Guide to the Papers of Barry Oakley

MS 6094

National Library of Australia

Collection Summary

Barry Oakley
Papers of Barry Oakley
Date Range
Collection Number
MS 6094
1.77 metres (11 boxes + 2 folios)
Language of Materials
National Library of Australia


Scope and Contents

The main components of the collection are drafts of plays, novels and short stories, and diaries (originals, photocopies and extracts compiled for Minitudes), but there are also letters, postcards, greeting cards and press cuttings.

The drafts include 'A wild ass of a man', 'A salute to the great McCarthy', 'Lets hear it for Prendergast', 'The feet of Daniel Mannix', 'Marsupials', 'The ship's whistle', 'Bedfellows and 'The great god Mogadan'.

Correspondents include David Allen, Thea Astley, Murray Bail, Graeme Blundell, A.T. Bolton, Katharine Brisbane, Vincent Buckley, Jack Carmody, Barry Dickens, Bob Ellis, Bill Hannan, Jack Hibberd, A.D. Hope, Richard Hughes, David Ireland, Susan Kurosawa, Morris Lurie, David Martin, Craig McGregor, Frank Moorhouse, Gerald Murnane, Desmond O'Grady, A.G. Serle, Michael Sharkey, David Williamson, Amy Witting and Fay Zwicky.

Conditions Governing Access

Please refer to the collection's catalogue record for the access conditions (

Conditions Governing Use

Copying and publishing of unpublished manuscript material is subject to copyright restrictions. For such material, written permission to publish must be obtained from the copyright holder(s). Copying of unpublished material for research purposes is permissible 50 years after the death of the creator of the material.

Preferred Citation

Items from this collection should be cited as '[Title or description of manuscript item], Papers of Barry Oakley, National Library of Australia, MS 6094, [box number and series and/or file number]'.

Immediate Source of Acquisition

One File containing a duplicated typescript copy of Bedfellows was transferred from the National Film and Sound Archive in 1979. The remaining papers were purchased in several instalments in 1980, 1999 and 2001.


Manuscript staff have arranged the papers into series, but within the series Oakley's own files have been maintained.

Watson, Betty. 'Art, anger, or (mere) entertainment? a critical contextual assessment of the novels of Barry Oakley'. Thesis (Bachelor of Letters) - University of New England, 1971. MS 8106

Richards, Keith. Unpublished manuscripts of radio plays which are referred to in his book Writing radio drama. Authors include Barry Oakley. MS 8118

An oral history interview with Oakley is held in the Library's Oral History Collection. It was recorded by Peter Coleman in 1994. TRC 3081

Biographical Note

The playwright and novelist Barry Kingham Oakley was born in Melbourne in 1931. He began his career as a secondary school teacher in central and northern Victoria, as well as Melbourne. In 1963 he lectured in humanities at the Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology, worked as an advertising copywriter in 1964-65 and as a copywriter for the Commonwealth Department of Trade and Industry from 1966 to 1973. Oakley later became literary editor for the Australian.

His plays include Witzenhausen, where are you? (1967), A lesson in English (1968), The feet of Daniel Mannix (1975), Bedfellows (1975), The ship's whistle (1979), The great god Mogadon (1980), The hollow tombola (1980) and Beware of imitations (1985). He is well known for his novels A wild ass of a man (1967), A salute to the great McCarthy (1970), Let's hear it for Prendergast (1970), The craziplane (1989) and Don't leave me (2002). He has also written short stories, reminiscences, reviews and children's stories.

Oakley was awarded a literary fellowship in 1974 and was joint winner of the 1970 Captain Cook Bicentenary Award forhis novel Let's hear it for Prendergast.

In 2000 he published excerpts from his diaries as Minitudes: diaries 1974-1997. The original diaries from which he drew these excerpts are a major feature of Oakley's personal papers. He began keeping a diary in 1974. At first the entries were sporadic, but within a few years he was writing it up virtually every day. He maintained it without a break through the 1980s, but after 1991 blank pages begin to appear. The last volume covers 1997. Oakley wrote frankly about his own feelings, relationships and work. He set down succinct criticisms of plays and books, he meditated on politics and the arts in Australia, and he recorded his encounters with thousands of Australians, ranging from PrimeMinisters to obscure actors. Opening nights of plays, previews of exhibitions, gatherings of writers at literary festivals, long boozy lunches with fellow-journalists, and even longer dinners and parties are described with relish. In the early years Oakley was living in Melbourne and then Sydney, but he travelled widely and there are amusing vignettes of the literary communities in Adelaide, Perth, Hobart and elsewhere.

References: The Oxford companion to Australian literature (Melbourne, Oxford University Press, 2nd edition, 1994); Powell, Graeme.'The Barry Oakley diaries' in Gateways, December 1999.

