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Robert Drewe

In their own words

Recorded 1977

Robert Drewe
Audio: 2 minutes

I had a very pleasant and very typical Australian childhood, I guess, growing up around the Swan River, on the banks of the Swan River, on the shores of the Indian Ocean. We had a very coastal childhood. We just ran around barefooted, surfing and swimming and fishing every day, from what I can remember. It was a very pleasant childhood, but there were areas of turpitude that I even recognised as a child, I think. I can remember being strangely unhappy for no reason as a child, in amongst the balmy easterlies and the Fremantle Doctor, the sea breeze that comes in every afternoon. I can remember feeling that it wasn’t quite everything and being, even as a child, surprised at the lack of not ambition necessarily on my friends’ part, but on the fact that they really had no aims to ever do anything else but live there, on the banks of the Swan River, in the sun and go prawning. They didn’t really want to see the world or to do anything terribly imaginative, and this registered on me quite early.

What really made me think that there was more to life, that life was full of interesting sexual, bloody things, was becoming a first-year cadet reporter on the West Australian, on leaving school, and coming out of a middle class fairly short back and sides family, to covering incest cases and police rounds and going on police rounds through Roe Street.

All this was certainly very much of an eye opener. It taught me how to write in a spare taut way or maybe this just gradually evolved. But it seems to have taught me to write in a way that I admire when I see other people doing it properly. I don’t think that journalistic training does any harm to writers, as long as they get out of it virtually unscathed by the time they’re about 30.

Acknowledgements

This oral history of Robert Drewe is from the De Berg Collection in the National Library of Australia. For more information, or to hear full versions of the recordings, visit the National Library of Australia website.

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Robert Drewe

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Artist Nicholas Harding talks about what was captured in his portrait of Robert Drewe.

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The National Portrait Gallery acknowledges the Traditional Custodians of Country throughout Australia and recognises the continuing connection to lands, waters and communities. We pay our respect to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander cultures and to Elders past and present. We respectfully advise that this site includes works by, images of, names of, voices of and references to deceased people.

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