'More popular than novels' : the writings of Ernestine Hill

Ernestine Hill was born in 1899 in Rockhampton, Queensland. She was educated at All Hallows School and Stott & Hoare's Business College, Brisbane. Hill entered the journalism profession in 1919, becoming secretary to Smiths Weekly literary editor, J F Archibald. She subsequently became sub-editor of the paper and consolidated her career as a journalist during the 1930s when she travelled extensively across Australia writing articles for Associated Newspapers and other publications such as Walkabout.

Portrait photograph of Ernestine Hill

Hill's articles were widely read, as she was one of a group of Australian descriptive and travel writers, whose work during the 1930s and 1940s became 'more popular than novels'. However, her writing was sometimes controversial: her reporting of a gold strike in the Northern Territory in 1931 contributed to financial ruin for some and was branded irresponsible; another, a front page story for the Sunday Sun, 19 June 1932, marked the beginning of a long and sometimes turbulent association with Daisy Bates. Hill's major published works arose out of her travels during this period: The Great Australian Loneliness (1937), Water into Gold (1937), Flying Doctor Calling (1947), The Territory (1951) and Kabbarli, a personal memoir of Daisy Bates, published posthumously in 1973. Her only published novel was the immensely successful My Love Must Wait (1941), based on the life of Matthew Flinders.

Papers from the Ernestine Hill Collection (UQFL18)

Between 1940 and 1942 Hill was editor of the women's pages of the A.B.C. Weekly and from 1941 to 1944 she was a commissioner of the A.B.C. After her resignation from this position she resumed her travels, working constantly on ideas for future novels, plays, travel and historical books and radio and film scripts, many of which went unpublished. 

Photographs from the Ernestine Hill Collection (UQFL18)

These drafts, notes and photographs of Hill's travels across outback Australia all form part of her collection. Her papers give us an insight into a writer whose curiosity and imagination centred on the places she visited. Living a large part of her life travelling, making reams of notes in her distinctive style of shorthand on all that she observed about the Australian landscape, its social history, indigenous culture and unique natural surrounds.

Last updated:
26 April 2018