Item Descriptions

Class. Original Consignment

Series 1. Correspondence and early items, 1953-97

File 1_2. One file entitled'Old letters, bits of old diary entries, fragments of mss etc.' - Box 1

Letters date from 1953 to 1961 and correspondents include Bill Hannan, Vincent Buckley, A.D. Hope, Richard Hughes, David Martin, A.T. Bolton and A.G. Serle.

File 3. One file entitled 'Letters', with a list of correspondents - Box 1

Date range is 1971-80 and correspondents include David Williamson, Desmond O'Grady, Bill Hannan, Craig McGregor, Thea Astley, Gerald Murnane, Barry Dickens, Morris Lurie, Richard Hughes, Fay Zwicky, Jack Hibberd, Katharine Brisbane, Frank Moorhouse, Murray Bail, Bob Ellis, Amy Witting, David Ireland

File 4. Postcards and greeting cards, 1994-97 and many undated. - Box 7

Correspondents are identified by Oakley and include Michael Sharkey, David Allen, Jack Carmody, Barry Dickens, Graeme Blundell and Susan Kurosawa. This material was added to the collection on 8/11/99.

Series 2. Drafts

File 1. 'Bedfellows: a play in two acts' - roneoed typescript - Box 2
File 2. 'Bedfellows' - teleplay - Box 2
File 3. 'Bedfellows' - two spirax notebooks - Box 2
File 4. 'A salute to the great McCarthy' - handwritten draft - Box 2
File 5. 'A salute to the great McCarthy' - typescript novel - Box 2
File 6. 'The great god Mogadon' - typescript radio play, ABC, 1974 - Box 2
File 7. 'Flockhart' - radio play - handwritten draft; 'Short stories' - handwritten drafts - Box 2
File 8. 'Eugene Flockhart's desk: a grotesque comedy' ' photocopied typescript - Box 2
File 9. 'The ship's whistle' - handwritten notebook; 'A wild ass of a man' - handwritten notebook - Box 2
File 10. 'Beware of imitations (Play at Pram Factory)' - original typescript - Box 2
File 11. 'Marsupials' - photocopied typescript - Box 2
File 12. 'Marsupials' - two spirax notebooks; 'Let's hear it for Prendergast' - one Spirax notebook - Box 2
File 13. 'The feet of Daniel Mannix' - original typescript and music - Box 2
File 14. Assorted manuscripts: stories, short plays, radio plays - typescripts - Box 2
File 15. 'Don't leave me' - three spirax notebooks. - Box 7 - 8

This material was added to the collection on 8 November 1999.

File 16-19. Papers relating to Minitudes : diaries 1974-1997: selections from the diaries, 1974-97, that Oakley considered suitable for publication. - Box 7 - 8

This material was added to the collection on 30 May 2001.

File 20-24. Papers relating to Minitudes: Typescript (i.e. word-processed) draft of the above, showing edits proposed by the publisher (Michael Heyward, Text Publishing) - Box 7 - 8

This material was added to the collection on 30 May 2001.

File 25. Papers relating to Minitudes: Oakley's set of galley proofs with his edits (complete) - Box 7 - 8

This material was added to the collection on 30 May 2001.

File 26. Papers relating to Minitudes: Publisher's set of galley proofs with their edits (incomplete) - Box 7 - 8

This material was added to the collection on 30 May 2001.

File 27. Papers relating to Minitudes: Related correspondence from Text Publishing, with suggested jacket design (rejected) and Oakley's proposed introduction (accepted) - Box 7 - 8

This material was added to the collection on 30 May 2001.

File 27. Papers relating to Minitudes: Selected reviews of the published work - Box 7 - 8

This material was added to the collection on 30 May 2001.

Series 3. Press clippings, 1954-77

File 1-3. One file entitled'Random clippings, letters, reviews (unsorted', 1954-74 - Box 2
File 4_5. One file entitled'Reviews of or by me', 1958-1977 - Box 2

Series 4. Australian Performing Group

File 1. One file entitled'APG (Pram Factory) documentation' - Box 1

Containing: Newsletters or circulars to APG from John Romeril; Chronology of APG, 1968-76; 'Pramocracy - the alternative theatre in Carlton'; Internal APG bulletins; Circular letter to APG from Graeme Blundell

Series 5. Diaries

File 1-6. Diaries, 1974-1979 - Box 3-4
File 7-16. Diaries, 1980-1989 - Box 3-4
File 17-24. Diaries, 1990-1997 - Box 3-4
File. Photocopied diaries - Box 5-6

Class. Consignment added 19 May 2003

Comprising two files of correspondence, postcards and greeting cards, 1995-2003.