Bjelke Blues Launch and Upcoming Events

BB cover front page

Bjelke Blues is now officially launched and out in the world! One minute I was making cheese platters, the next we had a full house of excited punters and it was time to start introducing my contributors to read from their pieces.

We had wonderful stories, starting with proud Murri woman, Angelina Hurley who told us about what it was like growing up black in Brisbane during those years, escaping the police, her cousin up a tree in the wasteland that is now South Bank Parklands.angelina-bb-launch-best.jpeg

Nicky Peelgrane read from her hilarious piece ‘Sleeping with Joh’ about growing up in a National party householdNicky with front row of crowd BBL

Renowned UQ agitator, Dan O’Neill, spoke about the Springbok tour and UQ’s part in encouraging activism. And read a bit from Joh’s own autobiography – Don’t You Worry About That!

Dan O Neill speech everyone laughing BBL

Artist Jeanelle Hurst spoke about a police mate who saved her from being arrested only to be hounded from the force and persecuted for years.jeanelle-speech-bb-launch.jpeg

Warren Ward made us laugh and then shake our heads with his story about being a ‘casual inserter’. warrens-speech-bb-launch.jpeg

Paul Richards filled us in on the true horror of the legal situation for Aboriginal and Islander people during those dreadful years.paul Richards speech BBL

Anne Jones talked about the rise of punk as a reaction to Joh’s repressive tactics.

contribuotrs on stage together BBL laughing

Then the wonderful Nick Earls read us his story about his encounter with Russ Hinze at the races.


Esteemed historian Raymond Evans officially launched the collection with a great speech, bringing the importance of history like this into the here and now.

Ray Evans LAunch speech BBL

‘As young people in that era we marched in the buoyant hope of creating a better world. Young people today are marching again into the face of heavy-handed policing and hostile public opinion, in the desperate hope of saving it,’ he said.

‘We were completely right back then. We were 100% on the right side of history —and we still are right when we stand up and say: “NO TO ADANI! NO, NO TO ADANI!”—as the high school students today chant —just as we once so gamely chanted: “NO, NO TO JOH”’

stand up contributors

An electric buzz ran through the room as people shared their march, raid and bust stories. We laughed and shook our heads in dismay. Then I gathered all the contributing writers who were able to make it to the launch onto the stage for a photo. So many of us, we could hardly all fit into the shot!


Before I knew it, the lights were all back on and it was pack up time. Books were sold, old friends were reunited and a good night was had by all. The publisher at AndAlso Books , Matthew Wengert, and I were exhausted but very happy and would like to thank all the contributors and everyone who came along to help us launch Bjelke Blues.


We had our first radio interview last week on Murri Radio 98.9 with Boe Spearim on his Let’s Talk Program.


Listen in to the podcast with radio host, screenwriter and academic Angelina Hurley, One of the founders of the Aboriginal and Islander Legal service Paul Richards, and me. It’s a lively conversation!

Join the conversation by coming along to one of our UPCOMING EVENTS

Brisbane Writers Festival Panel – Sunday 8 September 2 pm BOOK TICKETS 

AVID Reader Bookstore – Panel of Readers – Tuesday 24 September 6 pm RSVP

and Books@Stones presents– Bjelke Blues Discussion Panel on Wednesday October 16 at Lady Marmalade in Stones Corner. More details as they come to hand. I can tell you that ex Go-Between John Willsteed will be joining us for that one!

Bjelke Blues has come at just the right time as we again gear up to fight for what we believe in, with many old activists preparing to join the school kids at their march for the environment on Friday the 20th of September in Brisbane.

It’s time – and just quietly – a lot of fun 🙂

Get your copy of Bjelke Blues at your nearest independent bookstore or HERE direct from AndAlso Books.

Independent bookstores so far stocking Bjelke Blues

Avid Reader, West End

Books @ Stones, Stones Corner

Mary Ryan’s, New Farm

Folio Books, Brisbane CBD

Riverbend Books, Bulimba

State Library of Queensland —Library Shop

Brisbane Writers Festival (5–8 September 2019)

Queensland Museum —Museum Shop

Readings, Hawthorn (Melbourne)

Mary Ryan’s (Milton)

Museum of Brisbane Shop


Better Read Than Dead Newtown (Sydney)

If your local store hasn’t got a copy send them to AndAlso Books!

Thanks so much for your support of this important collection of stories from the not so distant past.

