Jane Gleeson-White

3 September to 28 September

My new project is a work of creative nonfiction with possible elements of the fantastic, a novel memoir, that has its source in the little-known attack of Rabaul by the Japanese in January 1942 soon after Pearl Harbour. Currently called Burnt Angels, it tells the story of an Australian family living in Rabaul in the 1930s. The father, Judge Frederick Long, joins the New Guinea Volunteer Rifles which becomes part of the Australian armed detachment known as ‘Lark Force’. This motley force must defend the strategically critical airfields around Rabaul, but the Australians are overwhelmed by the superior power of the Japanese air force. Long goes missing in action and his family hears nothing of him. Three year later on Christmas Eve his wife Helen receives a telegram stating that he is presumed dead. This disastrous battle and the soldiers and civilians who died defending Rabaul were not formally acknowledged by the Austrlian government until 2012. Burnt Angels tells the story of this forgotten battle and its impact on the lives of Long’s wife and daughter Angelica, who are evacuated to Australia where the struggle to resettle in Melbourne and Sydney. I am interested in exploring how trauma is carried through the generations and continues to shape lives long after the peace treaties have been signed. Running through the back of my mind are questions about how this relates to ideas of home, settlement and connections to place, especially in the context of climate change and environmental destruction.