70 years of the University of Queensland Press

Papers from University of Queensland Press collection UQFL198
Papers from University of Queensland Press collection UQFL198

Celebrating its 70th anniversary in 2018, The University of Queensland Press (UQP) has greatly contributed to Australian literature. To mark this anniversary, Alex Sequeira and Kayla Hitchman, UQ literature students, researched the Press as part of an internship in the Fryer Library. In this story, they unveil some of the history of UQP and its notable writers and poets.

Mapping the history of the Press

UQP  and The University of Queensland Bookshop. Image courtesy of University of Queensland Archives

Established in 1948, UQP developed a reputation for publishing quality cultural, artistic and scholarly titles. Under the management of Frank Thompson the Press grew and transitioned from a publisher of scholarly materials into more mainstream trade publications like novels.

By the 1970s, the Press was publishing award winning writers like David Malouf and was considered a strong market competitor.1


Success in the 80s

The 1980s were a very successful decade for UQP. In 1983, Laurie Muller became manager of the Press and “presided over a period of reorganization and consolidation of UQP operations”. This improved distribution networks and overcame some of the difficulties in marketing a diverse set of titles.2

Explore this timeline to see important milestones of Press during the 1980s.


Publishing writers in the centre and on the margins

UQP and The University of Queensland Bookshop, c1980s

Female voices

The 1980s also saw the “growing presence”3 of innovative female writers Olga Masters, Barbara Hanrahan, Kate Grenville, Janette Turner Hospital and Thea Astley. They presented unique takes on the female experience, examined the many boundaries between people, and explored marginalised voices.  

Indigenous voices

The Press also actively encouraged Indigenous writing by Indigenous authors in Queensland.

More than 150 manuscripts were submitted to its Black Writers series, from its inception in 1988 to 1998.4 This demonstrated the abundance of Indigenous writing and its increasing audience.5 It also paved the way for future serial publications such as Black Australian Writing, established in 1990. UQP enthusiastically published Paperbark, the first national anthology of Indigenous writing, under this series.6

The David Unaipon Award

In partnership with Arts Queensland, UQP established the David Unaipon Award in 1989. It was named after the “Ngarrindjeri Elder and early advocate ... was the first Aboriginal writer to have a book published”.7 Graeme Dixon was the first winner of the David Unaipon Award for his first collection of poetry Holocaust Island (1990). Other winners have included Tara June Winch and Doris Pilkington.

Poetry in the Press

UQP has published poetry since the mid-1960s when it produced series such as Paperback Poets and Poets on Record. The latter printed work was accompanied by a 7 inch vinyl record of the featured poet reading their work.

In the 1990s and 2000s, the Press published anthologies edited by the likes of Geoff Page. From modern (20th century) to contemporary (current day) poets, UQP continues to support this form of writing, helping it to reach a wider audience.

Judith Wright

We with our quick dividing eyes
measure, distinguish and are gone
The forest burns, the tree frog dies,
yet one is all and all are one

- Excerpt from "Rainforest", a poem by Judith Wright

Judith Wright

Regarded as one of Queensland’s great modern poets, Judith Wright (1915-2000) tapped into philosophy, human nature, environmental and social issues within her work. More than a nature-poet admiring the sublime or picturesque, Wright questioned the very human condition within nature and her physical place in the world.

Responding to life with poetry

As a passionate environmental activist, Wright co-founded the Wildlife Preservation Society of Queensland in 1962. It is perhaps unsurprising then, that trees are a recurring motif in Wright's work. It is, however, the breadth of her writing that is remarkable; her ability to weave poetry and reportage from her lived experience. While she wrote poetry referencing nature's ancient wisdom. She also wrote about the campaign against the Bjelke-Petersen government's sand-mining the Great Barrier Reef in The Coral Battleground. 8 While she wrote poetry about the injustice dealt to Indigenous Australians, she also wrote about the concept of a treaty and Aboriginal Land Rights in We Call for a Treaty. Wright also formed The Aboriginal Treaty Committee with Herbert Cole Coombs (Nugget), in 1979.

