State Library of Tasmania invites you to trace your convict past
by Mary W Maxwell
Dear Librarians of Australia – an Open Letter,
Greetings from Adelaide! I am writing to make a suggestion about the location of a book on your shelves. The title of the book is My Story, by Carleen Bryant (Hobart: Ludeke Publishers, 2010). She is the mother of a famous Tasmanian prisoner, Martin Bryant.
When I first heard of the book I assumed Mrs Bryant meant she was writing “her side of the story” – that is, her explanation for what happened at Port Arthur in 1996. I have now been disabused of that incorrect impression.
When Carleen Bryant says “My Story,” she simply means the story of her life. It is a normal autobiography. Her mother was born in 1908. She also speaks of her grandparents in Tasmania. Carleen’s first career – other than wifehood and motherhood – was as a printmaker, putting prints on textiles.
She also tells us about her dear husband, a man from England, Maurice Bryant, who proposed to her on the second date!
Maurice committed suicide in 1993, and, as Carleen recounts in this book, she herself attempted suicide in 2006. I can imagine why! Australia has been cruel to her.
I believe the person who did the massacre at Port Arthur is someone other than the convicted person, Martin Bryant. Recently over 2,300 people signed a petition asking for an inquest, as the accused never had a trial.
Anyway, I located your holding of Carleen’s book by its entry at worldcat.og and noted that it is Dewey’d at 364.1523. When I visited the book on the shelf (that was in the University of Technology Library, Sydney) I saw that it was squeezed in between “Satanic Killings” and “In Cold Blood.”
This seems wrong to me. It should be in the 92’s with other biographies, or maybe in Australiana. It could even be in the travel section — as the author has a lot to say about her camper-vanning around Australia.
To ask Carleen to house her work on a shelf devoted to “true crime” does not make sense in terms of the content of her story. It just seems out of place. I hope you will consider moving it. (Only 5 of the 184 pages in My Story are about the Port Arthur massacre).
I see that the state library of NSW also catalogues Mrs Bryant’s book at 364.1523. Incidentally many branch libraries indicate that their copy of this book is currently out on loan.
In Tasmania, branch copies in Kingston, Launceston, Bridgewater, and Hobart are in circulation this week. I think this is because Aussies are waking up to the fact that we were roundly duped on that famous day in 1996.
I am the co-author, with Dee McLachlan, of a new book Port Arthur: Enough Is Enough. (It is self –published, but 7 of my books are published in US, four of them by university presses.)
I shall gladly send you a copy. It could be catalogued as true crime, or under some legal section about criminal procedure. Much of our book deals with the odd way in which Martin Bryant was treated by his lawyer and the prosecutor.
On that note, here is a remark from Martin’s mother’s book, My Story, that is of historic proportions. She says she will regret forever that she followed attorney’s advice to tell Martin that if he did not plead guilty he would never see his mother or sister again.
(That is why I was chasing after her out-of-print book. There are no copies in South Australia. I had heard of the quote but simply could not believe it. Turns out it is true. How shocking for that mother and son.)
Thank you for considering my request.
Mary W Maxwell, PhD, LLB
Email address: mary @ ProsecutionForTreason.com
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Photo Credit: linconline.linc.tas.gov.au/convict-portal