Tag Archives: importance of literacy

Four generations, 100 years and one significant change…

Four generations of women in my family, 100 years and one significant change…

In southern Italy’s turn-of-the-century poverty, and as an eldest girl needed to help at home, my Bisnonna Cesca was denied school and being able to read and write. While Great-Granny Maddalena was so proud to get two or so years of school in this era when educating poorer people was discouraged, especially girls. (Granny said if she’d had a daughter, she’d have named her, Flavia, after her schoolteacher, which perhaps says a lot.)

By the 1930s, both my grandmother’s, Francesca and Lorna, got to high school in Australia but again were persuaded to leave early to work – a few years after, Nanna Francesca was also married at 17, a mother by 19. And while Mum graduated from Teachers’ College in the 1960s, she could only work until she got married and then was required to resign (unlike my father, also a high school teacher). She also didn’t get to finish her university studies as he did.

Perhaps that’s why, when I completed high school and considered taking a break from study, it was Mum who really urged me to take up the place I’d been offered at university. Being young, (I was sixteen, having been put up a grade – not something I’d recommend in hindsight!), at the time I didn’t fully appreciate the opportunity I had. Or then how significant it was to be the first female from either side of my family to graduate from university, to be in an era that I could do so.

In retrospect, it can’t be only by chance that in a century and four generations, women in my family have gone from being unable to read and write to writing books. And so, on today’s 10th anniversary of the UN’s International Day of the Girl, I’d say that it’s so important to keep supporting and encouraging girls to learn – a basic human right. It can truly change lives. Today, 130+ million girls are missing out on going to school. Whether in places like South Sudan, Afghanistan or in migrant and indigenous communities in ‘richer, peaceful’ countries. Financial hardship, early marriage, trauma, cultural barriers and favouring of boys being educated still among the main reasons. Looking back at the generations of women before me, knowing the drive, aptitude and potential they each showed, like so many women of their eras, I consider how much more they might’ve been able to do had they had the chance, and what they may have decided to do in their lives if they’d had the choice. Zoë x


Filed under books + writing, inspiration + history

Book Week reception at Government House

Last night I found myself at Government House attending a cocktail reception along with other authors and dignitaries invited by the Governor of Queensland, Dr Jeanette Young AC PSM in celebration of Book Week 2022. Her Excellency gave a warm speech about books and the importance of literacy – something close to my heart knowing recent generations of women and men in my own family were denied schooling due to being poor and other circumstances, especially the girls. Every day when I sit at my desk to write, I’m conscious of how fortunate I am to do what I love and to have had the opportunity of school and university, that at times when I was young, I took for granted regrettably, as I’m so grateful for it now.

It was a lovely event and I can happily say that Her Excellency approached me for a personal chat, especially about, Joe’s Fruit Shop and Milk Bar, and I thanked her for her difficult work during the pandemic, for which she was very modest. As well, it was really great to meet and chat to other authors from all different genres and backgrounds.

Unfortunately there were no photos allowed inside Government House but Roger took this one of me out front before we all went in. I was trying to recall the spot where Nonno Anni stood outside Government House in 1977 when he received a British Empire Medal for help and support to the migrant community. I didn’t quite get the exact spot but I have to laugh at the two photos, as obviously we were both battling bright sun and it was breezy – not the greatest shot for either of us (Nanna Francesca even got the camera strap in his! – smiling). The funny thing is, by chance it just happens to be 45 years since Nonno Anni received that honour at Government House, so it’s a nice serendipity to be there on the anniversary of it.

World Literacy Foundation     Indigenous Literacy Foundation


Filed under books + writing, inspiration + history