Malcolm McFarlane at Bellingen Readers and Writers Festival 2019

Story by Jo-Ann Kelly


Imagine being endorsed by two leading Australians – Dr Chris Sarra, (pictured on the left) Director General of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Partnerships and Jack Thompson, (pictured on the right) Actor – at the launch of your first book.

But that’s exactly what happened when local Orara High School Principal, Malcolm McFarlane unveiled his book, The Water Cart, in Sydney last year.

“To receive the support of one of Australia’s leading educators, Dr Chris Sarra, was a thrill and to hear Jack Thompson read the first five pages of my book to an audience, was something I will never forget”, says McFarlane.

“One of the main characters in my book is named Jack Thomson and I sent an email to Jack Thompson, asking if he would like to read the novel. He said yes, loved the story and offered to appear at the launch”.

The Water Cart, a verse novel, is set in rural Australia emerging from Federation up until the late 1960’s – it follows the lifelong friendship of two children thrust into an uncertain future; it explores compassion, humanity and it provides hope for a united future for all Australians.

Malcolm’s inspiration for the book is based on truth and arose when he was a teacher at Wilcannia High School in 2003. He took his students to an aged care facility where they met an Indigenous woman who recounted her life to them. This meeting left him with a lasting impression and after writing a poem about the woman, he realised he had the basis for an important story.

“When I wrote this I wanted to highlight the diversity in Australia at that time, as well as the friendship and respect that exists amongst all rural people,” says McFarlane. “I wanted to look at history through different peoples’ lenses”.

McFarlane will be making his first appearance at The Bellingen Readers and Writers Festival from Friday June 7 to Sunday 9 June – the Queen’s Birthday long weekend – and is eager to discuss modern prose and his novel in more depth with readers and writers.

Malcolm has been writing poetry for more than forty years and has exhibited his visual poetry in Newcastle and Sydney. He has also taught in Japan, the Hunter Valley and Bowraville.

He is appearing at two sessions at the festival – Sunday 9 June: Contemporary Poetry: Discussing New Verse at the Youth Hub from 10.30–11.30 am; and Local and Regional Voices: Think Globally, Write Locally at St Andrews from 2.00–3.00pm.

More information can be found at:

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