One of the leading writers and essayist of the 1960s, Charmain Clift, will be recognised with a Blue Plaque in Kiama on the NSW south coast.
The plaque is one of 14 chosen in the second round of the popular Blue Plaques NSW program. It will celebrate Clift’s insightful writing, spirit and enduring impact on those who closely followed her widely-read newspaper column on societal issues for five years in the late 1960s.
Born in 1923 in Kiama, Clift exhibited a passion for writing from a young age. Wining a photo contest at 18 provided her an opportunity to move to Sydney. Facing challenges, including an unplanned pregnancy and subsequent adoption of her daughter, Clift joined the Australian Women’s Army Service in 1943, sparking her journalism career.
A love affair with war correspondent George Johnston led to scandal and their move to Greece in 1954 where Charmian wrote autobiographical works and novels including Mermaid Singing (1956) and Peel Me a Lotus (1959).
The family returned to Australia in 1964, and Clift’s newspaper columns from 1964 to 1969 became influential ‘mini essays’ addressing societal issues. Her popularity skyrocketed, before she tragically took her own life in 1969.
The Kiama and District Historical Society nominated Clift for this Blue Plaque, which was chosen from 117 nominations made by the public and assessed by independent historians. To this day Kiama’s library has the largest collection of her work.
Heritage NSW is working with experts and potential property owners to finalise the plaque’s location and once installed it will be listed on the Blue Plaques NSW website www.blueplaques.nsw.gov.au.
Blue Plaques NSW celebrates well-known characters many of us are familiar with, but also brings attention to lesser-known stories of people and events that shaped a particular community, town, or field of work or study.