Frank Moorhouse

Frederick Watson Fellow 2004

Topic: The writer and the state: Patronage, national security and secrets 
Frank Moorhouse presented his findings in a public lecture at the National Archives of Australia in Canberra on 2 March 2005.

Biographical note

Frank Moorhouse is an internationally renowned novelist and essayist whose novel Dark Palace (2000) won the Miles Franklin Prize for Australian Literature. He has been a columnist for and occasional contributor to a range of Australian newspapers, magazines and quarterly journals and overseas publications and in 1985 was made a member of the Order of Australia for Services to Literature. He has won a number of literary prizes including the Australian Literature Society’s Gold Medal, The National Award for Fiction, Age Book of the Year and the Henry Lawson National Short Story Prize.

Over the past ten years Frank Moorhouse has lived away from Australia, including a couple of years spent in France and Geneva, where he worked on two novels set at the League of Nations. That project involved considerable research into the archives of the League of Nations in Geneva, the Library of Congress, Washington and the National Library of Australia.

Frank Moorhouse has been writer-in-residence at a number of Australian Universities (University of Sydney, The University of Melbourne and Griffith University) and has been Visiting Professor at the University of Texas, Austin, (2002), writer-in-residence at Cambridge University, UK (1999) and is a former Senior Fulbright Scholar, USA (1994–95). In 1997 Frank Moorhouse was awarded an Honorary Doctorate by Griffith University


Frank Moorhouse researched the emergence of literary writing in Australia and the infrastructure that grew around it. The focus of his research was early records of the Commonwealth Literary Fund. Many of the now established names in Australian writing, such as Barry Humphries, David Williamson and Peter Carey applied to the Commonwealth Literary Fund as young emerging authors.

Frank Moorhouse's work at the National Archives meshed with a larger project in which he looked at funding bodies, the teaching of writing, writer-in-residences, mentorship schemes, festivals and writers’ centers.


In this paper, Frank Moorhouse surveys the history of the Commonwealth Literary Fund from 1908 to 1975. He identifies four stages in the evolution of Commonwealth involvement in literary writing: welfare; the nurturing of the literary arts through cultural promotion and stimulation; concerns of national security and the political test; and the use of the arts as part of public diplomacy.


Records in the National Archives collection cited by Frank Moorhouse

 Title or description of recordDate rangeSeries number
ItemAustralian Men of Letters FUND – charge of designation to Commonwealth Literary Fund1908A1, 1908/7402
ItemCommonwealth Literary Fund – V Knowles1938-1951A463, 1957/6314
ItemChristopher Koch – Commonwealth Literary Fund1953-1967A463, 1965/3560
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