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Open Right

Emily Conolan

Author, New Speakers

Emily Conolan is a writer and teacher, also known for her humanitarian work.  She is the author of The Freedom Finders series, migration stories from colonization to the present day with an interactive pick-a-path format.

Where were you born?

I was born in Launceston, Tasmania.  Most babies are a few days early or late, but I arrived exactly on my due date – Halloween!

What other jobs have you had?

I was a great babysitter.  I used to stick pillows under my shirt and play ‘Sumo wrestling’ with the kids, or deliberately put too much detergent in the washing-up so that we could have a bubble-fight outside.  I’ve also lived in Mongolia, where I painted a giant mural at a summer school and tried to translate an American chicken-farming manual into Mongolian!  I’ve been a dish-washer, a story-teller, and most of all a mum. I’ve taught English as a Second Language to students from refugee backgrounds, and developed an asylum-seeker support organisation for people detained at the Pontville Immigration Detention Centre.

What themes are recurring in your work?

Social justice, adventurous true stories, freedom, courage, family.

What have been the highlights of your career?

I’ve received some important awards for my work in human rights, but – as welcome as they were – these weren’t the highlights.  The highlights have been breakthroughs or deepening relationships with students.  The most recent highlight was when my Somali friend Hani read the final draft of my book and said it was exactly like being there: in Somalia, on an asylum seeker’s journey.  She also told me that there was so much hope in the story.  Her feedback meant the world to me.

Where have your works been published?

The Freedom Finders books are my first published work: Allen and Unwin are the publishing company who saw the potential in my idea and championed it into reality.  They’re amazing to work with.

What are you passionate about?

Living a life with plenty of room for creativity and connection; keeping an open heart that experiences pleasure and delight in small things but can also listen to the suffering and injustice in the world and take action to respond.

Haven’t I seen you before?

I was in a documentary film, Mary Meets Mohammed, about the Pontville Immigration Detention Center, and during the time the detention centre was open, I appeared quite frequently on TV news, especially in Tassie! It wasn’t enough to make me famous, but occasionally someone gives me a puzzled ‘don’t I know you?’ expression, and it turns out they remember me from the film!

Anything else you’d like to share with us?

I love to travel and hear people’s stories, so I hope one day I will come to the place where you live, and hear yours.


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