EVENT: St Kilda Writers Week Launch
DATE: Sunday 3oth September
TIME: 1:15 pm – 2:30 pm
VENUE: Big Mouth Upstairs
ADDRESS: 168 Acland St, St Kilda
GIRLS ON THE TRACK THE DOLL WENT TOO
Brenda Richards is looking forward to discussing her forthcoming book, “Girls on the Track” at Big Mouth on 30th September for St. Kilda’s Writers’ Week.
A delightful tale of history as it happened, it breaks the stereotypes. The itinerant nature of the work echoes the itinerancy of an old continent as the girls move up and down the East coast of Australia, with a few diversions inland. They weren’t outfitted in an apron waiting patiently for Mr Right – or Mr Wrong. These young woman were on the move.
Starting from the Kyabram Cannery, where more than one working life began at 13, the action covers a wide slice of the Eastern states. Jobs included working in resorts, factories and pubs to picking apples and splitting scallops in Tasmania, riding the Inlander from Townsville to Mt. Isa and having a run-in with squatters on the Darling Downs.
Having fled from an education system that was not meeting their teenage need to learn about the world and to explore Australia, these young women got advanced schooling in philosophy, psychology, history, multi-culturism, geography, and how to add up.
They worked, lived and played with members of the Indigenous community, they experienced first-hand the injustice inflicted on Australia’s first people, as well as learning from them. In one instance being assisted by Kath Walker before she became a famous poet.
An unusual coincidence with the fabled shearers’ strike which started from the woolshed at Jondaryon raised feminist issues and on another occasion. A lesson was learnt that choices are not always between right and wrong. Sometimes the only option is to find the ‘least wrong.’
Not surprisingly, the Trackies played as hard as they worked, learning to dance through life, while surviving the occasional nasty bits, as they waltzed around Australia.
Girls on the Track is a story of strength and resilience. They were the fore-runners of their generation, which included Germaine Greer et al. who fled Australia a decade later, having completed a university degree, to explore sophisticated London. Perhaps this well-known group were following in the footsteps of these young people, many of whom have since gained a more traditional education, which sits on top of their Doctorate in Resilience from the University of Life.
The track ended in St. Kilda.
Brenda Richards was born in country Victoria. She started working in a cannery when she was thirteen. A significant part of her teenage years were spent as an itinerant worker, moving up and down the eastern coast of Australia. In 1961, Brenda settled in St. Kilda. She initially lived in a rooming house in Wordsworth Street. Her two daughters were born here. Lucky the Cat also roamed around this house. (It was pulled down in January this year)
A few years later, Brenda moved to her current house in Acland Street. To pay the rent, she lived in one room with her girls, her brother and his friend lived in the front room, and two others shared the third bedroom. The house eventually functioned as an ‘open house,’ with people stopping for a while if they had nowhere else to stay. (‘There was no side gate then, and we lost the key to the back door, so couldn’t keep them out,’ she explained.)
Brenda became a founding member of the Council for the Single Mother. They encouraged her to complete high school. Despite a short bout of cancer, she did so, followed by a degree at Monash- and a heart attack at 40.
Brenda worked for 25 years as the Senior Psychiatric Social Worker in the Children’s Court Clinic, eventually buying the Acland Street house.
To balance writing court reports during the day, and also in the hopes of winning trips, which otherwise she could not afford, Brenda started writing jingles in 25 word competitions. Brenda got a result in one out of four. Prizes included a trip to the World Cup in Rome, another to Beverley Hills, as well as a number of internal trips and a nice selection of wine. She came second in one where first prize was $10,000 worth of cruises. She won an electric nail file!
Brenda has had two books published. “The Adventures of a Skitterer” and “Travels with Grandma,” co-authored with her grandson Toby.
She has written numerous short stories, and is an 8 times award winner in the Port Phillip Seniors Writing Competition. Lucky the Cat’s continuing adventures (set in early 1960 St. Kilda) are a separate feature.
Brenda also won the limerick competition each year in the Elwood poetry competition, a Reconciliation competition and seniors magazine comp.
Brenda was inducted into the Victorian Honour Roll of Women in 2011. A few years later she was made an Ambassador for Women under the Labor Party, as well as the Number 1 female ticket holder for St. Kilda City Football team. (Southern League.) Brenda also played an exhibition football match in 1958 in Tasmania. Ulverstone versus Bernie. Brenda was awarded second best but not fairest. Darryl Baldock’s wife got best and fairest.
Currently looking for a publisher for ‘The Kip Kelly Series.’ Two already completed. Kip is a psychiatric social worker in the Children’s Court who goes on regular holidays, when her court logic goes missing. She doesn’t solves murders, perhaps she causes them. She does for social work what Janet Ivanovich’s protagonist does for bounty hunters.
‘Girls on the Track’ is also completed. Autobiographical, it describes the adventures of a number of teenagers who roamed the East coast of Australia in the 50s. Living in the same era as Germaine Greer, these young women were exploring their world a decade earlier. They not only broke the stereotype, they busted it wide open.