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The Stella Prize brings out the best

04 March 2015

Garnerhousegrieftext

Where were you when the car went into the dam in Victoria carrying three small boys and their father?

Do you remember their father escaped, flagging down a passing motorist to take him into town to tell his ex-wife there had been a terrible accident.

He had blacked out at the steering wheel following a coughing fit and driven across the road and into a dam. He had tried to save the boys.

That was Fathers’ Day 2005.

In her book, This House of Grief (Text Publishing), Australian novelist Helen Garner has written her account of facing the facts of the harrowing incident in the long and arduous trials that followed.

In 2007 Robert Farquharson went to trial for what happened on that fateful Fathers’ Day. In 2010 a retrial was granted. In 2013 Farquharson’s High Court bid to appeal the verdict of that second trial failed. The High Court outcome meant Helen was free to publish her coverage of the events of that tragic night and the trials that followed.

Even if you know the outcome, this is a shocking story to read.

In a recent interview we did with Jo Cavanagh, one of our Australian Financial Review and Westpac 100 Women of Influence winners, and the CEO of Victorian based social enterprise, Family Life, Jo told us about new research by Professor Thea Brown, Monash University. The research says a lot about what happened in the case of the Farquharson children.

Professor Brown has established there are common factors surrounding the actions of parents who intentionally kill their children. Usually, one of the partners does not want the relationship to end. In the case of men, who are not prepared for the relationship to end and who decide to take terminal action, their motivation is often revenge. For women in the same position, their actions are motivated by ‘saving the kids from the world’.

Helen Garner is appearing at the Sydney Opera House as part of All About Women, March 8 International Women’s Day. On April 23, she is talking with Hannie Rayson at the Wheeler Centre in Melbourne.

This House of Grief is on the long list for the Stella literary prize. The winner will be announced April 21, 2015.

In 2014 Clare Wright’s history of the Eureka Stockade won the $50,000 prize. The Forgotten Rebels of Eureka (Text Publishing) is a stunning piece of historic diversity looking at the place of women in a story everyone (well, the blokes any way) thought had nothing new to offer.

The 2015 long list is:

Foreign Soil by Maxine Beneba Clarke (Hachette)

The Strays by Emily Bitto (Affirm Press)

Only the Animals by Ceridwen Dovey (Penguin)

This House of Grief by Helen Garner (Text Publishing)

Golden Boys by Sonya Hartnett (Penguin)

The Invisible History of the Human Race by Christine Kenneally (Black Inc)

The Eye of the Sheep by Sofie Laguna (Allen & Unwin)

The Golden Age by Joan London (Random House)

Laurinda by Alice Pung (Black Inc)

Nest by Inga Simpson (Hachette)

Heat and Light by Ellen van Neerven (UQP)

In My Mother’s Hands by Biff Ward (Allen & Unwin)

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