Clement Semmler

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Clement Semmler OBE, AM (23 December 1914 – 10 August 2000), often referred to as Clem Semmler, was an Australian author, literary critic, broadcaster and radio and television executive.

Early life and education[edit]

Semmler was born Clement William Semmler on 23 December 1914 in Eastern Well, South Australia.[1] His parents were Germans of the Lutheran faith.[2] He studied at Murray Bridge High School and then at the University of Adelaide, graduating with an M.A. with honours in English language and literature.


He taught English and Latin at Unley High School, South Australia until 1942[2] when he joined the Australian Broadcasting Commission.

He worked there for thirty-five years, rising to become the deputy general manager (1965–77). While at the ABC, he "helped launch ABC television" to which he introduced "famous programs" such as Four Corners, The Critics and Six O'Clock Rock.[2][3]

When he assumed control of programs at the ABC in the 1950s and 1970s, he "introduced jazz programs by Eric Child, Kym Bonython, Arch McKirdy, Ian Neil and others, and arranged regular programs from jazz groups all over Australia" and arranged "record-breaking concert tours by Australian jazz bands" (including those of Graeme Bell and Bob Barnard and the Australian Jazz Quintet).[4]

During his leisure time during his years at the ABC, Semmler devoted much of his leisure time to writing numerous books and reviews. In 1966 Lansdowne Press published his study of the Australian poet Banjo Paterson, The Banjo of the Bush.[5] Other books from Semmler in this period included studies of Barcroft Boake (1965), Kenneth Slessor (1966) and Douglas Stewart (1974).

He was a book reviewer for The Sydney Morning Herald for many years. He also wrote the "Semmler on Television" column for the same newspaper.[6]

The library of the University of New South Wales's College of Fine Arts was named the Clement Semmler Library in his honour.

Later life[edit]

Disenchanted with the new direction the ABC was taking, Semmler retired in 1977.[7] He moved to Bowral in the Southern Highlands of New South Wales,[8] where he remained busy writing books, articles and letters to the editor and presenting a "regular jazz program on the local community FM station".[9][10]

Books written and edited in this period included The ABC: Aunt Sally and Sacred Cow (1981), The War Diaries of Kenneth Slessor (1985), and his memoirs, Pictures on the Margin (1991).[11]

His final book review was published in Quadrant just after he died in August 2000. A note accompanying it says he "wrote more reviews for the magazine, over forty-three years, than anybody else".[12]

During his retirement he also served as the Chairman of the Alexander Mackie CAE Council (1977–81), the Deputy Chairman of the Library Council of NSW (1981–83), a member of the Council of the Sydney College of Advanced Education (1982–84), one of the panel of judges for the NSW Premier's Literary Award,[13] and the Chairman of the Board of the Sydney City Art Institute (1982–84).

He died in Bowral on 10 August 2000.

Personal life[edit]

Semmler was married twice: firstly to Ella, with whom he had a son, barrister Peter,[14] and a daughter Jacqueline, and secondly to Catherine, with whom he had a daughter, creative producer Imogen.[15]


In 1969 Semmler was awarded a D.Litt. by the University of New England "on the basis of his published works".[3] For his contributions to Australian literature he received an Order of the British Empire in 1972[16] and was made a Member of the Order of Australia in 1989.[17]


Books: as author[edit]

  • For the Uncanny Man: Essays, Mainly Literary (1963)
  • Barcroft Boake: Poet of the Stockwhip (1965)
  • A. B. "Banjo" Paterson (1965)
  • Kenneth Slessor (1966)
  • The Banjo of the Bush (1966)
  • A. B. Paterson: Great Australian (1967)
  • The Art of Brian James and other Essays on Australian Literature (1972)
  • Douglas Stewart (1975)
  • The ABC: Aunt Sally and Sacred Cow (1981)
  • Pictures on the Margin: Memoirs (1991)

Books: as editor[edit]

  • Stories of the Riverina [by E. O. Schlunke] (1965)
  • Literary Australia (with Derek Whitelock) (1966)
  • Coast to Coast 1965-66 (1966)
  • The World of "Banjo" Paterson (1967)
  • Twentieth Century Australian Literary Criticism (1967)
  • A Frank Hardy Swag (1982)
  • The War Diaries of Kenneth Slessor: Official Australian Correspondent 1940-1944 (1985)
  • The War Despatches of Kenneth Slessor: Official Australian Correspondent 1940-1944 (1987)
  • Bush Ballads, Poems, Stories and Journalism [of A. B. Paterson] (1992)
  • The Collected Verse of Banjo Paterson (1992)

Book reviews[edit]

Year Review article Work(s) reviewed
1996 Semmler, Clement (May 1996). "The threefold Muggeridge". Quadrant. 40 (5): 83–84. Cite has empty unknown parameters: |1= and |authormask= (help) Wolfe, Gregory (1995). Malcolm Muggeridge : a biography. Hodder & Stoughton. Cite has empty unknown parameter: |1= (help)


A comprehensive listing of Semmler's works may be found at AustLit.[19]


  1. ^ Clement Semmler, Retrieved 8 November 2018.
  2. ^ a b c Peter Coleman, "Clement Semmler", The Age, 18 August 2000, Obituaries, p. 33.
  3. ^ a b Semmler, Clement, in: Oxford Companion to Australian Literature (2nd ed.) (online version). Retrieved 8 November 2018.
  4. ^ Clement Semmler, Obituary: Eric Child (1910-1995), Retrieved on 9 November 2018. This obituary originally appeared in Jazzchord, June/July, 1995.
  5. ^ Gavin Souter, "Man Who Shuns Nightclubs", The Sydney Morning Herald, 28 October 1966, p. 4. Retrieved 10 November 2018.
  6. ^ "Fiction may be closer to truth than history", The Sydney Morning Herald, 24 September 1980, p. 8.
  7. ^ "A man of letters and a vigorous campaigner for an ABC devoted to quality", The Sydney Morning Herald, 12 October 2000, p. 6.
  8. ^ The Radio Pioneers of Australian Jazz, Retrieved 10 November 2018.
  9. ^ Clement Semmler, "Whither Jazz?", Bondi Junction, Waverley Library, 1997 (The Annual Bell Jazz Lecture).
  10. ^ "Today's Television", The Sydney Morning Herald, 14 November 1986, p. 25.
  11. ^ Clement Semmler, Pictures on the Margin: Memoirs, University of Queensland Press, St Lucia, 1991, ISBN 0-7022-2411-1.
  12. ^ Quadrant, October 2000, p. 80.
  13. ^ Roger Collier, "Barwick book wins $5,000 prize", The Sydney Morning Herald, 23 September 1980, p. 1.
  14. ^ Alex Mitchell, "Bar too high for Shaw", The Sydney Morning Herald, 19 July 1998, p. 15.
  15. ^ About, Retrieved 9 November 2018.
  16. ^ It's An Honour - Honours - Search Australian Honours, Retrieved 9 November 2018.
  17. ^ It's An Honour - Honours - Search Australian Honours, Retrieved 9 November 2018.
  18. ^ Clement Semmler (1993). Australian Dictionary of Biography: Bronner, Rudolph (Rudi) (1890–1960). National Centre of Biography, Australian National University. Retrieved 13 March 2019.
  19. ^ Clement Semmler, editor of The War Diaries of Kenneth Slessor, Official Australian Correspondent 1940-1944, Retrieved 21 November 2018.

Further reading[edit]

  • Albert Moran and Chris Keating, The A to Z of Australian Radio and Television, London, Toronto and Plymouth, U.K., The Scarecrow Press, Inc., 2009 (The A to Z Guide Series, No. 72).

External links[edit]