Order of Australia for Children’s Literature and Professional Organisations
Only recently have I under stood why I am driven to write and advocate for young people and families. It’s deeply embedded in the struggles of my family’s wartime, human rights violations and the refugee experience. My parents carrying my little brother, left all they knew to escape across ‘no-man’s land’ minefields in the dead of night for freedom. My mother’s Hungarian world was no longer the same with its operas, balls, visiting the health spa on Lake Balaton; her father’s world at the university as a Professor of Engineering; her mother’s world of running a household with servants and afternoon teas on Margarita Island on the Danube had ended. My father’s world was taken too. His land stolen. His white horse disappeared. His way of life gone.
The Austrian refugee camp was crowded, difficult, but it was from here that Australia selected them to go to Australia as bonded migrants on a battered WW11 warship. My parents didn’t know what Australia was, but they knew they could rebuild their lives offering their children a future. Like other refugees they worked long hours – my father in the Holden car factory; my mother in the clothing factory . Life in Sydney began in one room with the family sleeping on mattresses on the floor. But there was a belief in Australia and the future.
My parents who have passed away now, would be profoundly moved that, I have been awarded an Order of Australia. I believe they will be there in spirit, at the investiture in Government House in September.
I really don’t know who submitted my name. A few people have come out and said they were asked for a report from disparate parts of my life – from Room to Read to the NSW Writers Centre to authors who have travelled the journey of writing with me. It’s a long, secret process taking up to two years. I was totally surprised when the gold embossed letter arrived at my house.
What are my services to the community? I’ve never thought about it, as you just live your life the way you do. The beautiful emails and messages I have received from authors and writers who feel I have been part of their creative journey have really touched me. As I travel the life of a writer, everything within my sphere is part of the creative journey.
I am a patron for Monkey Baa Theatre for Young People (with Jackie French & Morris Gleitzman); Role Model Ambassador for Books in Homes – books for indigenous and disadvantaged children; Author Ambassador for Room to Read – educating kids in developing countries; Chair of the Board of the NSW Writer’s Centre; Co-head of Society of Children’s Book Writers & Illustrators Australia and New Zealand; Chair of the Children’s Writers & Illustrators Network at The Hughenden; Director of the Children’s and Young Adult Literature Festival at NSW Writers Centre; NSW Selection Committee of the May Gibbs Trust Fellowship; Advocate for Cancer Council; Australia Day Ambassador; Library Ambassador for 2012 National Year of Reading and I do whatever comes along.
As a writer, I hope that I reach out to young people and community. My books are endorsed by The Cancer Council, the Alannah & Madeline Foundation. Life Education Australia, Room to Read, the Children’s Hospital Westmead and others. I want my books to be a friend who understands, laughs, cries and shares life.
As a speaker, social justice is a driving force for me, be it in Kiribati, at the World Burn Congress in New York, in GOA advocating for a world community through youth literature or wherever ‘the road rises up to meet you’ and me.