Australian Biography: Nancy Cato


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1993, 26 Minutes

Award-winning author Nancy Cato wrote everything from poetry to children’s books but she is best known for her historical novels including All the Rivers Run.

Born in Adelaide in 1917, Nancy Cato studied English literature at the University of Adelaide and won the Tennyson Medal for this subject in 1933. Before marrying eccentric inventor Eldred Norman in 1941, she worked for six years as an Adelaide journalist. In the 1950s, she began to develop a fully-fledged literary career while trying to raise a family. While in London in 1956, she was so disappointed with publishers' reaction to her first novel that she threw the original manuscript into the Thames River. She had not made a copy.

Nancy has since written numerous historical novels, short stories, verse, children's books, biography and local history. All the Rivers Run, published in 1958, became her most successful book and was later made into a TV mini-series. It was followed by Time Flows Softly (1959), Green Grows the Vine (1960), But Still The Stream (1962), The Sea Ants (1964), Northwest by South (1965), Brown Sugar (1974), Mr Maloga (1976), The Noosa Story (1979), Forefathers (1983), A Distant Island (1988), The Heart of the Continent (1989) and Marigold (1992).  

Her historical novels are what she calls 'painless history' told in fictional form. She admits to taking liberties in her factual works, if only by making patterns from the randomness of life.  

Nancy Cato played an important role in the Australian Society of Authors and won the NT Poetry Prize, the Alice Award for Australian Literature and the Advance Australia Award. She campaigned for Aboriginal land rights, and conservation of the Queensland coastline and the forests of southern NSW and Fraser Island. In 1990, she was made an Honorary Doctor of Letters by the University of Queensland for services to literature and the environment.

A Film Australia National Interest Program. © 2011 National Film and Sound Archive of Australia.

NB The Australian Biography series (1-11) are only available for sale within the territories of Australia and New Zealand.



Year: 1993

Running Time: 26 Minutes

Classification: PG. Consumer Advice: Adult themes.

Curriculum Links: Creative Writing, English, English Literature, PDHPE, Australian Studies and Australian History.


Storymakers: Colin Thiele

SKU 199104607
Brand Film Australia

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