Wright recorded her later work through UQP’s Poets on Record series in 1973.

Posthumous publications

In 2004, just a few years after she passed away, UQP published The Equal Heart and Mind. This publication revealed a collection of personal letters between Wright and her husband, Jack McKinney, dating from 1945 to 1965. Their correspondence reflects the meeting of minds of this poet-intellectual couple, seeking sanctuary at Mt.Tamborine, Queensland, where they lived for almost twenty years.


Helen Haenke

In 2017, UQP published Helen Haenke at Rockton: A Creative Life featuring a selection of Haenke's artworks, poems, fiction, and letters, realising her valuable contribution to Queensland's cultural history.

Nature's influence

Helen Haenke (1916-1978) drew great inspiration for poems such as "Maple Tree"and "Crab-Apple" from the lush gardens of Rockton, her home in Ipswich. Much of her work remained deeply connected to the idea of home, reflecting relationships she experienced and perceived within the confines of the local area. Haenke’s work is insightful and often laden with aspects of the fantastical or the uncanny, though with “a marvellous sense of humour.”9

Being "too domestic"

Throughout the 1950s, Haenke's short stories appeared in the Australian Women's Weekly magazineIn later life, her works, like those of her contemporaries, reflected reactions to the major social and political turmoil of the 1970s, such as the war protest poem "And Then Go Back To Taws". However, her intra-personal poetic style suffered continuous rejection from larger publishing houses, that considered her work too concerned with people, particularly women, to formally publish. Undeterred, Haenke wrote, with her trademark acerbic wit "To an editor".

In the 1970s, Southerly Literary Journal began publishing Haenke's poems and short stories. Two anthologies followed: The Good Company in 1977 and Prophets and Honour, published posthumously in 1979. Apart from these publications, Haenke left behind a large portfolio of unpublished work, which forms part of the Helen Haenke Collection at the Fryer Library.

Helen Haenke

Does your subjective mind control your choice
and never hear a song unless the voice
goes to your ear in well-accepted ways?
I come to you not woman but a pen
that's sprouting words like germinated seeds
and all I ask is are they flowers or weeds?
What frosty malice bites green fingers then?

An extract from "To an editor"

Performing poetry: Steven Herrick & David Stavanger

"Most people ignore most poetry, because most poetry ignores most people."10
- Steven Herrick, quoting Adrian Mitchell

Steven Herrick

Steven Herrick

Steven Herrick earned five dollars for his first poem when he was eighteen and has been writing ever since. He earned a Bachelor of Arts degree from The University of Queensland and went on to publish a number of books through UQP. Herrick's poems, prose, and novels put a twist on familiar situations. His humour-laden storytelling is evident in his romance novel for young adults, Love, Ghosts, and Nose Hair.

Herrick knows the power of poetry and its ability to delight younger readers. He performs at more than 100 Australian schools every year. He explains that the beauty of poetry lies in its accessibility. "With only a minute, the right words, and an exciting voice, anyone can use poetry to make children laugh".11 Herrick also makes his poetry accessible by posting readings of his work online, such as Untangling Spaghetti in, 'Ten things you will never hear your teacher say to you' (YouTube, 1m,11s).                                                     



David Stavanger AKA Ghostboy

David Stavanger "Ghostboy'

As a former psychologist, David Stavanger is not one to turn away from harsh truths. He captures his first-hand experiences with patient trauma through poetry to help remove the stigma of mental illness. After winning the 2013 Thomas Shapcott Poetry Prize, Stavanger’s The Special was published by UQP in 2014. Excerpts of these poems, exploring both the tragic and darkly funny corners of the human psyche, are performed by Stavanger’s ‘alter ego’ Ghostboy (Youtube, 1m2s)

A tireless community contributor, Stavanger was appointed Queensland’s Writer in Residence and Australia’s Reader in Residence during the National Year of Reading in 2012.

