Woman Park, Ruth (1917 - 2010)


24 August 1917
Auckland, New Zealand

Written by Kathryn Mcleod, National Film and Sound Archive

Ruth Park was born in Auckland, New Zealand on August 24, 1917. In 1942, she moved to Australia to work as a journalist, and married pen pal and fellow writer D'Arcy Niland. Her debut novel The Harp of the South was inspired by the poverty and crime of the Surry Hills area in which they lived. The novel won the Sydney Morning Herald's literary competition in 1946 and went on to be published in 1948.

Sydney residents were shocked at the novel's descriptions of slum-life including 'crime, domestic violence, prostitution and backyard abortions' (Australian, 2010). In response, the NSW government initially denied the existence of slums in Sydney however they eventually conceded by demolishing many of the dilapidated Victorian terraces around Sydney and relocating residents into housing commission units.

The success of The Harp of the South launched Park's career. She went on to write over fifty books, including nine novels. She won the prestigious Miles Franklin Award in 1977 for her novel Swords and Crowns and Rings and the Australian Children's Book of the Year Award and the Boston Globe-Horn Book Award (USA) for Playing Beatie Bow, which was later adapted into a feature film. She also authored the much-loved children's radio serial The Muddleheaded Wombat which was broadcast on the ABC, and which she later developed into a book series.

In 1987, Park was appointed a Member of the Order of Australia for her services to literature. She was also awarded an Honorary Doctor of Letter from the University of New South Wales in 1994. She died in 2010.

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