Dr Alison Alexander (nee Pillinger, 67′)

History Writer and Author

The words below are provided by Dr Alison Alexander.

I was born in Hobart, Tasmania on 23 September 1949. My parents, David and Pam Pillinger, had married in New South Wales, where they both came from, and moved to Tasmania when Dad got a job as a vet there, with the Department of Agriculture.

Sisters Jo, Pippa and I went to St Michael’s Collegiate School, from Kindergarten onwards. I can’t really say there was much inspiring teaching but it was thorough, and I made many good friends. A lot of them are still good friends, fifty years later.

Mum taught there – she was my favourite teacher, and other girls’ too, because she was always so kind and sympathetic, and made the subject interesting. She was a wonderfully supportive mother, and ran the family well, kind but firm. Dad seemed rather like an older brother, doing what Mum said like we all did. He was a jovial, popular man whose favourite activity was listening to Australia beating England at cricket. It didn’t always happen, and then the house would ring with cries of ‘Get the bastards out!’

I did an Arts degree at the University of Tasmania in the heady years 1968–1970: marches against Vietnam, in favour of Aboriginal rights, stirrings of feminism and radicalism – pretty faint stirrings as far as most of us were concerned, but very enjoyable. Then came two years in England, being a nanny, governess, shop assistant, barmaid etc. Back at home, I did Honours and a Diploma of Education and spent 1976 teaching. Meanwhile, in 1975 I married James Alexander, who lectured in Psychology at the University for 38 years. Our children were Jude (born 1976 – I was taking the unfortunate students of Cosgrove High for sex education when I myself got pregnant accidentally), Cathy (1978) and Ted (1980).

My Honours thesis was on Australian children’s author Mary Grant Bruce. Various people said, ‘How interesting! That would make a good book!’ With the confidence of youth I sent it to Angus & Robertson who, eventually and very surprisingly since I was entirely unknown, sent me a contract. Billabong’s Author was published in 1979. This started my writing career.

When Ted was three, I started looking around for work. No teachers were needed at that stage, but the Glenorchy City Council was advertising for someone to write Glenorchy’s history. I submitted the lowest tender and got the job. This started a very enjoyable career, writing commissioned histories. In 2015 I have written 21 and a half, as you can see from my list of books. They have covered a big range of subjects, and I met a huge number of interesting and mostly delightful and helpful people. I also did some work at the University, including editing The Companion to Tasmanian History.

For a complete list of Alison Alexander’s books, go to her website: