Ku-ring-gai Electorate Cultural Achievements

Photo of Cossington Smith Harbour Bridge painting
08 August 2017

Mr ALISTER HENSKENS ( Ku-ring-gai ) ( 12:43 :11 ): When most people think about Ku-ring-gai, they usually reflect on the historic homes in its tree-lined streets, its attractive bushland surrounds, its highly regarded schools, its rich social history and its successful sporting teams. The citizens of Ku-ring-gai treasure all those features but what is not so often acknowledged and understood is the fact that Ku-ring-gai is the home of many people who have been successful in the arts. We are very proud of Grace Cossington Smith, a woman who lived a relatively private life in Turramurra but who is perhaps best known for her bold paintings of everyday events in Sydney.

Initially inspired by the impressionistic works of van Gogh, Grace achieved mainstream appeal for her detailed paintings that chronicled the construction of the Sydney Harbour Bridge, including the classic work "The Curve of the Bridge".

She is widely recognised as one of Australia's best and first modern artists. A major exhibition titled "O'Keeffe, Preston, Cossington Smith: Making Modernism", which showcases Grace's work along with that of two other pioneering artists of the twentieth century, is currently on display at the Art Gallery of New South Wales until 2 October, and I strongly recommend that everyone pay it a visit. The heritage-listed Federation house called 'Cossington', where Grace lived from the age of 28 until she moved to a nursing home in 1984, is today in near‑original condition and one of her nieces still lives there.

Another Ku-ring-gai artist is an example of the curious but not uncommon scenario of an Australian becoming successful in their field of endeavour overseas before they are well known in this country and remaining largely obscure even after their foreign success. This was certainly the experience of Liane Moriarty, the eldest of six children, who grew up in Waitara and attended one of the Ku-ring-gai electorate's fine public schools, Our Lady of the Rosary Catholic School. Liane's novel, Big Little Lies, is a successful Home Box Office miniseries starring Nicole Kidman and Reese Witherspoon, but to start there would be to tell not even half of her creative journey.

A career in advertising and marketing followed Liane's schooldays. It was only when her younger sister, Jaclyn, told her that her own novel was about to be published that she was inspired to pursue a career as an author. A children's book entitled The Animal Olympics did not receive any interest from publishers, but her first novel, Three Wishes, written while pursuing a master's degree at Macquarie University, certainly did. She followed that up with five more novels for adults: The Last Anniversary, What Alice Forgot, The Hypnotist's Love Story, The Husband's Secret—number one on theNew York Times bestseller list and the number 10 bestseller in the United Kingdom—Big Little Lies, which debuted at number one on the New York Times bestseller list, making Liane the first Australian author to achieve that, and Truly, Madly, Guilty, another number one on the New York Times bestseller list.

Liane admits that the North Shore has influenced the locations for some of her books, which are characteristically about the darker side of suburban life. USA Today described reading one of her books as "like drinking a pink cosmo laced with arsenic" but her writing shows a fundamental sympathy for people and their flaws. More than six million copies of her books have been sold worldwide and her novels have been translated into 39 languages, but she is delightfully unchanged. She still lives in Pymble with her partner, Adam, and her two children, enjoys time with old friends and is a passionate reader and soccer mum—and it is clear that she has many more stories to tell. Her own life to date has been a remarkable story in itself and Ku-ring-gai is immensely proud that Liane Moriarty is one of its own.

The winner of the 2017 New South Wales Premier's Literary Award and the 2017 UTS Glenda Adams Award for New Writing is a resident of Wahroonga. Michelle Cahill was born in Kenya of Goan-Anglo-Indian ancestry and moved to England before immigrating to Australia in her teens and living in the suburb in which my electorate office is located. Growing up through cultural transitions and race anxieties, Michelle at one point wanted to become a musician but ultimately graduated in medicine and arts. Until relatively recently, Michelle was better known as a poet, and her works The Accidental Cage and Vishvarupa were both shortlisted in the Premier's Literary Awards of the Australian Capital Territory and Victoria respectively. However, it is the recent publication of her short story collection Letter to Pessoa, a book featuring more than 50 heteronyms, which has exposed Michelle to a wider and highly appreciative audience. The stories in Letter to Pessoa are extraordinary in the way that they integrate poetic language with fictional elements and narrative structures, interspersed with literary letters to famous authors. These women are but a few examples of why the arts is alive and well in Ku‑ring‑gai.