t know where the clock is. Maybe the head?’

Maybe it was there or maybe it was lodged in the rooster’s heart, but the boys would never know. Hearing the stomps of Mother Adrian’s feet sent them scurrying away like the street rats they were. When her screams replaced rooster clock’s song all the villagers gathered to watch as George tugged his brothers back to publicly face the burn of their mother’s left shoe.

At night, when she thought all her children were asleep and her husband Gerasimos had passed out from too much to drink, Mother Adrian prayed. She fell to her knees and the flame from the kantili, oil candle lamp, flickered like a body that hangs from a noose, throwing the deep shadow of a cross over the warm red walls. Her prayers raised a storm of desperation up to the heavens, and God held back tears as he observed the long-suffering woman.   

That evening George had given his share of fruit to Sammi and now his rumbly tummy made him crawl over his brothers’ limbs in search of his mama. George found her descending and stood still as he watched her large back curl over in defeat, a black aching mountain standing alone under a red burning sky. Then her lips murmured a prayer that peeled childhood clean off George’s bones. 

‘Please Panagía, most blessed. Virgin Mary, pray to your son. Intercede and ask him to kill someone in the village so one of mine can take their place and receive prósfora, the communion bread.’

On Sunday George emerged from church with a tiny square of bread and a cup of koliva, a wheat dish made to honour the dead. He couldn’t concentrate seriously to the priest’s sermon, for rather that image of his mother down on her knees praying, submitting herself completely, memories of his father coming home and giving her a beating, taking all the money they had to fill his glass flagon, those were things young George took seriously… 

The wonder white bag is cool beneath my fingertips. Reminds me of the chilled dead forehead that once frightened my lips. Long black skirts and buttoned-up shirts cast shadows longer than the Eucalyptus trees over burning Whyalla red dirt. Can you miss someone you’ve never known? Is memory the lingering of a still loved soul? My giagiá, grandmother, my theíes, aunties, my theíoi, uncles, my father, painted the white walls of my childhood home with their memory’s song. 

I veer from the bread rack and venture to a tower of tomatoes. I reach out my hand to the plump, firm fruit…   

As George finished primary school, the island of Kefalonia was shaken by an earthquake measuring 7.2 on the surface wave magnitude scale. The 1953 Ionian Earthquake left the Vlachoulis household without bread for six months. 

George had to leave. He ventured to Kefalonia’s main town, Argostoli and earnt enough money to send home by rebuilding the earthquake rubble into homes. A couple of years on, with the houses complete, he opened a café, and it was there he heard about a ship that’d be coming to the main port. 

At 17 years old, with his hair freshly trimmed, George shut up shop and rode his bike up the dirt path that ran parallel to the shining Ionian Sea. As he expected a ship was at the main port, and a long line of men waiting to board. At the start of the line, George could just make out a freakishly tall and flailing figure.

A man in white pressed pants and brown polished shoes stood on top of a crate and flung his arms around, like a red-faced demon, sweating, and agitated by the heat and something else that George discovered as heard him bellowing, ‘I need a volunteer! Errands must be run, or this ship isn’t leaving!’ 

As round hazel eyes doubled in size, George pedalled vigorously, the muscles in his stomach clenching tight as he yelled, ‘I can do it!’  

The red-faced man snapped his neck down to see swift spinning wheels cruise past a line of unmoving men. He darted his eyes between George and them and then he barked, ‘Get over here!’

For the next two days George’s deep-set eyes beamed with their natural smile while he rode hungrily through the Argostoli streets. He picked up food, dropped off clothes, and collected supplies for the man he discovered was the ship’s medical officer. The medical officer had grown fond of George, and the evening before the ship was to leave, he asked, ‘When we arrive where will you go?’

The medical officer thought George was waiting to board with the rest of the men. He thought George to be well over 18, with his completed military service and the papers signed and stamped to prove it. 

Calmy, George responded with, ‘Sir, I don’t know.’

‘What do you mean you don’t know? Are you unsure?’ 

George shook his head, ‘Sir I’m 17. I can be 18. I can be anything you want.’

