Dr Nancy Cato AM



Nancy Cato is one of the best-known of all Australian authors, both in her home country and abroad. Born and educated in Adelaide, she studied at the University of Adelaide and the South Australian School of Art. 

Her writing career spans journalism, art criticism, poetry, novels, short stories, children's fiction, history, and ecological studies. Her best-known work is All the Rivers Run, a trilogy of novels about the spirited life-spirited; often, in more ways than one-of the river traffic on the Murray-Darling network in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries; published in Australia, the United States, and England, translated into other languages, and made into a mini-series for television, it depends for its success on Nancy Cato's immediacy of location and period together with her vivid sense of human endeavour and human need. The Murray River also provides the setting of her historical study, Mr Malaga: Daniel Matthews and his River Murray Mission to the Aborigines (1976). 

Three Australian places particularly claim her attention: Tasmania in the nineteenth century; the Murray-Darling river system towards the end of the nineteenth century and the beginning of the twentieth; and the coastline of Queensland. 

Among her many books are the Tasmanian historical novels, North-West by South of 1965 and A Distant Island (1988), both of them containing, in the character of the self-taught naturalist Ronald Gunn, an indication of her abiding love for landscape undamaged by human intrusion. 

Another historical novel, Forefathers (1983), is set in part on Fraser Island. One of the major questions it raises is the dispossession of the Aborigines from their land. Nancy Cato's non-fiction work, The Noosa Story: A Study in Unplanned Development, which deals with the cavalier ignorance of white development, has recently appeared in a revised edition. 

It is often forgotten that the first two of Nancy Cato's books were poetry and that she edited one of the Jindyworobak Anthologies. She has, in fact, been committed not only to her vision of the Australian landscape and history but also to the craft and profession of writing. She was, for instance, South Australian Vice-President of the Fellowship of Australian Writers and a council member of the Australian Society of Authors. She was assistant editor of Poetry Australia and advisory editor of Overland. She has been a much loved and ever-willing contributor to Warana Writers' Week. 

Mr Chancellor, for her many contributions to Australian literature, her unstinting advocacy of the need for environmental responsibility, and her services to the profession of letters, I present to you Nancy Fotheringham Cato (Mrs Norman), Member of the Order of Australia, for the conferral of the degree of Doctor of Letters, honoris causa, to which she has been admitted by the Senate of the University. 



Doctor of Letters honoris causa