Lots of love

Edwina xxx


I’m so excited about this year’s Brisbane Writers’ Festival – mainly because this year I’m in it!

On Sunday 6th September from 9 am I will be leading a combined yoga/writing class. Bring your own mat and writing materials. It’s being held in the big tent on Maiwar Green between the State Library and GOMA. I’m pretty sure this one is free. Will let you know more as I am informed. So if you’ve ever been interested in trying yoga and/or writing  this is your perfect opportunity 🙂

Later that day is a personal highlight – something I’ve dreamed about for over a decade – my best writing buddy Helena Pastor and I on the stage presenting at the festival together! From 1 pm, we’ll be at The River Terrace discussing the creation of Helena’s wonderful new book WILD BOYS – a memoir about parenting a difficult child. Click here to book

We really hope to see some smiling faces in the audience to share our joy and help us to celebrate this brilliant and courageous book. It would be great to see you there.

Lots of love to you all,



WHY WE WRITE – Thoughts after the Brisbane Writers Festival

This year’s festival  was the busiest I’ve ever seen, despite the hike in ticket prices to a number of sessions. So much for 47% of Queenslanders being unable to read, Germaine! It was obvious that people in Brisbane care deeply about reading and writing. But why? Why were we all there? Why do readers keep searching for the perfect book? Why do writers continue to write despite the lack of financial, or other, rewards?

The first session I attended was French Writing in The Pacific with authors from New Caledonia and Tahiti. Chantal Spitz, the first indigenous Tahitian ever published, explained why she writes,”because if I can’t write, I would die.” And I think this rings true for a number of writers. Perhaps we wouldn’t die, but we wouldn’t “Be”to the fullest extent of our being. We write because we can’t stop. Because writing somehow IS who we are.

Chantal Spitz    photo © Marie-Hélène Villierme

Chantal Spitz photo © Marie-Hélène Villierme

Chantal writes in  poetic langauge with strength and courage to bear witness to the truth of the lives of Tahitians and refute the mythologised version of Mutiny on The Bounty babes and lazy fools. Her book Island of Shattered Dreams  brings to life the harsh reality of a colonised people.

A small group “conversation” with Susan Johnson, one of my favourite Australian authors, was next. Susan has published nine books, including Life in Seven Mistakes, The Broken Book, A Better Woman, her powerful memoir of motherhood, and most recently, My Hundred Lovers. Despite being shortlisted for several awards over her career as a writer, she’s never managed to crack a major prize. And she could have done with the money, she said. She needed that money. Her husband was demanding she contribute to the family coffers. “Was she crazy,” she asked, “to keep on writing?”

I, for one, am glad she did. She’s recently returned to full-time work as a journalist to support her family, but I hope that soon some big prize money will come her way and give her the time she needs to keep writing her beautiful prose. Not many writers can do what she does with words, going deep into universal truths, the deeply buried secrets of the heart and body.

In response to the lack of awards for women, Susan and a group of other Australian women writers have banded together to create The Stella Prize, with the inaugural competition running next year.

In a session on Mothers and Their Families I met Claire Bidwell Smith a young American writer whose first book, The Rules of Inheritance, a memoir about the loss of both her parents to cancer, has recently been released in Australia by Text. Grief is a subject close to my heart, it has been a shaping force in my life and I’ve written my own “Guide to Grief”(currently looking for a good home), so I was interested to hear her speak. Like me, the stories of her loss were the first ones she had to tell. The old adage,”write what you know”comes down to this for me. It’s not about what you know out in the world, but what you know about your heart’s inner workings.

I stumbled into Indigenous Story Tellers next and was very glad I did. When Witi Ihamaera sang a welcome in Maori we all knew it was going to be a special session. Boori Monty Pryor, a born showman from far north Queensland, read us a poem that had us laughing and crying at the same time. Chantal again moved us with her words of struggle and Witi showed us how his wise grandmother taught him to question and subvert the ways of the white fella through nursery rhymes. It was a session that had the audience in tears, moved by the plight of these brave people who had the grace to still sit before us, to accept us and let us learn from them. It was humbling to be in their presence.

The last session I attended was Black and Write, celebrating  the success of a program to discover and encourage indigenous writers and editors. Sue McPherson, author of Grace Beside Me won us all over with her wicked sense of humour and stories of battling with her inner-critic called Ethel. But it was Michael Heyward, editor at Text Publishing who encapsulated what the festival taught me this time around.

Books matter. Writing matters. Because books have the power to change people’s lives.