Roderick’s vision leaves lasting legacy
RECOGNISING literary excellence across Australia is what drove Colin Roderick to establish the Foundation for Australian Literary Studies (FALS).
The well-regarded writer, editor, academic and educator formed the organisation with his wife Margaret on July 18, 1966 at the then University College of Townsville in an effort to promote and encourage Australian literature at a local and national level.
More than 55 years later, FALS continues to thrive, but it is the vision of Roderick that has been integral to its success.
Educated at Bundaberg State School, Roderick graduated with a Bachelor of Arts via the University of Queensland’s external studies program in 1936 while working as a schoolteacher.
He then went on to obtain a Bachelor of Education, and, following a brief period in the Australian Army, Master’s degrees in both Arts and Education.
Later, he earned a PHD in 1954 for his dissertation on well-known Australian novelist Rosa Praed.
In the post-war years, Roderick took up a position with Sydney publisher Angus and Robertson, where he remained until the 1960s, eventually becoming editorin-chief of the firm’s educational division.
During the 1950s, Roderick was also a convener and honorary secretary of the Australian Literature Committee and was instrumental in establishing a Chair of Australian Literature at the University of Sydney.
After the death of novelist Miles Franklin in 1954, he completed her project to set up the Miles Franklin Literary Award in 1957.
In 1965, Roderick was appointed Professor of English at what was to become James Cook University, Townsville.
He is remembered as an energetic teacher with a passion for promoting the study of Australian literature.
Roderick’s research and writing, including authoritative biographies of Miles Franklin, Banjo Patterson, and the explorer Ludwig Leichhardt, continued even after his retirement from JCU in 1976.
Able to speak French, German and Italian, as Emeritus Professor he also continued his occasional lectures on Australian literature at European universities.
Today, FALS presents an annual lecture series and book award, both of which have been named in the Rodericks’ honour.
Valued at $20,000, the Margaret and Colin Roderick Literary Award recognises the best Australian book of the year, dealing with any aspect of Australian life.
This year’s winner will be announced on October 14 with the Roderick Memorial Lecture to be presented by author Tony Birch and JCU Senior lecturer in English and Writing, Roger Osborne.
The continued success of the Award and Memorial Lecture are testament to the rich legacy started by the Rodericks all those years ago.