Monthly Archives: January 2015

Varuna – the National Writer’s House

Happy Australia Day – as you celebrate today with your family and friends, please spare a thought for those whose lives were marginalised as a result of the actions carried out on this historic day – thank you.

Now many of you know that I am on annual leave, but I want to reassure you that I am not having a holiday, well not entirely.

At the end of last year, I was privileged to be awarded an Eleanor Dark Fellowship for Fiction at Varuna.

Varuna, the National Writer’s House is situated in the Blue Mountains, an hour and a half north of Sydney. Eleanor Dark was one of Australia’s finest writers of the 20th Century, and Varuna owes its existence today to Eleanor, her husband Dr Eric Dark and their family. Her best-known novel was the best-selling The Timeless Land (1941), the first part of a trilogy, with Storm of Time (1948) and No Barrier (1953).

Read more about Varuna here:

I arrived last Monday and the first thing that hits you when you get here is the peace. Not actual quiet, as a mob of sulphur-crested cockatoos act like court jesters and keep everyone entertained, but more a sense of tranquility.

I am here with four other writers, who between us are working on fiction, non-fiction and academic manuscripts, so a diverse range of genres and inevitably some varied dinner table conversations.

A few days ago, I had the opportunity to meet with Varuna elder, Peter Bishop, who was insightful about my work, but also about life.

Varuna House Sign.jpgVaruna Painting l-res.jpg

It would be remiss of me not to thank Jansis and her extraordinarily kind staff at Varuna, who have made me feel so welcome. A special shout out goes to Sheila, who prepares our divine home cooked meals each evening. I haven’t eaten as well since I was married to a chef!

On my arrival, the weather was foggy with drizzling rain, arguably a perfect environment for a budding writer. The next few days were bathed in glorious sunshine and much of my time was spent in the garden working on my laptop. I even indulged in a trip or two to the spa. Now, the rain is back and with it my productivity!

I am staying in the Bear Room, overlooking the garden. The house’s original veranda has been closed in giving each bedroom its own workspace. So, as I sit and write, amused and somewhat distracted by my screeching yellow and white friends, I can appreciate that just in front of the trees at the end of the garden is one of the most environmentally significant World Heritage sites on the planet.

It is impossible to stay at Varuna and not be aware of your surroundings. As a photographer and writer, there simply aren’t enough hours in the day. A few early morning bush walks followed by half an hour of yoga have both pampered my soul. A reminder of what it means to be at one with nature, to be calm, and to have the capacity to be creative – that is Varuna. You cannot fail to be inspired by such surroundings.

My aim is to try to do justice to my story in recognition of the people I am writing for. In this instance, the people of Rwanda and Darfur, and two heinous crimes that the world should never forget, one of which still continues today.

Thank you – Maureen


Posted in Dignity, Genocide, Marginalised People, Writing


dignitythe state or quality of being worthy of honour

Posted in Uncategorized

Quote of the Day

“Violence is not merely killing another. It is violence when we use a sharp word, when we make a gesture to brush away a person, when we obey because there is fear.”


Posted in Dignity, Marginalised People

Quote of the Day

“Whoever fights monsters should see to it that in the process he does not become a monster.”




Posted in Genocide

Bill, Bill and George

Whenever people ask me what my dream job is, I tell them that I want to work for Bill, Bill or George. Understandably, they look confused. Let me explain.

These three men, Bill Clinton, Bill Gates and George Clooney are each, in their own way, extraordinary men doing extraordinary work.

Bill Clinton has been candid that the biggest regret of his tenure as President was his failure to intervene in Rwanda. While that wrong can never be righted, in subsequent years, President Clinton has arguably done more to improve the plight of marginalised people than any other individual on earth. He has earned the nickname ‘The King of Giving’ tenfold. Through leveraging his extensive global network, he has achieved things that many said were impossible. Now, a child with Aids in Africa can be treated for US$90 a year rather than the first-world price of $9,000 annually.

Each year, the former President hosts the Clinton Global Initiative in New York, where he brings together leading philanthropists whose aim is to find innovative solutions to the world’s most pressing challenges. Subsequently, they commit to projects proposed throughout the conference, dealing with such issues as education, disease, economic inequality and refugees. CGI as it’s known amongst regulars, is graced by the likes of President Obama, Desmond Tutu, Angelina Jolie, Bono, and formally Nelson Mandela. Actress and UNHCR Global Ambassador Angelina Jolie gave one of the most moving speeches I have ever heard here back in 2007.

Bill No 2 and frequent CGI attendee along with wife Melinda are better known as the Gates’. Perhaps a more unlikely philanthropist than Bill No 1, Mr Gates has set a new global benchmark for personal giving and not just for geeks. There are many wealthy individuals who could learn a thing or two about the joy of generosity from the Microsoft founder and his capable wife. The couple runs the Gates Foundation, which is also supported by billionaire investor Warren Buffet. Each year, the Foundation contributes the equivalent of fifteen percent of the United States global health budget, which is mind-boggling! Imagine if all those other wealthy individuals found their inner philanthropist.

If you have been searching for answers to the world’s most controversial questions, such as, ‘Why do we want to save millions of people in Africa when we have a critical population issue?’ Then take a look at The Living Proof Project from Bill and Melinda Gates. They can answer all those tricky questions, provide proof of success and help eradicate a few pesky diseases such as Polio and Malaria in the interim!

To learn more about he Living Proof Project Click here

And finally George – ah! Big sigh – the ladies reading this will understand.

Perhaps the most unlikely of the three musketeers, Mr Clooney, is part of an entity known as Not on Our Watch – Click here. Initially set up by Hotel Rwanda star, Don Cheadle, he has since enlisted Ocean’s Eleven (Twelve and Thirteen) co-stars, George Clooney, Matt Damon and Brad Pitt along with producer Jerry Weintraub. Imagine the whiplash you’d get working in that office!

Not on Our WatchBook.jpg

Issue No 17, on sale now, of COLLECTIVE magazine, gives an overview of George’s advocacy to this and other projects such as the Satellite Sentinel Project in Darfur. If, however, you are seeking a more in-depth read then I highly recommend the book of the same name Not On Our Watch by Don Cheadle and John Prendergast (Published by Hyperion). Interestingly, at the time of publication, in 2007, Prendergast was a senior advisor to the International Crisis Group and a former official in the Clinton White House.

George Clooney Collective Issue 17.jpg

So back to George. Mr Clooney Jnr and his journalist father, Mr Clooney Snr or Nick, have made numerous trips to the Darfur region of Sudan. They have been responsible for divestment by various American investors in Sudanese oil and, more recently, through the satellite project, have garnered additional evidence against Al Bashir’s genocidal regime. Clooney is even credited for informing the American people that genocide was taking place in Darfur prior to the then sitting President George W Bush.

One of my personal favourite speeches from Mr Clooney was his acceptance speech at 2010 62nd Emmy Awards for the Bob Hope Humanitarian Award – To watch Click here

So while my three favourite men are awesome, in the words of George, there are many who could do much, much more…

Posted in Celebrity, Dignity, Genocide, Marginalised People, NGOs, Philanthropy, Photography, Refugees

Quote of the Day

“Remember: silence helps the killer, never his victims.”


Posted in Uncategorized