Dymphna Cusack

The playwright and novelist Ellen Dymphna Cusack, born in 1902, graduated from the University of Sydney in 1925. Despite being of fragile health, she taught in schools across country NSW for almost 20 years. She published her first novel, Jungfrau, in 1936.

Cusack's first literary collaboration - Pioneers on Parade (1939) - was with Miles Franklin. After retiring, she wrote Come in Spinner (1951) with Florence James, which dwelt on controversial issues, such as prostitution and abortion, and was an immediate sensation. It was finally published unabridged in 1988, and became an ABC TV series in 1989.

After the war, Cusack travelled through Europe, China and Russia for 20 years with her partner Norman Freehill, a journalist and member of the Communist Party. She wrote nine more novels - including Southern Steel (1953), Picnic Races (1962), Black Lightning (1964) and The Half-Burnt Tree (1969) - and several plays, before her death in 1981.

Dymphna Cusack

Say No to Death

Published: December 2012

A great story of love and heroism.


Published: November 2012

Dymphna Cusack's ground-breaking novel about women's sexuality and aspirations in Australia.

The Sun in Exile

Published: October 2012

Is it worse to be exiled from one's country than from one's heart?

A Bough in Hell

Published: September 2012

A compassionate and perceptive story of a woman's effort to escape from the nightmare of alcohol addiction.

The Half-Burnt Tree

Published: August 2012

A passionate, emotional and moving book which weaves the story of two people, each locked in their own tragedy yet linked by an indefinable thread.

Picnic Races

Published: July 2012

A comedy that brings to vivid life the ups and downs of a community in which everyone knows - and usually disapproves of - what everyone else is doing.

Southern Steel

Published: June 2012

In the industrial city of Newcastle, New South Wales, lies a powerful firm that dominates the town. It is here that Dymphna Cusack sets a dramatic tale of family disunion, feminine rivalries, soldiers' lusts and lovers' ecstasies.

Black Lightning

Published: June 2012

Cusack's classic that broke new ground in its treatment of the values of present-day Australia and in its picture of the changing Aboriginal world.

Back to Authors List