No signed papers, and not even a boat ticket! George had no chance… but in a crisis of conscience the medical officer said, ‘You’ll need signatures from your village leader and your parents showing that they support you coming to Australia.’     

‘How long have I got to get these to you?’ 

‘You have the night.’

So, bound for Agía Eiríni on his rickety old bike George peddled, grabbing hold of the back of the bus heading for Poro Port and then the mainland to help him along the way. The mayor and his parents signed the papers, but before George left Mother Adrian passed him a brown suitcase that held a small icon of Ágios Gerásimos, Kefalonia’s patron saint, inside. He smiled at her with two rows of perfect white teeth, and when he left, her own didn’t shine under the sun for what might have been weeks. 


When he got off the ship George found himself in southeast Australia at the Bonegilla migration camp. From there he was shipped to Whyalla and put to work as an indentured labourer in the shipyards. He worked for a few years, but he barely made enough money to buy new clothes, let alone enough money to send back home.  

So, he took a risk. He went into business with a man called Elias Stamoulis, and on the corner of Essington Lewis Avenue, they opened a shop called Pan Continentals. Their supermarket was small, but George would drive to Adelaide to purchase special salamis, sauerkrauts, and gherkins and all the immigrants would flock inside, as the standard supermarkets, like Woolworths, neglected the gourmet needs of the immigrant population. They also sold golden crumbed fish and hot salted chips to the cinema patrons, who would come during the 15-minute intermissions from the open-air cinema from across the road.

The day George married, straight off the train from Melbourne, he brought his wife to Pan Continentals and with a sorry smile put her to work in her nice new wedding clothes. She stuffed white bags with boiling hot potatoes and burnt the skin of her small tender palms.  

Angelique came from Yianakata which was the neighbouring area to Vlahoutlata in Agía Eiríni. In the schoolyard, George would find her and bounce the curls that dangled around her head. Both children had to leave Greece, George to Whyalla and Angelique to Melbourne. Then in June 1959, the man whose photograph Angelique secretly kept tucked beneath the elastic strap of her bra knocked at her front door. 

They had a son, and he was christened Gerasimos.  

It was now 1965, and 18 people were living in one house on Gowrie Avenue. George and Elias had made enough to buy a home and sponsor some of their family members from Greece to come over to Australia.  

One of these family members was the eldest Vlachoulis brother, Danny. Danny didn’t know a lot, but what he knew, he knew well, and he knew how to tend a garden; so, on the right side of the yard, he made a garden bed. His skin was as brown as burnt butter from spending weekends out in the yard and from the kitchen window, all the wives would see Danny hunched over, his spine sticking out from beneath a cream linen shirt. Hanging above him were bright red plump tomatoes, teasing to be plucked, washed, and cut fresh for a salad. Danny gardened so diligently he was soon able to sell some of his produce to the locals.  

At the time, Elias Stamoulis had a younger brother who was also living at the house and one morning when the kitchen was empty, he snuck into the garden, stole Danny’s tomatoes, and then sold them for himself. 

When Danny came home from work and saw the vines stripped back and no fresh salad in the fridge, he whispered to George that there might be a thief in the area. George told Danny to have a shower, it had been a long day and then he went and asked Elias for a private word. 

The two men walked outside and stood at the foot of the garden bed, with their hands resting deep in their pockets. Their bodies lightly swayed. 

George repeated what Danny had said, and Elias came back with, ‘Well this is my garden he’s planting those tomatoes on. So, we should get half of what he makes.’

The Whyalla air, thick and sticky, poured around the men’s figures like cement as big black flies buzzed around their slow-beating chests.

A minute passed and then George said, ‘You want to live in halves now Stamoulis?’ 

In comparison to George, Elias was taller, darker, and more rounded in the middle and he slid his hands out his pockets and placed them firmly on his hips. 

The two men faced each other, but after a minute of silence, George dropped his head down to the garden bed. Big black flies darted around his thick lashes, but it wasn’t their irritating buzz that made him snap his face back.  

He declared to Elias, ‘This will be our half of the garden,’ and Elias frowned as George bent down and drew a line with his finger in the dirt between their shoes.

George stood back up and smiling with his perfect rows of teeth, said, ‘And that’s your half,’ and then with a firm point behind Stamoulis’s back, he shouted, ‘And this!’ and lunging over, gripping the thick green vines into his tanned hands, yelled, ‘Is YOUR bloody tomato BUSH!’

George yanked the plant from out the Earth and the two men watched the dangling ugly roots dance in the air before crashing down onto Stamoulis’s side of the garden. 

Years later Mother Adrian would arrive in Australia. 

George was now living in his own house on Hincks Avenue, where in the backyard, he had planted an orange grove. It was in that yard that Mother Adrian showed her grandchildren, Gerry, and Helen, how to chop off a chicken’s head. Not a rooster’s head, but a chicken’s. 

She raised an axe over her head, and as two round pairs of hazel eyes stared at the chicken, Gerry’s alarmed, Helen’s calm, Mother Adrian remembered Thomas, George, and Sammi trying to find the clock in Vlahoulata’s rooster. She remembered the sight of George tugging on his brothers’ arms, as he forced them back to face her fury, and she remembered that he was one the to step forward first to face her…

I stare down at the tomato I’ve cupped in my palms, and whisper, ‘Pappous, Grandfather, George.’

After the tomato incident, you walked out on Stamoulis and marched over to the bank asking for a loan. It was risky because you didn’t have any money, but your determination would lead you to build your own supermarket, which you called 5%. It would go on to become South Australia’s first smart scanning supermarket, which ran live in 1983. 

As I’m getting older, I’m having to shop at the supermarkets more and more by myself. With a small shopping list written for one, I go in to buy the week’s loaf of bread and select myself glossy tomatoes that I can toss into a Greek salad. My dad Gerasimos is no longer the one holding the list and my Giagiá Angelique isn’t dragging me to the confectionary aisle and yelling at me until I’ve picked myself a treat. 

Your wife, your sons, your daughters, your grandchildren, all the people you left behind would tell me that, ‘You were, you were, you were,’ and as they did your life would sit on the tip of my tongue and say, ‘You are, you are, you are.’  


Joanna Cleary

Joanna Cleary (she/her) is an emerging queer artist. Her work has previously appeared or is forthcoming in The /tƐmz/ ReviewThe HungerGordon Square ReviewApricity PressDigging Through The FatTypehouse MagazineThe Gravity of the ThingFunicularCanthius, and Queer Toronto Literary Magazine, among others. Follow her on Instagram @joannacleary121.



Tree Poem

Today, my ecology professor starts class by asking
what a tree is and all I know is that they’re hulking,
impenetrable things I could never climb: my palms
breaking on bark and my body stuck stupidly below
while my brothers clambered from branch to branch,
but occasionally I catch myself thinking of the time
when I almost did it—clung to a low-hanging branch
and lifted my feet off the ground, found my footing
on the trunk, allowed myself to become suspended
in air—until my arms gave way and I dropped down
like all the other times before, my face red, the tree
unmoved as I leaned against it in either silent prayer
or defeat, waiting for the poem I started that moment
to end, though it wrote and rewrote and rewrote itself
even after both my brothers outgrew climbing trees
and the hours they spent hoisting themselves higher
became memories, even as a pretentious grad student
raises his hand to say how we can find god in nature
(like it’s that easy), and I could reply saying I haven’t
but perhaps I once did: in that moment above ground,
no longer standing on tree roots, I could’ve believed.

Marcelle Freiman

Marcelle Freiman’s poetry collections are Spirit Level (Puncher & Wattmann 2021), White Lines (Vertical) (Hybrid 2010), and Monkey’s Wedding (Island Press). Her poetry has appeared in anthologies and literary journals that include Antipodes, Axon, Cordite, Mascara Literary Review, Meanjin, Meniscus, Southerly, StylusLit and Westerly. She is an Honorary Associate Professor at Macquarie University.



Camera Lucida – photograph of my mother as a child c.1931  

A few seconds of time, a day
when you were four, maybe five –
your gaze intent
towards the camera’s lens – 

        and it’s only in the way
the light is caught by the right side
of your cheek, your white socks
and bedroll held on a shoulder,
silver birches alongside, pathways
crossing behind you lit between shadows,
the far shimmer of a lake beyond the trees –
that you were there
that moment, that day – the click
of a shutter, your mother? your nurse?
who had cropped the dark hair
framing your face – your clear eyes
seem to see into facets of a future
you could not possibly envision, then. 

        Chemical iridescence
as negative turns to image –
it’s in the captures of light that day
that I am given your confident stance
the sassiness of your gaze – transformations
of light – the way that overlapping scales
of a butterfly wing
will come alive and multiple
with falling angles of the light –
you, in a deep shaded forest


Dorothy Lune

Dorothy Lune is a Yorta Yorta poet, born in Australia & a best of the net 2024 nominee. Her poems have appeared in Overland journal, Many Nice Donkeys & more. She is looking to publish her manuscripts, can be found online @dorothylune, & has a substack at https://dorothylune.substack.com/

Author photo: royalty free picture of a ladybug


Terra nullius

The concrete
foreground is italicized, it lifts,
the first to die in the sun is my Phoenix, 

she incarnates as a rifle—
protector of all placeholder-kind,
I send an inquiry to the Australian government 

& it reads: why do I
burn before I tan, perhaps it’s true
that it’s the same with death— death of skin, 

death of language,
something inexact comes to be
a spokesperson. I enshrine my unbelonging as a 

self invitation, my
unbeknownst to Australasia,
despite this I’m identified as unfurled. My womb 

rose up & the
insolvent babe dried away
two thirds of its material— I was the last to break on 

a screed, damp &
pale like an English settler,
the ivory turret strayed from his castle— there are no 

English crowns here.
I aestheticise my identity
with maroon knit turtlenecks & buoyant hair that curls 

upward like a
beach’s evening crest—
enclosed yet open & furled in public winds. 


Ellen Shelley

Raised in a family of step-siblings and a procession of stepmothers, Ellen soon learnt the art of resilience and the importance of finding her own voice in the world. From early on, poetry was the
language she used to align the uncertainty of her world. Delving around wires of disconnect, her words find strength from wherever she calls home at the time. Ellen’s work appears in The Canberra Times, on a footpath in Adelaide, Cordite, Manly Ekphrastic Challenge, Australian Poetry Collaboration, Woman of Words, Rabbit, Australian Poetry Anthology and Westerly. Out of the Blocks is out with Puncher and Wattmann.

it rained and the tv went numb 
        the atmospheric antenna

dialled-in the wild
         then fogged up the bulb

i wanted to be more than my surrounds
            to be
    unaffected by storms and poor reception 

but my fortress of rock collapsed
        from being 

    too much

they gave me a test 
    and labelled me antisocial 

pegged me to a journey 
      to define the triggers inside  

                         an answer to the speeding
                           an explanation to the experimental 

too ready too reactive too risky

            i harnessed heat
        to weld the friction  
              and still i strayed   

            fast cars
                        and boys
        those stark corners of acceptance 

my hands reaching
            for the physical attributes
        of a connection

Priya Gore-Johnson

Priya Gore-Johnson is an Indian-Australian poet, writer, aspiring academic, and textile art enthusiast based in lutruwita/Tasmania. Their work tends to focus on grief, liminal spaces, and fragmented identity and the ways in which these topics are often intrinsically and intricately linked. They are deeply passionate about translation and reception studies, especially when concerned with classical Sanskrit literature and the contemporary “so-called Australian” diasporic experience. You can currently find their work in the University of Tasmania’s student magazine, Togatus.



