Di Morrissey awarded AM in 2019 Queen's Birthday Honours List

Di Morrissey, AM. Photo: Aaron Cuneo Design, Wingham

Di Morrissey, AM. Photo: Aaron Cuneo Design, Wingham

Mondrook resident and renowned author, Di Morrissey, has been made a Member of the Order of Australia on the 2019 Queen's Birthday Honours List for significant service to literature as a novelist, and to conservation and the environment.

Known as one of Australia's most successful authors, Di has published 26 novels and four children's books over her 27 year writing career. That's a punishing schedule of one book a year. She only missed one year - the year when her mother died.

What is perhaps less well known about Di is her devotion and passion to all things environmental.

In what is typical of this generous and intelligent woman, when I sit down to interview her she launches into an impassioned conversation about the environment, instead of talking of her own achievements, or how it feels to have the rare honour of being able to add the initials 'AM' to her name.

"I suppose a lot of people might think 'why is she getting an award for the environment and conservation?'," Di says halfway through the conversation.

"It sounds a kind of odd juxtaposition (the award for services to literature and conservation and the environment), but if you know my books, you know it's a theme through all my books," Di explains.

It sounds a kind of odd juxtaposition, but if you know my books, you know it's a theme through all my books.

Di Morrissey

"In popular fiction I've been able to sneak in all of these things. Writing books is a way of entertaining people and it's my job and it's my passion and what I do, but also to be able to marry my job with what I feel most strongly about - it gives me an opportunity to do that," she says.

Di is honest about being able to leverage her name and her fame to bring environmental issues to the fore.

She has been the patron of the Whale Research Centre at the Southern Cross University for 10 years, a supporter of Environs Kimberley for decades, has supported Tim Winton in saving the Ningaloo Reef in Western Australian since the early 1990s, has done videos for Greenpeace, and has championed local causes. She always refuses payment of any sort .

"I have refused all along to be paid for endorsements. So when I speak about something, I am not paid to say that, I do it because it comes from my heart and my guts," she says.

"I feel that if you've got a voice, you should use it.

"Because of my books, and being on television, I've got a bit of profile and a public voice so therefore whenever I've been in a public domain doing a writers' festival or talking or being on television or something, I always try to talk about the things that concern me," she says.

Di has also given her support and time in non-environmental causes. She has been a board member of the National Breast and Ovarian Cancer Centre for 10 years. And after a trip to Myanmar (formerly Burma) to research her book The Golden Land in 2011, founded the Golden Land Education Foundation and helped to start a school in Myanmar, which she has been supporting since.

I eventually bring Di back around to my original question - how did she feel when she found out she was being awarded an AM?

"I kind of cried a little bit, because it suddenly felt like if I died tomorrow, it would be okay. Because nothing would be worse than getting a posthumous award and you don't know about it," she laughs raucously.

"One always suffers from a sense of insecurity, you're never good enough, what you do is never good enough.

"But equally, everybody wants to be appreciated for what they do, no matter what you do. Everybody likes someone to say, 'gee you did a great job trimming the tree', or whatever.

"The breakthrough was getting the Lloyd O'Neill Award for services to the Australian book industry in 2017 and to have my friend Tom Keneally give it to me was really special," she says.

Di will be celebrating her award quietly today with friends who she has invited over for the afternoon, not yet knowing the real reason for the get together.

"What will bring me undone and will bring it home to me is when Boris (Di's partner) and my kids know. They will be very thrilled, so that's going to be special," Di says.

"I just wish that my mum and Uncle Jim Revitt were here to see it."