Australian Biography: Thomas Keneally


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Thomas Keneally is one of Australia’s most distinguished and popular writers.

He has twice received the Miles Franklin Award and was shortlisted for the Booker Prize three times before winning for Schindler’s Ark, later made into an Academy Award winning film (Schindler's List). His novel The Chant of Jimmie Blacksmith is an Australian classic. Thomas Keneally is also one of Australia’s most prolific writers, having published more than 30 novels, dramas, screenplays and books of non-fiction.

Born in 1935 into an Irish Catholic family, Tom spent his early years in country towns of northern NSW before moving to the Sydney suburb of Homebush. He wanted desperately to be good at sport but, as an asthmatic child, spent much of his time on the sidelines reading. As a young man, he studied for the priesthood for six years but left just before ordination, suffering a nervous collapse. From 1960, he worked as a schoolteacher, coached football and studied law part time. His first novel was published in 1964, yet only after his third novel Bring Larks and Heroes did he see writing as a full-time career.

Married with two children, Tom is also widely known as the founding chairman of the Australian Republican Movement and as an obsessive rugby league fan whose conversation is punctuated with a rich and memorable chuckle.

Describing himself as a free-thinking hedonist, garrulous to a fault, in this interview Tom talks about his childhood, the church, sex and the seminary, and what it means for him to be a writer.

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

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


Producer/Director/Writer: Rod Freedman

Interviewer: Robin Hughes

Year: 2004

Running Time: 26 Minutes

Classification: Exempt from classification

Curriculum Links: English, English Literature, Media Studies, SOSE, Australian Studies and Australian History.


Voices on the Page

SKU 200200702
Brand Film Australia

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