Polaroid of a Girl with a Sparkler

Happy New Year!
Is it though?
The world is ending and everyone is dancing.
Faces awash in the yellow glow of sparklers, bodies moving freely to the slow syncopated beat.
The air is full of the impenetrability of youth, the apocalyptic glory of it all.
Each note, each breath, bursting and scattering like fireworks.
Happy New Year!
I am in it.
It’s all around me, I can’t escape it.
My body moves against my will, my hands engraving gold into the air.
I smile. I laugh.
I am so sad I feel as though I cannot hold it all within me.
It could spill out of me at any moment,
saltwater running through my hands.
Mindless chatter.
Endless dread.
You are gone and my world is ending.
Everyone looks through me
but never at me.
My sadness flashes back at them like light off a mirror.
It blinds me too.
My world has ended!
I want to scream and scream until they understand it,
the way it sits twisted and brittle inside of me.
It’s not that I want to stop the party
or break the illusion
that allows them to revel in the ambrosia of their youth.
I just want them to look at me.
Look at me. Look at me. Look at me.
Can you see it?
The sharp teeth of loss?
The cavern of grief?
The swirling, endless, void
filling me up and up and overflowing
down my cheeks and arms and belly?
I used to be one of them.
The weightlessness, the pure unbridled joy, the drunken haze spinning reality to unreality.
Now I can’t imagine it.
Reality sits balanced on my first rib, poised to drop like a rock to the pit of my belly.
Nothing is the same
as it was before
and it never will be
My world ended last year. How can theirs keep going?
Look at me. Look at me. Look at me.
Tell me that you see me.
Tell me that you see that I’m not the person I was.
Tell me that you love me anyway.
I feel the immense weight of what I’ve seen and felt and lost pushing down on me.
The grey uniformity of hospital beds.
The monitors keeping rhythm with our drowning hearts.
The profound horror of it all.
And your soft voice in my ear:
You’re going to have to cry about this, I’ll tell you that one for free.
I love you. I love you.
And theirs, a gentle echo of yours
moving across worlds.
Happy New Year.

joanne burns

joanne burns writes poetry, prose poems, short fictions and monologues. She has been active in the Australian Poetry scene since the early 1970s. Her most recent poetry collection is apparently, Giramondo 2019. She is currently assembling a new collection rummage.




the aperitivo antipasto
hour slidels into view
there’s something in the air
verando     aperolicks
proseccutions     muebles wickeramas —
organic or synthet     why not just

raj meets gatsby in the lumen
of a hubble bubble     no unnecessary
toil or trouble     a wicca wonka
spelling bee pollinates in the furnished
suburbs of the blest



her white as rice gown
just fitted     not the best
choice for an elongated
heatwave     her white as rice
hem grazing her diffident toes
where was her hair brush     the audience
was waiting somewhere out there     stranded
commuters in a summer delirium     larks hidden
in the crimson braid that ran down the sides of
her costume like vascular complacency were
refusing to sing she couldn’t locate the lyrics
to any of her songs, just petite hums     where was
janis when you needed her     or florence her long dead
godmother who looked nothing like a fairy     that sprawl
of teryiaki tofu squares on the floor of the train should
have been a warning in that lingering afternoon     & all those
enigmatic tattoos on the arms and shoulders of the texting
harpy opposite no point wearing those snazzy new shades
if you can’t read the tracks




Jo Langdon

Jo Langdon lives and writes on unceded Wadawurrung land. She is the author of two poetry collections, Snowline (Whitmore Press, 2012) and Glass Life (Five Islands Press, 2018), and was a 2018 Elizabeth Kostova Foundation Fiction Writing Fellow. Her recent writing is also published and forthcoming in journals including CorditeGriffith Review, Island, Overland and Westerly.




Sure—there were flowers then
petals where they’d trembled
their own lovely heads loose. I wrote

in thanks & the reply came, ‘Is that it?’
I guess it was—an ending signalled
well before the roses’ demise.

We offered each other nothing
of consolation—the flowers & I
at odds, though they might have told

that they wanted no part
in this production, that it all came down
to hyperbole and waste, whatever  

there was left to feel rotten about.
The flowers were worn out
like similes—contrived

in the roles ascribed to them, parts
I confect for them even now, long gone
though they are. I am sorry 

only that I neglected
their certain beauty, neither exchanging
their fetid water nor giving 

much mind to their final
dignity—how they towered even as
they came undone.


