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Varuna Fellowship


In August I spent a week at Varuna, the National Writer’s House, thanks to a Griffith Review Contributor’s Circle Fellowship. It was the first time in more than a year that I was able to spend a few days in a row on the death penalty book. It was great to meet fellow residents Frances Chapman, Wendy Dunn, Karina Machado and Bronwen Scott.

The first two days I was delirious with fever and body aches. Normally I’d rest but I couldn’t waste writing time and called around for a GP appointment. Nothing in Katoomba, so I tried down the mountain eastwards towards Sydney. Eventually I drove to Penrith to a walk-in medical centre. The doctor prescribed antibiotics for tonsillitis and Tamiflu for influenza. I think it was too late for the Tamiflu. Antibiotics worked, though.

Varuna was Eleanor Dark’s family home. Before my residency was up, I walked the trail to the Dark family’s cave near Fortress Ridge in the Blue Mountains.

View from the Dark's cave

On my way back to Canberra I stopped off at the memorial reserve for Anita Cobby in Blacktown. The death penalty book ranges widely on crime, punishment and fear, and for one section I’m looking at what the Australian public considered the worst crimes, the crimes for which people demanded the return of the death penalty.