In the Moorhouse Archives, the 2022 Fryer Lecture

In the Moorhouse Archives, the 2022 Fryer Lecture in Australian Literature, was presented by Professor Catharine Lumby in the Fryer Library on Friday 9 December 2022. 

Read about the lecture and listen to a recording of the event on Soundcloud. 

In the Moorhouse Archives 

In her keynote lecture, Catharine shared her experiences as a biographer of Australian author, Frank Moorhouse AM (1938–2022), detailing his legacy as a writer and public intellectual. 

She explored the ethics of biography and the challenges of researching an extensive archive that contains sensitive and private materials about people who were part of Frank Moorhouse’s life. 

Guests enjoyed the display of books, objects, and manuscripts from the Frank Moorhouse Papers, which Catharine had utilised for her biographical research. 

Fryer Library display - Martini - a celebration of Frank Moorhouse's life, literature and legacy.

About the event

Event opening

Mr Simon Farley, Fryer Librarian, opened the event with an acknowledgment of country. He welcomed Catharine and guests and introduced the Fryer Library and its significant holdings of papers and publications of Australian authors.

Mr Simon Farley, Fryer Librarian, addressing event guests.
Left: Photo of Frank Moorhouse on a screen.
Right: Professor Catharine Lumby.

Simon acknowledged Frank's death in 2022 and shared memories of Frank delivering the inaugural Fryer Lecture in 2015.

He noted the diverse range of materials in the Frank Moorhouse collection including drafts, index cards, personal correspondence and even a 'promotional pair of underwear' from the film version of The Coca-Cola Kid'. Simon concluded by introducing Catharine.

The lecture: In the Moorhouse Archives

Catharine reflected on her journey as Frank's biographer, amusing, entertaining and challenging the audience with personal anecdotes and her memories of Frank collected over ten years of her biographical research.

Professor Catharine Lumby delivering the 2022 Fryer Lecture.

"His Archive is a map of life as well as his work."
- Professor Catharine Lumby

Catharine discussed the nature of non-fiction works, of incorporating research from archives and libraries, and navigating the nebulous nature of ethics in writing (e.g. ethically selecting content to include while considering professional guidelines and the privacy of individuals).

"Your job is to dig up disgraceful things about me and remind me of them!"
- A quote from Frank to Catharine in her role as biographer.

She discussed approaches that collecting institutions take in managing these collections and the dilemmas of differing perspectives on privacy from complete open access to closed collections.

In discussing Frank, she described him as 'living thirty lives in one'. A man who lived with passion and compassion, and who was supportive and generous in his mentorship of emerging authors.

Catharine acknowledged not only his achievements as an author, but as an activist, involved in reform in censorship and copyright, including being a founder of the Copyright Agency, and as a supporter of Indigenous land rights, LGBTQ rights, and women’s liberation. 

Questions and answers to finish

Following the lecture, Catharine answered questions from the audience and the event came to a close.

Audience at the Fryer Lecture.

Event recording on Soundcloud

Listen to the 2022 Fryer Lecture in Australian Literature: In the Moorhouse Archives (1h18s) on Soundcloud.

Content note: the recording contains mature themes including sexual references and occasional strong language.

About Professor Catharine Lumby

Catharine is chair of the Discipline of Media and Communications at Sydney University and was the Founding Director of the Journalism and Media Research Centre at the University of New South Wales. 

Catharine was previously a print and TV journalist for over 20 years and still writes for the Sydney Morning Herald, the ABC, The Bulletin , and The Guardian. She has authored numerous books and papers on topics including gender equality, cultural diversity, sexual violence prevention, and the media. 

She has recently completed a biography of Frank Moorhouse drawing on his papers housed in the Fryer Library. 

About the Fryer Lecture in Australian literature

The annual Fryer Lecture is the premier event in the Friends of the Library program and in the Fryer Library calendar. The Lecture celebrates Australian literature and the important role of the Fryer Library in collecting and preserving our literary heritage. The speakers discuss a variety of challenges, triumphs and characters within Australian Literature. 

The first Fryer Lecture was delivered by Frank Moorhouse in 2015 on The survival of Australian writing: the role and authority of the literary imagination.

Over the last seven years, the lecture has been delivered by a wide range of authors and representatives of the Australian literary community. 

During 2020-2021, the Lecture was held as an online-only event and was delivered by Alexis Wright and Craig Munro.  


It was a joy to be able to welcome people to attend the Fryer Lecture in person in 2022. Thank you to Professor Catharine Lumby and all of our guests and Friends of the Library.


Last updated:
10 January 2023