Dymphna Cusack

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Dymphna Cusack, 1947.jpg

Ellen Dymphna Cusack AM (21 September 1902 – 19 October 1981) was an Australian author and playwright.[1]

Personal life[edit]

Born in Wyalong, New South Wales, Cusack was educated at Saint Ursula's College, Kingsgrove,[2] and graduated from the University of Sydney with an honours degree in Arts and a diploma in Education. She worked as a teacher until she retired in 1944 for health reasons. Her illness was confirmed in 1978 as multiple sclerosis.[1]


Cusack wrote twelve novels (two of which were collaborations), seven plays,[3] three travel books, two children's books and one non-fiction book. Her collaborative novels were Pioneers on Parade (1939) with Miles Franklin, and Come In Spinner (1951) with Florence James.[4]

The play Red Sky at Morning was filmed in 1944, starring Peter Finch.[5] The biography Caddie, the Story of a Barmaid, to which Cusack wrote an introduction and helped the author write, was produced as the film Caddie in 1976. The novel Come In Spinner was produced as a television series by the Australian Broadcasting Corporation in 1989, and broadcast in March 1990.[6]


Her younger brother, John, was also an author, writing the war novel They Hosed Them Out under the pseudonym John Beede, which was first published in 1965, republished in 2012.[7]


Cusack advocated social reform and described the need for reform in her writings. She contributed to the world peace movement during the Cold War era as an antinuclear activist.[1] She and her husband Norman Freehill were members of the Communist Party and they left their entire estates to the Party in their wills.[8]

Contribution and recognition[edit]

Cusack was a foundation member of the Australian Society of Authors in 1963. She had refused an Order of the British Empire,[1] but was made a Member of the Order of Australia in 1981 for her contribution to Australian literature.[9]

Cusack was instrumental in promoting the democratic, progressive traditions of her much loved country, both as a sought-after celebrity speaker in Australia as well as a cultural commentator during her long stays in Europe from the 1940s to the 1970s.[citation needed]

In 2011, Cusack was one of 11 authors, including Elizabeth Jolley and Manning Clark, to be permanently recognised by the addition of brass plaques at the Writers' Walk, Sydney.[10]


  • Safety First, 1927
  • Shallow Cups, 1933
  • Anniversary, 1935
  • Red Sky at Morning, performed 1935; published 1942
  • Morning Sacrifice, 1943
  • Comets Soon Pass, 1943
  • Call Up Your Ghosts, with Miles Franklin, 1945
  • Pacific Paradise, 1955



  1. ^ a b c d Marilla North (2007), "Cusack, Ellen Dymphna (Nell) (1902–1981)", Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University, retrieved 18 May 2015
  2. ^ Profile, middlemiss.org; retrieved 22 March 2008.
  3. ^ "Plays by Dymphna Cusack". The Playwrights Database. Retrieved 9 March 2008.
  4. ^ Spender (1988) p. 219
  5. ^ "Red Sky at Morning (1944)". ImDb. Retrieved 9 March 2008.
  6. ^ IMDB - Come in Spinner (1990)
  7. ^ Cusack, J.B. (2012), They Hosed Them Out, Wakefield Press, ISBN 9781743051061
  8. ^ Peter Coleman, "Memento Moscow", Weekend Australian, 16–17 January 1999, Review, p. 10
  9. ^ "It's an Honour – 26 January 1981". Australian Government. Retrieved 9 March 2008.
  10. ^ "Tribute to Literary Greats on Sydney Writers’ Walk", 24 October 2011; retrieved 10 April 2012.