Eric Rolls

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Eric Rolls AM
BornEric Charles Rolls
(1923-04-25)25 April 1923
Grenfell, New South Wales
Died31 October 2007(2007-10-31) (aged 84)
Camden Haven
Occupationwriter, environmentalist, farmer, historian
Notable awardsGreening Australia Journalism Award

Member of the Order of Australia
Captain Cook Bicentenary Award for Non-Fiction
C. J. Dennis Prize
The Age Book of the Year
John Franklin Award
Landcare Media Award
Braille Book of the Year

Talking Book of the Year
RelativesJoan Stephenson (wife)
Elaine van Kempen (wife)

Eric Charles Rolls AM (1923–2007) was an Australian writer.[1]


Rolls was born in Grenfell, New South Wales in 1923, and died in Camden Haven in 2007.[2] He attended the Sydney selective school of Fort Street High, before serving in the second world war in New Guinea,[1] as a signaller.[3] On his return from the war, he took up land in 1946 in the north-west of New South Wales (east of the Pilliga and later at "Cumberdeen", Baradine)[4] and farmed and wrote,[1] often spending long periods in Sydney, researching at the Mitchell Library.[4]

He had two happy marriages, the first with Joan Stephenson and after her death in 1985,[5] a second with Elaine van Kempen (1937–2019),[6] whom he met when she came to work for him in 1985 as his research assistant,[7] and married in 1988.[3]


One of his most celebrated works is A Million Wild Acres of which Tom Griffiths (emeritus professor of history at the Australian National University) wrote:

"(Les) Murray considered A Million Wild Acres to be like an extended, crafted campfire yarn in which everyone has the dignity of a name, and in which the animals and plants have equal status with humans in the making of history: “It is not purely human history, but ecological history he gives us… one which interrelates the human and non-human dimensions so intimately.” Murray compared its discursive and laconic tone to the Icelandic sagas. Through his democratic recognition of all life, Rolls enchanted the forest and presented us with a speaking land, a sentient country raucous with sound."[8]

Rolls' papers and sound recordings, including an interview with Hazel de Berg, are held by the National Library of Australia.[9]"Miss Strawberry's Purse" was his most popular verse.





Eric Rolls Memorial Lecture[edit]

Funded by his widow, Elaine van Kempen, the Eric Rolls Memorial Lecture was inaugurated in 2010 as a biannual lecture.[10]

2010: "Fire in 1788: The closest ally" by Bill Gammage[11]

2012: "A Meander Down a River or Two: How Water Defines Our Continent and Its Future" by Richard Kingsford[12]

2014: "The Landscape Behind the Landscape" by Nicholas Rothwell[13]

2016: "Gifts from China" by Nicholas Jose[14]

2018: "Mother Earth" by Bruce Pascoe[15]



  1. ^ a b c Libraries Australia: Rolls, Eric C. (Eric Charles) 1923–2007
  2. ^ "Eric Rolls". Retrieved 1 December 2019.
  3. ^ a b Hanley, Penelope (2009). Creative Lives: Personal Papers of Australian Writers and Artists (Eric Rolls). National Library Australia. ISBN 978-0-642-27656-8.
  4. ^ a b "Eric Rolls and the Pilliga". Radio National. 25 July 2017. Retrieved 30 November 2019.
  5. ^ Griffiths, T (2007). "Rolls, Eric Charles (1923–2007)". Obituaries Australia. Retrieved 1 December 2019.
  6. ^ "ELAINE VAN KEMPEN Obituary - Byron Bay, New South Wales". 16 July 2019. Retrieved 8 October 2020.
  7. ^ Wyndham, S. (2007). "Author Rolls dies aged 84". Sydney Morning Herald (2007-11-03). Retrieved 1 December 2019.
  8. ^ Griffiths, T. (2016). "Golden disobedience: the history of Eric Rolls". Inside Story. Retrieved 1 December 2019.
  9. ^ Rolls, Eric C. (Eric Charles); van Kempen, Elaine, Papers of Eric Rolls, 1821-2009, retrieved 9 October 2020
  10. ^ "Eric Rolls Memorial Lecture | National Library of Australia". Retrieved 8 October 2020.
  11. ^ Gammage, Bill; Watermark Literary Society; National Library of Australia (2010), Fire in 1788: The closest ally [sound recording] : the first Eric Rolls memorial lecture given by Bill Gammage at the National Library of Australia on 20 October 2010
  12. ^ "Richard Kingsford: A Meander Down a River or Two". ABC Radio National. 17 July 2012. Retrieved 9 October 2020.
  13. ^ "Nicolas Rothwell: The Landscape Behind the Landscape". National Library of Australia. 22 October 2014. Retrieved 8 October 2020.
  14. ^ "Jose Nicholas: Gifts from China". National Library of Australia. 20 March 2016. Retrieved 8 October 2020.
  15. ^ "Mother Earth with Bruce Pascoe". National Library of Australia. 28 November 2018. Retrieved 8 October 2020.
  16. ^ Australian Honours: AM. Retreievd 13 October 2020
  17. ^ Australian Honours: Centenary Medal. Retrieved 13 October 2020

External links[edit]