Australian Women Writers

Many years ago, when I first conjured up the idea of driving around Australia - and at that time I hadn't determined if I would go alone or with someone - I thought of identifying women writers and visiting their home towns.  One that I had on my list was Dorothea Mackellar, who wrote "I Love a Sunburnt Country" - her home town is Gunnedah, and I don't recall ever having visited there in my travels.  (Our family were regular car travellers from Brisbane to Adelaide or Melbourne over many years.)  If we did, I didn't then comprehend the connection between her and Gunnedah.

In any case, with the vague and useless plan I created years ago, I had others on my list,   One was Jeannie Gunn, of We of the Never Never fame, and another was Mary Durack up in the Kimberleys.  In the end, by the time I set of on my jaunt, women writers were not high on my agenda.  Visiting unusual places was the top priority and that I did!

I did however, visit the home of Mary Durack on the way into Lake Argyle, and I did visit Mataranka, where Jeannie and Aenaes Gunn spent time, with their cattle station, Elsey Station not far from the settlement at Mataranka.  Jeannie initially wrote as Aenaes Gunn, as women writers at the time found it hard to get a publisher.  It was though her story of living on the cattle station a long way away from civilisation.  It has always been one of my favourite books and I enjoyed the movie "We of the Never Never."

Mataranka is some 400 kms south of Darwin, and I was so thrilled to arrive there.  I had a room booked at the resort, a rather pleasant spot surrounded by much tropical scenery and plenty of kangaroos.  In the town itself are great tributes to Jeannie.  Also not far from the town is the Hot Springs of Mataranka near the Roper River, which is clearly a popular spot for tourists.  One wouldn't swim in the river, but the Springs are very inviting.  There's a wonderful boardwalk to the Springs and down to the River.

The above are all in the main town area of Mataranka 

The film set of We of the Never Never, the recreation of the Elsey Station homestead at Mataranka Springs.

Boardwalk at Mataranka Springs

Mataranka locals

I drove out towards Elsey Station which is about 14 kms east of Mataranka, as I wanted to wander in the cemetery there. Jeannie was not buried there, but there is a memorial to her. I wandered around reading the fascinating writings on the grave sites.  Whilst there I had a scary moment.  There were about 5 cattle in the graveyard and I hadn't seen them initially.  I don't know who got the biggest scare - them or me, but the small mob ran away from me and leaped over the fence. I was a little shocked and hoped they didn't damage their undercarriage!

The Mataranka Resort was great - lovely restaurant/cafe, nice motel rooms, and very welcoming staff.  

I doubt I will get another opportunity - but if I do, I'd like to focus on writers - my original idea.


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