Fremantle Press writers Leigh Straw and David Price have an eye on the prize in the Margaret Medcalf Award

Dark Tales from the Long River: A Bloody History of Australia’s North-West Frontier by David Price and The Petticoat Parade: Madam Monnier and the Roe Street Brothels by Leigh Straw are in the running for the Margaret Medcalf Award. Eight books made the shortlist for the award, which recognises excellence in research and the use of State Archives held by the State Records Office of Western Australia.

Dark Tales from Long River is an important record of the Gascoyne region, taking us into a world where the line between the lawmakers and the law-breakers was lightly drawn. What we see is a colonial power hell-bent on order, often at the expense of justice.

At the time of the book’s publication, David Price said, ‘I have focused on newspapers because the language they used gives us a powerful insight into prevailing attitudes and beliefs about law, order, punishment, migration and Aboriginal rights.’

The Petticoat Parade follows the life of brothel madam Josie de Bray and the lives of the many women she exploited and protected during the 20th century war years. It’s an unflinching social history that humanises the hardworking women of Perth’s red-light district.

Leigh Straw said, ‘I am so very grateful to be nominated for this wonderful award, named for Margaret Medcalf who laid the foundations of so much of the work of the State Records Office of Western Australia. This award speaks to the heart of what I do as a historian in terms of research and referencing.’ 

The Award honours Australia’s second State Archivist Margaret Medcalf OAM, for her valuable contribution to the development of archives in Western Australia.

The other books on the shortlist are:

  • Commemorating Joseph Ledger Sowden: Citation by Sue Hobson (nee Ledger) – Royal Western Australian Historical Society. 66th Annual Pioneers’ Memorial Service. 6th June 2021. St Bartholomew’s Church, East Perth Cemeteries.
  • Fetch the Doctor: Health and Medicine at Irwin 1850-1940 by Anne Jefferys.
  • Prisoners, Power and Panopticon: Investigating Fremantle Gaol, 1831–1841 by Emily Lanman ­– Submitted in partial fulfilment for the Master of Philosophy, Notre Dame University, School of Arts and Sciences, Fremantle Campus.
  • Swan River Colony: The First Twenty-one Years by Pamela Statham Drew – Pandorus Publications, Swanbourne, Western Australia.
  • Through Silent Country by Carolyn Wadley Dowley – New edition published 2021, Bronzewing Press, Perth, Western Australia. First published by Fremantle Arts Centre Press, 2000.
  • Weerianna: Curating an Enduring Local Landmark by Deon White.

The winner will be announced at an awards ceremony on 18 November 2022.

Books discussed
Dark Tales from the Long River: A Bloody History of Australia's North-West Frontier

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