Hill, Barry 1943–

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Hill, Barry 1943–

PERSONAL: Born June 19, 1943, in Melbourne, Victoria, Australia. Education: University of Melbourne, received degree.

ADDRESSES: Home—Queenscliff, Victoria, Australia. Office—The Australian, P.O. Box 14740, Melbourne, Victoria 8001, Australia.

CAREER: Has worked as a journalist, teacher, and educational psychologist. Former founding editor for education page of Age; Australian, Melbourne, Victoria, Australia, poetry editor; full-time freelance writer, 1975–. Honorary fellow, Australian Centre, University of Melbourne.

AWARDS, HONORS: New South Wales Premier's Award, 1992, for Sitting In, and 1994, for Ghosting William Buckley; Westfield/Waverly Library Award for Literature, 2003, Victorian Premier's Nettie Palmer Prize for nonfiction, 2003, and Tasmania Pacific Bi-centenary History Prize, all for Broken Song: T. G. H. Strehlow and Aboriginal Possession; other awards for his nonfiction, poetry, and radio writing.


Near the Refinery (novel), McPhee Gribble (Carlton, Victoria, Australia), 1980.

Raft (poems), Penguin Books (New York, NY), 1990.

Sitting In (history), William Heinemann Australia (Port Melbourne, Victoria, Australia), 1991.

Ghosting William Buckley (poem), William Heinemann Australia (Port Melbourne, Victoria, Australia), 1993.

The Rock: Travelling to Uluru (travelogue), Allen & Unwin (St. Leonards, New South Wales, Australia), 1994.

The Inland Sea (poems), Salt (Applecross, Western Australia, Australia), 2001.

Broken Song: T. G. H. Strehlow and Aboriginal Possession (biography), Knopf (Milsons Point, New South Wales, Australia), 2002.

SIDELIGHTS: A respected, award-winning author of poetry, social history, fiction, travel books, and biography, Australian writer Barry Hill drew on not only his literary background but also his knowledge as a former journalist and psychologist to write what Stephen Bennetts described in the Journal of Australian Studies as an "ambitious 757-page biography of Australian anthropologist Ted Strehlow." Broken Song: T. G. H. Strehlow and Aboriginal Possession took Hill twelve years to research and write; the results have been praised by many critics.

Strehlow was the son of a Lutheran minister whose efforts to bring Christianity to the Aborigines of Australia had a profound effect on Strehlow as he grew up during the early twentieth century. The younger Strehlow was fluent at an early age in not only English and German, but also in the native Aranda tongue. Aborigines were frequently invited to his family's home, and Strehlow developed a profound respect for their culture, language, and religion. As an adult, he spent his life helping to preserve that culture, conducting extensive research as an anthropologist and translating the songs of the Aranda into English in his book Songs of Central Australia. He was also noted for translating the New Testament into the Aranda language.

Strehlow was also a somewhat controversial figure, especially during his last decade of life. In the 1970s, when, becoming desperate for money, he sold several photographs depicting secret Aranda ceremonies to the German magazine Stern. Strehlow thought that the photographs would only be published and available in Europe, but they made their way to Australia, much to the dismay and shock of the Aranda people. Strehlow spent his remaining years discredited and shunned by his fellow scholars, as well as by the people he believed he was meant to help.

In addition to exploring Strehlow's life and contributions to anthropology, the author speculates on the psychology of this complex man, who serves as a unique touchstone for illustrating the entanglements between white and Australian Aboriginal cultures. As Quadrant critic Gary Clark asserted, "Hill's book is not only engaging because of its detailed scholarship regarding things Aboriginal, but also because he contextualises his account of cultural exchange, reminding us of the historical and cultural background of the Lutheran missionaries." Clark concluded that Broken Song is "an important scholarly documentation of Central Australia's early social history." In addition to its perspective on social history, however, Hill's book illuminates some of Australia's literary history. Clark observed, "We learn of Strehlow's early association with the Jindyworobaks, and specifically his meeting with Rex Ingamells, and their correspondence about Ingamell's first volume of poems entitled Gumtops, in which the poet first applied his theory of environmental aesthetics to Central Australia."

Clark also complimented the author on his "psychological speculation" of Strehlow, which offers "the reader a coherent impression of a complex and brilliant character." On the other hand, Australian Aboriginal Studies reviewer Michael Jackson felt that "Hill's sometimes banal Freudian observations only distract us from the social and historical issues that are raised here." Nevertheless, reviewers such as Bennetts greatly appreciated the biography, which overcomes the "bogeyman" reputation Strehlow received in his later life to restore "a far richer and more complex reality, which serves to illuminate many facts of twentieth-century Australian cultural and social history."



Australian Aboriginal Studies, spring, 2003, Michael Jackson, review of Broken Song: T. G. H. Strehlow and Aboriginal Possession, p. 88.

Journal of Australian Studies, June, 2003, Stephen Bennetts, review of Broken Song, p. 168.

Quadrant, April, 2003, Gary Clark, "Contract and Tragedy," review of Broken Song and The Inland Sea, p. 51.