Peopled by many of the legends of the Australian outback, this is the extraordinary true story of how one ordinary woman grew up to champion Australia’s outback heritage. Jane Grieve was born and raised on a farm on the Darling Downs in Queensland. From the outset she was determined that her life was not going to run along conventional lines; and nor did it. While working for architect Bill Durack, brother of legendary Australian identities Mary and Elizabeth Durack, she met R.M. Williams. R.M. exhorted her to work with him, Hugh Sawrey, Mary Durack and other prominent Australians to build a very special monument. This is the previously untold story of the establishment of one of Australia’s foremost Bicentennial projects – the Australian Stockman’s Hall of Fame and Outback Heritage Centre – at Longreach in Queensland.
It’s a pleasure to have Jane join me as she launches her memoir, In Stockmen’s Footsteps…
1. You grew up in Bowenville, QLD, what was your early childhood like?
Well, it was in the Fifties so in fact very close to the end of World War 2; all the fathers and lots of the mothers (including mine) were returned ex servicemen so we took it for granted that each one had a story. One had been a prisoner of war, one was in a wheelchair, my own dad had scars on his face and his arm from a couple of aircraft accidents (he was a pilot). But we lived on a farm, a very insular life but a very healthy and happy one.
2. You have had an eclectic career to date which has included a role with the Courier Mail as a humourist. Do you find it easy to see the humour in everyday life or is there a struggle when it comes to producing something funny?
Australians have a way of turning hardship into humour, in a rather irreverent way. I really like that and I do the same. Far better to laugh than to cry. And humour is a very powerful communication tool. You can coat many a bitter pill with a little humour!
3. Your latest work is a memoir which includes your involvement with the iconic Stockman’s Hall of Fame. How did you get involved in the project? And what made you decide to write a memoir?
My book tells the story of my life leading up to getting involved in the project, and in a way, the life I led until then could not have been more tailor-made for the task I took on. I had worked in administration in the city, all around the world really, but most of all I loved the bush where I had worked as stockman and station cook. So the combination of skills and interests equipped me perfectly for what was needed in the Hall of Fame. And I guess RM Williams recognised that in me when I met him in Toowoomba where I was working at the time.
I wrote the memoir at the invitation of a publisher, but it was in fact the fulfilment of a lifelong dream. I think stories should be told. I am a writer and I most enjoy writing little vignettes about interesting and enervating things people are doing….and believe me, the most ordinary people (of which I am one) are doing the most extraordinary things, all around us. I endeavoured to capture the era in which I grew up. I hope I succeeded in doing that.
4. I’m sure everyone would like to know what R.M. Williams was like?
Well enigmatic is the word that comes to mind. I loved him a great deal, and he was the sort of man who inspired love and loyalty in those around him. I hate to harp back to my book, but I have some vignettes in there of my dealings with RM in an everyday sense, and I think that would give people a picture of what it was like to be close to him. In one part I described him as proud, humble, intensely private, famous, reliable, unreliable, enigmatic beyond measure, infuriating and lovable in equal parts. That about sums up the RM Williams I knew and loved!
5. During planning for the TSHOF what was the shared vision for the project?
The vision was indeed shared – that is a good description. The vision was to create a place where the history of our outback pioneers would be kept in a museum, library and art gallery for all Australians.
6. What’s your favourite exhibit in TSHOF?
That is so hard to say! In fact I think the building itself is an absolute triumph. It brings tears to my eyes every time I see it; it really is just beautiful. Inside are all the stories of the different elements of the outback, honouring our pioneers and recording their lifestyle. Probably I most like the map of the droving routes and exploration routes. It puts it all into perspective and its quite overwhelming.
7. How difficult was it to write In Stockman’s Footsteps when so many Australian identities were involved in the project?
Most of them are no longer with us, if thats what you mean! I had a strong sense of being the last man standing and being honour-bound to a) tell the story and b) bring their amazing project and the huge combined effort made by so many Australians of every ilk, but in particular my board of directors whom I loved so dearly, to the attention of todays Australians again. Hey this was done for you our stories were collected and saved for you and for posterity, so support it, go and visit it, be part of it. History is a living, growing thing after all!!
Biography JANE GRIEVE – Jane Grieve, writer, public speaker and motelier, currently lives a double life. She lives half the time as a cloistered motelier in the southern Queensland country town of Dalby, where she relishes the tide of humanity which brings fresh air, fresh ideas and fresh faces through her door. The other half she lives as a cloistered writer on a relatively-remote south-western Queensland rural property near Muckadilla, where she breathes the freshest of fresh air, and relishes the tide of animal life which abounds in the trees and landscape outside her window.
Janes somewhat intermittent blog can be found through her website www.janegrieve.com.au.
Jane is a freelance writer, contributing regularly to Highlife Magazine and People n Places magazine (Warwick).Her memoir In Stockmens Footsteps, the story of her life and her close involvement in the establishment of the Australian Stockmans Hall of Fame, is OUT NOW.