CONDOLENCES: Courtenay, Mr Bryce AM

Mr McCormack (Riverina) (19:06): Bryce Courtenay once wrote:

Intelligence is a harder gift. For this you must work, you must practise it, challenge it, and maybe toward the end of your life you will master it.

Today, as we mourn his passing and celebrate his enormous contribution, we can reflect on how Courtenay mastered that intelligence and inspired all who read his books.

Bryce Courtenay was a splendid storyteller whose legacy will live on as long as the printed word endures. His tales of South Africa and his adopted country, Australia, were extensions of his own life, although frequently embellished. Like his character Peekay in his award-winning book The Power of One, Bryce was born in South Africa and brought up partly in an orphanage. During this time, Bryce often told stories and, just like Peekay, learned how to box to avoid being bullied.

Born Arthur Bryce Courtenay in 1933, he spent most of his early years in a small village in the Lebombo Mountains. In 1955, while studying journalism in London, Bryce met his future wife Benita and eventually emigrated to Sydney. They married in 1959 and had three sons, Brett, Adam and Damon. Upon arriving in Australia, Bryce was able to secure a job in journalism and so he started writing advertising copy. According to him, his plan was to work until he was 35 and then write novels but with his son Damon being a haemophiliac, he needed a regular income and eventually reached the top of the advertising business. His award-winning campaigns included Louis the Fly, the original Milky Bar kid commercial and the Australian Labor Party's 1972 successful election campaign, It's Time.

In 1989, Bryce achieved the goal of writing 'the great novel' with the release of his first book The Power of One based loosely on his upbringing. Bryce Courtenay had a knack of writing and telling a story, but it was his 1993 tale of his son's struggle with haemophilia and later his death from acquired immune deficiency syndrome that inspired April Fool's Day, brilliantly articulating a father's struggle with the death of a child.

Over 23 years Bryce wrote 22 novels, aiming to release a book every November—just in time for Christmas. Even in his final weeks he managed to finish his final book Jack of Diamonds. I am sure it will be a best seller. Bryce Courtenay told many a marvellous story of country Australia but one of my favourites would have to be his 1998 novel Jessica. Set in Narrandera, in the heart of my Riverina electorate, Bryce Courtenay penned the historical story of a young girl growing up in hard times. Courtenay painted a beautiful picture of this vibrant region which had fallen on hard times, in which Jessica's trials and tribulations were lived out near the banks of the mighty Murrumbidgee River. Narrandera is a place solely reliant on the water from the Murray-Darling system to sustain its growth and prosperity. The hard times those people face are, again, a cycle which unfortunately never ends for the hardworking and good people of my electorate, and it was certainly brought out in Bryce's wonderful book Jessica.

Vale, Arthur Bryce Courtenay, a great storyteller of our time. His stories will be cherished through time and he will continue to be loved by children and adults alike. May he rest in peace.

Cristy Houghton