Two days of discovery…

An enjoyable two days of discovery at the University of Canberra
by Karen Lee Mills

I have been researching the life of author Edel Wignell, who sadly passed away in January 2023. With excited anticipation, I embarked on a solo drive from Echuca to Canberra, to visit the Lu Rees Archives, now known as The National Centre for Australian Children’s Literature Inc. The NCACL is found at The Hub at the University of Canberra. I was wanting to discover answers to a variety of questions, and hoped to find little gems of information that would reveal more about the character of Edel. I also hoped to see books written by Edel, that I hadn’t yet seen.

When I first arrived at The Hub, I was greeted by the wonderful volunteers including Dr Belle Alderman. I was guided into the library room, where a collection of Edel’s books had been placed on a table ready for my perusal, along with envelopes containing letters and memorabilia (which Edel had sent over many years). There were also archive folders with detailed information – well organised into different categories. Later in the day I was shown where Edel’s archive boxes were stored.

A highlight for me was holding typed manuscripts Edel had typed nearly 50 years ago, before personalised computers were readily available. It was a pleasure to read the behind- the-scenes facts about books Edel had written, and to discover the inspiration of the different stories.

It was a privilege to read letters from people thanking Edel for her kindness and generosity, and to read about a few humorous situations Edel shared when writing to her friends. It was fantastic to discover Edel’s daily routines at differing stages of her life, which gave real insight into Edel’s life. One of the routines Edel shared was how she hurriedly did her domestic and administrative tasks so she could get to her desk, as she couldn’t think of anything else she would rather do than write. Another time, at the later end of her life, Edel mentioned her lovely afternoon routine. I was able to vividly imagine the scenes she had described.

I knew that Edel had written over 100 children’s books and articles, educational tools and poetry. One of the files recorded that Edel had written over 120 poems. Other gems discovered included an interesting article, “What’s in a name…”

The article divulges that Edel’s first name at birth was Edna, and goes on to explain why she changed her first name to Edel. The article also mentions another name Edel received years later, “Nampijinpa,” an Aboriginal name given to her when she was in Armidale, spending time with a group of writers.

Dr Alderman mentioned, “Edel was our Victorian ‘clipper’ for many years, she never passed up the opportunity to promote Australian literature by others, especially those created for children.” (Clippers visually scan for, collect and forward articles for inclusion in the NCACL Collection.)

The trip to Canberra answered lots of questions and provided the opportunity to discover many interesting facts about Edel Wignell. I am continuing my research about Edel for now, as I embark on honoring the life of Edel Wignell.

Who knows what the future will bring? I am enjoying the journey of discovery. Special thanks to all the volunteers who give of their time and resources, making the National Centre for Australian Children’s Literature a fabulous place for people to use.

Karen Lee Mills is an Australian author, known for her poetry, short stories, and her children’s picture book, Precious Artwork.  She has several poems and stories published online and others in anthologies, and magazine articles. Karen enjoys public speaking, and presenting author talks in schools and local writers’ groups. In her spare time, Karen likes experimenting with art and enjoys exhibiting occasionally in art galleries.

See also:
Medals & Awards – NCACL
Clipping for the NCACL


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