Olga Masters (nee Lawler) 1919-1986
Olga Masters was born in Pambula on the Far South Coast of New South Wales, the second of eight children. Her early life was characterised by the poverty of the depression era, her family moving around the South Coast region in search of work.
In around 1928 the family moved to Cobargo. Olga was first published at the age of 15 in the Cobargo Chronicle, a weekly newspaper serving the south coastal area between Bega and Moruya.
In 1937, at the age of 18, Olga moved to Sydney where she worked in office jobs and met Charles Masters, a teacher, whom she married in 1940. With him, she again traveled around country towns, including Grafton, Lismore and Urbenville, before returning to Sydney. They had seven children:
- Roy Masters, rugby league coach and journalist
- Ian Masters, radio broadcaster
- Quentin Masters, film maker
- Chris Masters, journalist
- Sue Masters, media producer
- Deb Masters, media producer
- Michael Masters
Olga wrote as a journalist for most of her life and supplemented the family income by writing for local newspapers in the towns she lived in with her husband. On their return to Sydney she wrote for papers such as The Manly Daily and The Sydney Morning Herald.
While she wanted to write fiction from an early age, she was not published as a writer of fiction until the late 1970s. During this decade she wrote several radio plays, receiving many rejections, but on 29 April 1977, her radio play The Penny Ha-penny Stamp was broadcast. However, with the publication of her short story Call me Pinkie in The Sydney Morning Herald in 1978, she moved from writing drama to prose fiction. Between 1979 and 1980, she won nine awards for her short stories. She wrote fiction full-time from 1982, after the publication of The Home Girls.
Due to her late start and her relatively early death, Olga’s published output is small, but her impact was disproportionate in that her style and writings about writing inspired many others to take up the craft.
- 1977: Tasmanian Literary Awards for The Creek Way
- 1978: Grenfell Henry Lawson Awards, 2nd prize for A Dog that Squeaked
- 1979: Fellowship of Australian Writers, Qld (FAWQ), R. Carson Gold Award for The Snake and Bad Tom
- 1980: The South Pacific Association for Commonwealth Language and Literature Studies Award for The Rages of Mrs Torrens (jointly with Elizabeth Jolley)
- 1983: National Book Council Award for The Home Girls
- The Home Girls (1982)
- The Rose Fancier (1988)
- Reporting Home (1990) [Journalism]
- Collected Stories of Olga Masters (1996)
- Loving Daughters (1984)
- A Long Time Dying (1985, published as a novel, can also be described as connected short stories)
- Amy’s Children (1987)
- The Working Man’s Castle (1988)
As one of Australia’s most recognised and awarded female writers and as her first published article was in the Cobargo Chronicle, Olga was celebrated at the Olga Masters Festival on the second weekend of October 2014. The Festival was put on by Well Thumbed Books, Cobargo, in conjunction with Four Winds Classic Music Festival.
Olga’s six surviving children took part.