The Bulletin's Red Page helped get an Australian literary school on the move (National Library of Australia)
TUMBY BAY - In the late 19th and early 20th centuries, Australian writers struggled to establish a truly Australian modality of literature.
In many ways their struggle resembled the current efforts of Papua New Guinean writers to establish a Papua New Guinean school of literature.
Many of those Australian writers had Irish antecedents and were influenced by the burgeoning literary scene in Ireland.
The advice from the Irish writers to their Australian counterparts was to forget European and English literary models and concentrate on writing about Australia using Australian settings and vernacular.
This is the sort of advice now being given to Papua New Guinean writers by Australian writers.
To establish a truly Papua New Guinean school of literature its writers need to write about their own country using local settings and idioms.
Many early Australian writers had trouble finding publishers. Ironically, a lot of well-known and famous Australian novels and poetry collections were self-published and only published commercially after they were successful.
The majority of these writers never made much money from their craft, even those who published commercially.
That hasn’t changed much to this day. There are only a few Australian writers, usually of popular fiction, who can support themselves from their work; most writers need to maintain other sources of income.
All of this should sound familiar to Papua New Guinean writers.
The early Australian writers tended to lean to the left politically. Many were socialists and a few were communists. Others were utopian and against capitalism. These inclinations greatly influenced their subject matter.