Writers' roots deep in central Victoria region

Panel: Writers (L-R) Anne Manne,  Bill Garner and Di Dempsey. Picture: GLENN DANIELS
Panel: Writers (L-R) Anne Manne, Bill Garner and Di Dempsey. Picture: GLENN DANIELS

THREE writers' attachments to the Bendigo and central Victorian region were the focus of a panel discussion at the Bendigo Writers Festival on Sunday.

Hosted by La Trobe education lecturer Sarah Jane Cox, the 'memories of a place' panel brought together the authors for their local and unique connections to the region. 

Australian journalist and author Anne Manne was on the panel to discuss her memoir, So this is life: Scenes from a country childhood, based on her experiences moving to Bendigo.

Manne spoke of her attachment to the physical landscape around the outskirts of Kangaroo Flat which began when she moved to the area in her youth.

The Melbourne-based author said the memoir was about how the landscape was part of the healing process for her mother, who Manne helped support during a difficult time, and her experiences of growing up in the country.

"I’ve never lost a love of the central Victorian landscape," she said.

Bill Garner, author of Born in a tent: How camping makes us Australian, spoke about the meaning of place in the context of Australian identity and our relationship with the land we live on, and also touched on his personal affinity with the Goldfields region.

Garner, who was born in Bendigo and grew up in Ballarat but has lived in Melbourne for 50 years, became emotional when speaking about his attachment to Bendigo.

"I was born on Drought Street, my mother was born on Drought Street, her mum was born on Drought Street," he said.

But he said Ballarat was where his most powerful childhood memories resided.

"The thing about it is I realise I did not love Ballarat, and I don’t now, but I cannot escape it," he said. 

Bendigo author Di Dempsey, whose first novel Girls in Our Town was launched at the festival, spoke about her memories of Eaglehawk while visiting her grandparents on holiday as a child.

Dempsey said even as an adult, she always "ended up back here in Bendigo".

"Every time I ended up here I felt I was on holidays," she said.

'When I came here to live I felt I had that same sense, that I was on holidays. That happiness, that I’m permanent holidays, is a very special feeling.

"I will never leave Bendigo."


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