In 2015 and 2016, he won awards for his poetic works and was selected as the Melbourne Visiting Poets Program's resident in 2017. In order to interest young people in the performance of poetry, Stavanger also co-pioneered SlammED! — a school slam poetry competition. The finale is held annually at the Judith Wright Centre of Contemporary Arts in Brisbane.

Correspondence of UQP authors

The Fryer Library holds correspondence between some UQP authors and their peers in its collection of manuscripts. The visualisations below track personal and professional friendships over time, through the sending of letters.

You can also visit the Fryer Library and look at these letters in more detail.

Visualisation of correspondence

  1. Each cluster represents a prominent UQP author: David Malouf, Frank Moorhouse, Judith Rodriguez, Thea Astley, Nick Earls and Rebecca Sparrow.
  2. Each cell in the cluster represents an author, fan, agent, editor or publisher.
  3. The variation in the size of the cells shows the different quantities of correspondence. A small cell for a correspondent means that few letters were sent or received. A larger cell means that more letters were sent or received.
  4. By hovering over the cells, you can see the name of the person the cell represents. You might also find that a lot of authors appear in multiple networks. This shows the interconnectivity of the writing and publishing industry and those who are affiliated with it.

Made with Flourish

Celebrating the UQP 70th anniversary

Book cover of 'Reading the Landscape'.Seventy years on, UQP remains relevant to its 21st century readership, publishing new Australian writers and on new platforms. It releases most new titles simultaneously in print and ebook formats, which are available for purchase directly from ebook vendors. Certain out-of-print titles are also released in digital formats.

Reading the Landscape: a Celebration of Australian Writing

To celebrate its 70th anniversary, the Press published Reading the Landscape: a Celebration of Australian Writing. It contains newly commissioned work of twenty-five Australian writers who have contributed to UQP's history. Instead of telling its own history, the Press commissioned these writers to speak a self-evident truth: writing is still alive, vital and strongly independent in this country. 

UQP Makes History: a Personal Reflection

Nicolas Jose at 2018 Fryer Lecture 


UQP writer Nicolas Jose delivered the 2018 Fryer Lecture in Australian Literature. In his presentation,  titled "UQP Makes History: a Personal Reflection", Jose recalled UQP titles that marked the way - from Ian Fairweather's The Drunken Buddha (1965) to Alexis Wright's Plains of Promise (1997), and the Paperback Poets of the 1970s to Julie Koh's Portable Curiosities (2016). 

Listen to the lecture: 


Guest writers

Alex Sequeira and Kayla Hitchman


UQ students Alex Sequeira and Kayla Hitchman spent time as interns in the Fryer Library for their course ENGL3020 Journals, Repositories and Conferences Internship. During their time at the Fryer Library, they researched the papers of UQP and authors associated with the Press. They partnered with Library staff to write this story.

Do you have a story about the Fryer Library that you'd like to share? Please share your story with us by emailing fryer@library.uq.edu.au. If you'd like to join the conversation using social media, please add your comments to our FacebookTwitter or Instagram accounts, using the hashtag #FryerLibrary.

Works cited

  1.  A. Galligan, 'Reading the Community', in UQP: The Writer’s Press 1948-1998, 1998, ed. Craig Munro, (St Lucia: University of Queensland Press,1998), 214-233.
  2. Ibid, 218.
  3. Ibid, 219.
  4. Ibid,  224.
  5. Ibid.
  6. C. Munro, Under Cover: Adventures in the Art of Editing. (Brunswick, Victoria: Scribe Publications, 2015), 199-217.
  7. Ibid, 200.
  8. S. Walker, Flame and Shadow: A Study of Judith Wright's Poetry. (St Lucia: University of Queensland Press, 1991), 80-81.
  9. H. Haenke, Helen Haenke at Rockton: A Creative Life, (St Lucia: University of Queensland Press. 2017), 53.
  10. S. Herrick, “Poetry Voices. Steven Herrick. Versfest Berlin 2017”, interview by Maike Wohlfahrt, Vesrfest 2017, 19 Sep 2017, video 10:47. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_IPJB_ZTrEc
  11. Ibid.