Vale Elizabeth Webby

Emeritus Professor Elizabeth Webby, AM FAHA
9 February 1942 – 6 August 2023

Respected scholar, literary critic and author / editor of over 200 works, including books, articles, and reviews. The following is a very short selection of some of her many writings about nineteenth century women poets, poetry, and print culture, a field she defined through her work.
Elizabeth Webby, Early Australian Poetry: An Annotated Bibliography, Hale & Iremonger, 1982.
‘Born to Blush Unseen: Some Nineteenth Century Women Poets’ in A Bright and Fiery Troop: Australian Women Writers of the Nineteenth Century. Ed Debra Adelaide, Penguin, 1988.
‘Introduction’ The Penguin Book of Australian Ballads, eds Elizabeth Webby and Philip Butterrs, Penguin, 1993.
‘Writers, Printers, Readers: The Production of Australian Literature before 1855’ ALS 13.4 1988.
‘Foreword’ by Elizabeth Webby in Katie Hansord, Colonial Australian Women Poets: Political Voice and Feminist Traditions, Anthem Press, 2021.

Photograph: Rosalind Webby
For Elizabeth Webby

I could say that I first met Elizabeth Webby at an ASAL conference. And I was incredibly excited to, and to first see her, looking on in the audience, as I nervously presented my first ever paper on a little-known nineteenth-century woman poet, knowing that she was the almost only other person to have written or ever thought much about her. I think that she felt the same excitement, from the other side, that somebody was finally interested and pursuing that same obscure subject, the things less recognised, that she had also given her time to, because of the same recognition of a huge imbalance and a desire for justice – and had never forgotten despite many other priorities pressing, years ago. But it isn’t exactly true. I first met Elizabeth Webby in a more unusual place than that. I was there looking for something to make sense of everything (or maybe just anything) through. I was looking for other women’s poetry. I suppose at its heart I was looking for someone who thought, or was, a bit like me… somebody who expressed themselves and their queerness against the ways of the world in ways that I could understand and feel understood through.

The place I met Elizabeth in was a book called Early Australian Poetry: An Annotated Bibliography. One of several books that Elizabeth wrote, and this one she had published in 1982, the year before I was born. This is a more strange book though; unlike any other book I’d read. It incredibly contains all the titles, author names or their initials, dates, page numbers, and a frequently utterly hilarious brief descriptive note (something like: ‘on a recent bank robbery’ or ‘long, rambling love poem’ or ‘wishes he were in a less restrained society such as Italy’…) for the hundreds upon hundreds of poems that were published in newspapers in so-called ‘Australia’ before the year 1850. I knew I could find more women who were poets in there, if nowhere else, and so I went looking through it all very carefully. Of course, that was how I first found Eliza Hamilton Dunlop, the poet whom I was talking about at the ASAL conference where I met Elizabeth for the first time in person. It was how I first found most of the poets. But before that, I was already in awe of this incredible book full of the potential for answers, doorways into more questions. And in awe of its author. If that wasn’t incredible enough, she later told me she had wanted to go all the way up to the year 1900, in writing her amazing bibliography of newspaper poems – but she’d had a baby. We laughed. I’d also had a baby not too long ago. In fact, my new baby was at the conference with me, little Arlo. Once I’d found the numerous entries of poems in Early Australian Poetry: An Annotated Bibliography, I knew this was what I had been looking for: women poets who had been consistent contributors to newspaper poetry. Then I found the little book of some of some of Dunlop’s poems that Elizabeth had published, also in the early eighties. I learned a lot by opening and going through those doorways in Elizabeth Webby’s annotated bibliography. It undoubtedly changed me, to embark and pursue the questions I had about gender and poetry and the past and the contexts of production and reception so deeply like that, and to be allowed and even encouraged to, flowing with myself into writing instead of trying to fit the wrong ways in the world, and thinking of ways through it all. And Elizabeth’s encouragement was so unwavering, warm, certain, and loving. She was eventually an examiner of my PhD thesis, when it was completed. She was also tough, had high expectations, and expressed frustration, seeing me at an event on women’s writing after this, that I had not kept going, done more work. I didn’t know how I could explain to her, but everything then seemed to be going all wrong in my life… I was on my own, my mother had died, and I had fallen into a dark place of hopelessness about the world and all memory and meaning. Somehow, Elizabeth still believed in me even there, and encouraged and supported me to turn my thesis into a book. I still pinch myself now that I did it. She believed in me, even when I didn’t. And because she did, I somehow could. That was how it happened. This was a part of her magic. I remember that I cried the first time she signed an email she had written me, love. It really meant the world to me to have her support, and always will. I know she gave this same gift so generously to so many people. I am heartbroken that she has now left this world. We know being only one person, it can easily feel like things are too big and too impossible to change. I have felt this many times, but I have also felt in myself how her wisdom and curiosity and generosity and kindness really did affirm things, change things, make things possible, make a difference, and so I think, can ours.

