photographer and author, was born Mary Ernestine Hemmings at Rockhampton, Queensland. After studying to be a stenographer, she became J.F. Archibald’s secretary in Sydney in 1919. She began her journalistic career working for Smith’s Weekly and the Sydney Sun in the 1920s. After the publication of The Great Australian Loneliness in 1937 – written after several years travelling through the remotest stretches of the Australian continent – Ernestine Hill was arguably one of Australia’s most popular writers until the 1950s. Her other books include My Love Must Wait (1941), Water into Gold (1943), Flying Doctor Calling (1947) and The Territory (1951). The Great Australian Loneliness was used as briefing material for visiting American troops in World War II, and My Love Must Wait – a novel about Matthew Flinders – was a bestseller. She was also a regular contributor to Walkabout magazine and editor of the women’s pages of the ABC Weekly . Yet Ernestine Hill has been written out of orthodox Australian literary history, as Meaghan Morris notes. Indeed, the whole genre of popular travel writing has fallen out of critical favour. Hill’s voyage of discovery – personal, political, historical, cultural, geographical – also produced an archive of over 3,000 photographs (Fryer Library, Queensland University), which are quite unknown, as well as many manuscripts, letters, articles and other pieces of writing.

Ernestine Hill’s portrait, painted in 1970 by Sam Fullbrook , is in the Queensland Art Gallery. She died on 21 August 1972, aged seventy-three.

Bruce, Candice
Date written:
Last updated: