Storytelling Australia (Tasmania) 2014

There has been some energy of late – a wish to reboot storytelling in Tasmania. The storytellers are there but as group have drifted apart. Many of us miss the Tasmanian contribution and some are working hard to reconnect. Recently emails have been flying across the continent as the older storytellers debate the history of the Australian oral storytelling revival in the 1970s.  There seems to be unanimous agreement that it began with Tasmanian Patricia Scott. Mary French from the ACTemailed “It is to Pat Scott - who was a well-known identity in Oatlands … that I owe my passion for storytelling.”

Jenni Woodroffe (WA) kindly forwarded this obituary written by Launceston Storyteller Prue McCausland for the IBBY Australia newsletter No 15 Nov 2012

Patricia Scott probably had more influence on the development of storytelling in Australia than most other individuals.  It was her work and dedication to promoting storytelling that inspired many current and former tellers and raised the profile of storytelling in Australia in the late 1970’s and 1980’s. Her involvement with the Children’s Libraries Section of the Library Association of Australia and, more particularly, her participation in the IBBY conferences of this period made her well known to those interested in children’s literature and storytelling.  Throughout the  ‘70’s and ‘80’s she ran many workshops and in-service courses, and gave talks, lectures and demonstrations in many schools, tertiary institutions and community centres throughout eastern Australia and elsewhere.

Patricia’s interest in storytelling began when she first heard the late Joyce Boniwell (later Saxby) who was a librarian with the Tasmanian State Library in Hobart in the 1950’s and a charismatic storyteller.
 In 1950 while working at the State Library of Tasmania, Patricia was seconded to the then Bellerive Library.  It was an opportunity to establish a weekly after-school story session, and, in those pre-television days, children flocked to hear the stories. (One, at least, a friend of mine, remembers these sessions vividly.)

Patricia later travelled to Toronto and worked for eighteen months with the highly regarded Children’s Library Services, where storytelling was a central part of the service. Here wasere was the opportunity to tell to children from a range of cultural and social backgrounds.  Back at the State Library she held several senior positions, undertook further study and was also President of the Children’s Libraries section of the Library Association of Australia.

In 1970 she moved to Victoria as a lecturer at the Library Training School and In-Service Officer for the staff, State Library of Victoria. Her degree studies had previously been suspended because of a back operation but she was now able to complete this at Melbourne University gaining a BA (Hons Politics) 1974.  In between times, she visited schools and colleges when possible, to promote storytelling.   She resigned from the State Library to complete a Masters degree but her mother’s illness meant frequent visits to Tasmania and finally, in 1976, she returned to be with her father in Oatlands in southern Tasmania. 

It was then she decided to see whether she could make a living as a freelance storyteller.  She began by telling stories to as many children as possible with the hope that teachers and librarians would follow suit but realised that it was necessary to encourage them through workshops and demonstrations.

 The years after this not only included the various IBBY conferences, The Pacific Rim Conference (Melb 1980) and the Conference on Child Language Development (Launceston 1980), but also visits throughout Australia and working for extended periods in Ballarat, Goulburn and Kuringai CAE’s. At Goulburn, as writer-in-residence, she worked with all staff and students and visited many schools. There were trips to outback Queensland and the Northern Territory, lecturing and telling, and a memorable time on Palm Island. These were the means by which so many people around Australia were introduced to storytelling and its power, and convinced of its value.

Back in Tasmania, with encouragement and support from others, she organised weekend workshops and helped establish the Tasmanian Storytellers Guild. Visitors included Bob Barton from Canada, Dorothy Butler and Liz Miller from New Zealand, Anne Pellowski from the USA and many interstate storytellers and writers. With Tasmania’s small, scattered population, it was hard to keep the Guild alive and it finally went into recess in 1993.

For her contribution to storytelling and children’s literature Patricia received the Dromkeen Medal in 1988 and the Member of the Order of Australia (AM) in 1991.  She was a nurse, librarian, student of history and politics, teacher, writer, printmaker and most of all, storyteller – a fortunate life, fortunate for all of us. 

Patricia Scott, AM

28 March 1926 - 29 July 2012

So here we are, years later at the Cygnet Festival. The festival buzzed with poetry and the indefatigable Phil Rush from the Huon Valley co hosted the  Poet's Breakfasts with Yvonne Gluyas. Words flew in all directions. And the storytellers gathered for a Masterclass, shook off the rust and got to work. At the close,  contact details were exchanged and future gatherings are in the planning. 

For further information about Storytelling Australia (Tasmania) contact: 
Lauceston (north of the State) Prue McCausland:
Storytelling Tasmania has a Facebook Page HERE

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