The Booktopia Book Guru asks
author of Playground Duty
Ten Terrifying Questions
1. To begin with why don’t you tell us a little bit about yourself – where were you born? Raised? Schooled?
I was born in Coonabarabran in NSW. I spent my early years on a farm. The highlight of my early life was when I was given a horse at four. I called him “Mate”. We moved to Sydney after my father lost the election. He stood for Labor in the biggest rural electorate in NSW. I was sent to The Kings’ School to be a boarder when I was nine. I’m not sure I’ve ever recovered!
2. What did you want to be when you were twelve, eighteen and thirty? And why?
I wanted to be an actor when I was twelve. At eighteen I wanted to get as far away from The King’s School as possible! At thirty I wanted to write a good play. I’ve always wanted to be an actor. I fell into writing but am still trying to write that good play. King’s and I weren’t a good fit.
3. What strongly held belief did you have at eighteen that you do not have now?
I believed that it was possible to create a harmonious, peaceful world. I was a believer in non violence. Sadly, I don’t think human beings are capable of embracing peace.
4. What were three big events – in the family circle or on the world stage or in your reading life, for example – you can now say, had a great effect on you and influenced you in your career path?
I would have to say the death of my mother when I was twelve. I didn’t understand it at the time but it has had a profound effect on my life.
The day Bobby Kennedy was shot I was on my way to deliver a paper on Gandhi and non violence. I was eighteen and I was devastated.
When I was teaching in Tenterfield I was sent a copy of David Williamson’s The Removalists. It was the first time I realised it was possible to write a play with an Australian voice.
5. Considering the innumerable electronic media avenues open to you – blogs, online newspapers, TV, radio, etc – why have you chosen to write a book? Aren’t they obsolete?
Ha! I wrote Playground Duty because I wanted to celebrate the teaching profession. I have enormous respect for teachers. They come in all shapes and sizes but 95% of them do their best for their students. I didn’t consider social media as an outlet because I wanted to tell a story and it’s hard to do that in 40 “characters”. I love reading and sharing a journey with a writer. I hope readers enjoy my journey as a teacher. Books, like theatre, will never be obsolete!
6. Please tell us about your latest book…
My book is essentially a teaching memoir. It charts the journey of my teaching career from being sent to Tenterfield in north western NSW to working at Newtown High School of the Performing Arts in Sydney. It lifts the lid on what goes on in staff rooms, classrooms and the playground. It is full of anecdotes, all of them true, about the special world of teaching. It covers my extraordinary time at the EORA Centre for Aboriginal Performing and Visual Arts in Redfern. It is a book about the unique relationships that teachers have with students and their long term impact.
It celebrates teaching and teachers.
7. If your work could change one thing in this world – what would it be?
“Give peace a chance”. I would want us to find a way to end the violence we inflict on each other.
8. Whom do you most admire and why?
Nelson Mandela. He was an example of all that can be extraordinary about human beings. His belief, his tenacity, his vision and his humility.
9. Many artists set themselves very ambitious goals. What are yours?
10. Many people set themselves very ambitious goals. What are yours?
Don’t give up. Trust your voice. Re-read!
Ned, thank you for playing.