Katie Hansord

In memory of Alf Taylor

Vale Alf Taylor

(18.11.1945 – 29.7.2023)



Last weekend brought sad news of the passing of Alf Taylor. Alf, a Yuat Nyoongar man, brought his unique perspective to bear on the fields of Aboriginal literature in particular and of Australian Literature more generally for nearly three decades. He produced a substantial opus which has impacted on many different audiences and will long continue to do so.

I first met Alf at the launch of Winds in 1994 at Dumbertang in Perth. I remember he was cracking jokes and put me at my ease. Later when I was compiling the material with Rosemary van den Berg and Angeline O’Neill for the anthology, Those Who Remain will Always Remember, I asked him if he would be interested in doing a piece about how he started writing. The work he produced for our anthology became the seed of his astonishing autobiography, God, the Devil and Me.

Taylor was a member of the Stolen Generations. He grew up in the 1950s and 1960s in the Benedictine Monastery at New Norcia in Western Australia. His writing opens a door for many readers onto this troubled period of history, giving us a heart-felt personal account of someone who lived through it. In an interview with me he said that in the mission the children were told that ‘our Aboriginal culture and Aboriginal language was a mortal sin.’ He recreates the world of childhood in his short fiction, poetry and memoir, bringing alive the resilience, intelligence and creativity of children – their care for each other, their love of Country, their ability to heal, the weight of memory, their penchant for playing tricks, and their strong bonds as young Aboriginal people. He also brings to it the piercing vision of the adult – the clear-sighted and uncompromising critique of empire and of the dysfunctional elements of the church. 

He describes life in New Norcia in God, The Devil and Me. The book is characterised by his very fluid sense of humour which became a tool of survival for him both as a child and an adult. In the interview he said: ‘without humour … I would have been dead’. He loved writing about ‘clowns’, joke-cracking characters who laugh above all at themselves and made other people laugh along too. Alf would always make people chuckle. His writing is infectious but thoughtful as well, and often pointed.

Taylor was a master stylist; he’s a deft satirist, sharp but generous, and a careful observer of people. His poetry and fiction bear evidence of the skilful use of Aboriginal English and the Nyoongar language. His writing gifts us a rare and precious glimpse of the living language of Aboriginal people. He was fortunate to benefit from the expertise of Magabala Press who were able, for example, to provide an editor such as the Nyoongar writer, Rosemary van den Berg who edited Long Time Now. This relationship nurtured his work and allowed it to flourish. 

Taylor was a master storyteller. Much of his work bears the trace of the spoken language(s) and the embodied encounter of storytelling. This included his skilful use of humour and irony which always kept me guessing as a reader. 

Alf will be remembered by his writing. A versatile and inventive writer, He wrote two books of poetry, Singer Songwriter (2000) and Winds (1994), a book of short stories, Long Time Now (2001), a memoir/autobiography, God, the Devil and Me (2021), and his selected poems and short stories, Cartwarra or what? (2022). His work also appears in the anthology Rimfire (2000).

Taylor and his work are a bright star that mesmerizes us, captures our attention and holds it. As a non-Aboriginal reader and teacher, I’ve seen him enthrall students across the world, in Australian classrooms and lecture theatres, and in Germany, France, Spain and China.

It has been a great privilege to read and teach Alf’s work; a privilege that students all over the world have shared and will continue to share. Many of my non-Aboriginal colleagues who read, teach and write on his work have talked to me about the sense of great good fortune they feel in coming upon his work and the responsibility it engenders in them. His passing makes the gift of his writing all the more precious and pressing.

Anne Brewster