Goldsworthy graduates leave their mark
University of Adelaide graduates make their mark all around the world. One talented South Australian family of graduates has also brought considerable pleasure to the reading, theatre and concert-going public - and good health.
Father and daughter, Peter and Anna Goldsworthy, weren't happy to pursue just one career. They each followed two, and that's leaving out all the extras that frantically busy successful people do.
Dr Peter Goldsworthy AM, who graduated from the University of Adelaide with a medical degree in 1975, continues his medical practice today - despite being a celebrated author with a string of award-winning works to his name and more in the pipeline.
He has just been appointed Adjunct Professor in Creative Writing at the University.
Daughter Anna (Bachelor of Music with Honours, 1996) is an acclaimed classical pianist and highly successful writer. Her musical biography Piano Lessons won 'Newcomer of the Year' in the 2010 Australian Book Industry Awards and was shortlisted in the recent 2011 National Biography Award.
Anna is a founding member of Seraphim Trio. She has performed as a soloist and with Seraphim Trio around the world. She is also Artistic Director of the Port Fairy Spring Music Festival, Board Member of the Australian Book Review and Artist in Residence at Janet Clarke Hall at the University of Melbourne where she teaches piano.
But that's not nearly the end of the Goldsworthy/University of Adelaide connection - or the family's significant contribution to the world at large.
Peter's "smarter, younger brother" Jeffrey Goldsworthy, graduated in Law with Honours in 1977 and obtained his Doctorate in 2002, and, according to Peter, "won all the prizes". Jeffrey has a host of other degrees and is currently Professor of Law (Personal Chair) at Monash University and President of the Australian Society of Legal Philosophy, having previously taught here at Adelaide.
There are two other Goldsworthy children, besides Anna.
Daniel studied Music (1998) - he plays classical clarinet and jazz sax - and also has a Graduate Diploma in Education (2003). He is Digital Director at The Kingdom Advertising, back in Adelaide after more than five years working as a Flash developer with many of London's top digital agencies. There he was involved in a BAFTA-winning project in 2009.
Alexandra Goldsworthy graduated in Medicine in 2006 and is training in psychiatry. She is also a talented artist. Their mother, Helen Goldsworthy, is another medical graduate from the University of Adelaide.
In pursuing university education, the younger Goldsworthys were following in the footsteps of their father Peter and their grandfather Reuben.
"Dad came out of the Depression," says Peter. "He was brought up by a widowed mother. Being able to go to teachers' college was of priceless benefit for him, and us."
Reuben Goldsworthy has a string of qualifications from the University of Adelaide - he graduated with a Science degree in 1948, followed by a Diploma in Secondary Education in 1954, a Bachelor of Arts in 1962 and an Advanced Diploma in Education in 1978.
His career as secondary school teacher took him and wife Jannette to the first of a series of country postings which helped shape the young Peter and sowed the seeds for his writing.
It also provided an outlet for their musical talent, perhaps laying the basic foundations for their granddaughter's passion.
"Both my parents were accomplished musicians and they used to perform as a duo at country fetes when they were first married - Dad singing, Mum on the piano," says Peter.
"They put on Gilbert and Sullivan operettas in almost every town we lived in when I was a boy."
Peter's mother Jannette was a primary school teacher but gave up teaching when she married, as required in those days.
Minlaton, where Peter was born, Penola and Kadina all figure largely in his evolution as, first, an avid reader, and then author. So did the many stories his parents read to him while he convalesced from frequent asthma attacks, along with their strong educational ethic and the reverence they felt for books and their "magical improving qualities".
"In the strict weekly calendar, every night was Reading Night," says Peter. "My father taught me to read when I was three, mainly by reciting a book called Ant and Bee. I loved the sharp, sticky look of words, even before they accumulated meaning."
In small country towns where readers relied on the Country Lending Library in Adelaide, books were precious to story lovers - as was the Penola town dump where young boys discovered tatty discarded sci-fi paperbacks and 'pre-porn' Man magazines.
Ever since his early days as a doctor, Peter has divided his time equally between medicine and writing.
"Studying medicine was the best thing I could do as a writer - for me they are perfectly complementary," he says. "Without medicine providing its own literary fellowship, it would have been much more difficult. Also, my patients are real character studies and it's high stakes - stories made for a writer."
Peter wrote his first novel Maestro in 1989, voted later as one of the Top 40 Australian books of all time. He has since written another six novels plus poetry, short stories, plays and opera libretti, with many major literary awards across the genres.
Three Dog Night won the FAW Christina Stead Award in 2003. He wrote the libretti for the Richard Mills operas Summer of the Seventeeth Doll and Batavia, the last winning the 2002 Robert Helpmann Award for Best New Australian Work and a Green Room Award for Special Creative Achievement.
Three Dog Night and Honk If You Are Jesus have been adapted for the stage, as has Maestro, co-written with his daughter Anna. Five of his novels are in development as films and two more for the stage.
His 1996 novel Wish was brought to the stage in Perth in April and his short story The Kiss is just finishing a run at the Belvoir Street Theatre in Sydney. The short film, based on The Kiss, has just won five awards at the South Australian Screen Awards.
In 2010 Peter became a Member of the Order of Australia for services to literature as an author and poet, through arts administration, and to the community. ■
Story by Robyn Mills