Philip Gwynne was born in 1958 in Melbourne and grew up with seven brothers and sisters in South Australia where his stories about Blacky, Dumby Red and Clarence are also set. Philip Gwynne has had many diverse professions. Before he started writing, he was a professional ‘Australian Rules’ footballer. When an injury ended his football career he completed marine biology studies and then travelled extensively. He worked as a teacher in Thailand and as a programmer in Belgium and lived for a while in Brazil before settling in Sydney with his son. Gwynne only started writing a few years ago. Inspired by the regular evening stories which he read to his son, he visited a creative writing seminar given by the Australian children’s book author Libby Gleeson. During this time he developed the idea for his first young people’s novel.
‘Deadly, Unna?’ came out in 1998 and became an amazing success. It was awarded several prizes and nominations including, in 1999, the ‘Children’s Book Council of Australia Book of the Year Award for Older Readers’. Gwynne’s debut novel was also internationally a great success. In 2002, the novel was nominated for the ‘German Young People’s Literature Prize’.
Praised by the critics as “one of the political books for young people most worth reading” (‘Die Welt’) ‘Deadly, Unna?’ tells of the daily racism between the ‘Goonyas’, the white Australians and the ‘Nungas’, the Aborigines. With great warmth and sensitivity, disarming and ironic, as well as peppered with ‘Aussieisms’, typical Australian expressions and idioms, Gwynne reflects the friendship between 14-year-old Gary, who is called Blacky, and Dumby Red, an Aborigine, who play football together in a small coastal town in South Australia, this being the only activity which unites the colourful collection of port town dwellers and the Aborigine community. The hero tells of the big football final and so creates an intense picture of the village community and his own family. The reader learns of the unwritten team rules, the matter of fact humiliation inflicted on the Aborigines by the whites and the tough prejudices in their daily life together. When Dumby Red is killed during a break-in, the fragile community falls apart and Blacky fights for his own stance against the ways of thinking of all those around him. His quiet rebellion is also a farewell to his own childhood.
In 1999, Philip Gwynne published ‘The Worst Team Ever’ in the famous ‘Aussie Bites Series’ for younger readers. In ‘Nukkin Ya’ (2000), too, the second installment of the story about Blacky, the unchanged and lingering conflict between whites and aborigines, is the central theme. The 15 year-old Blacky is in love with Clarence, a Nunga. This relationship brings the world of the aboriginies closer to him, and at the same time he learns the consequences that follow from the racism prevalent on both sides. Gwynne’s novel for teenagers ‘Jetty Rates’ (2004), which was named book of the month by the Institut für Jugendliteratur in July 2006, deals with growing up and the difficult topic of getting over the loss of someone you love. For 13 year-old Hunter life isn’t the same after his father is lost at sea. Only when his biggest dream is realised and he manages (like his father before him) to catch the rare big fish, Mulloway, does his life start to turn good again.
Together with the director Paul Goldman, Philip Gwynne also wrote the script for the cinema film ‘Australian Rules’, based on Gwynne’s ‘Deadly, Unna?’ and ‘Nukkin Ya’. The film premiere was shown in 2001 at the ‘Sundance Film Festival’ in Utah, USA and in spring 2002, it was shown at the ‘Adelaide Festival’ in Australia where it was controversially discussed.
© international literature festival berlin