Guide to the Papers of Roger Milliss

MS 8344

National Library of Australia

Collection Summary

Roger Milliss
Papers of Roger Milliss
Date Range
Collection Number
MS 8344
12.4 metres (88 boxes, 1 folio box)
Language of Materials
National Library of Australia


Scope and Contents

The collection comprises correspondence (including letters of Milliss to his parents), drafts of books and other writings, typescripts, notes, theatre programs, cuttings and printed material.

The correspondents include Susë Wolf, Anne Whitehead, Alec Robertson, Ray Williams, Marie Gollan, Morag Loh, Maurice Isaacs, Dorothy Hewett and Humphrey McQueen.

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Copying and publishing of unpublished manuscript material is subject to copyright restrictions.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 Copying of unpublished material for research purposes is permissible 50 years after the death of the creator of the material.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 Roger Milliss, National Library of Australia, MS 8344, [box number and series and/or file number]'.


The Library purchased the papers from Roger Milliss in 1991.


The Papers had been listed and roughly sorted before coming to the Library. The arrangements of these files have, therefore, been maintained (for example Series 5-9).

Roger Milliss has decided to keep the letters he wrote to his parents with his papers. These group of correspondence (Series 1) has therefore been kept with Roger Milliss' Paper, and not with the Papers of Bruce and Edith Milliss (MS 8345).

Part of the papers was in a great state of great disarray and it was therefore necessary to rearrange them (for example Series 1-4 and 10-11).

Biographical Note

Milliss was born in Katoomba, NSW in 1934. He obtained a Bachelor of Arts from Sydney University in 1955 and a Diploma of Education from Sydney Teachers' College in 1956. He taught English and Drama in Sydney and Wagga Wagga before becoming a journalist.

Between 1962 and 1964 Milliss lived in Moscow and worked as Sub-editor of Moscow News. In 1965/66 he worked in Nairobi as Editor of the Pan Africa and travelled through other parts of East Africa. After returning to Sydney, Milliss worked as Sub-editor and feature writer for Tribune (1966-70). Milliss' other journalistic appointments included casual sub-editor TV Times (1969-70) and Herald and Sun Herald (1979-82).

Milliss' published works include City on the Peel (1980), The Wallabadah manuscript (1980), the autobiographical work Serpent's tooth (1984) and Waterloo Creek (1992). He has also written a number of articles and theatre reviews, which reflects his strong interest in politics and the theatre, as well as film and television scripts.

In 1990 Milliss was awarded a Harold White Fellowship by the National Library. He worked on the diary of Lady Franklin (MS 114).

Item Descriptions

Series 1. Personal and family correspondence, 1960-91 - Box 1-4

The series comprises letters of Milliss' former wife, Susë Wolf (1962-70) and Anne Whitehead (1970-73), and Milliss' letters to his parents (Bruce and Edith Milliss) and brother (David Milliss) written from Wagga Wagga (1960) and while he was overseas. Letters of Susë Wolf and Anne Whitehead (Box 3-4) are closed until 2022

Series 2. General and business correspondence, 1950-84 - Box 5-8

This series comprises letters received from publishers, literary agents, solicitors, and other writers. The correspondents include Alec Robertson (editor of Tribune), Ray Williams (editor of Realist Writer), Morag Loh, Andrei Zdravomislov, Randall Biermann, J. and D. Payne, Maurice Isaacs (solicitor), Tim Curnow, John Manifold, John Tasker, Stephen Murray-Smith, Rodney Hall, Ian Turner, June Factor, Dorothy Hewett, Geoff Sharpe, David Martin and Doug White.

Series 3. Personal documents, 1949-70 - Box 8-10

This series includes passports, official travel documents, membership cards of various organisations, papers relating to various events attended by Milliss (including Helsinki Youth Festival), school memorabilia, miscellaneous documents from the USSR and East Africa and documents relating to David Milliss' art exhibitions.

Series 4. Financial papers, 1973-89 - Box 11-12

This series comprises Milliss' tax returns and other financial papers.

Series 5. Mastering the media: a guide to the discriminating use of the mass media (Sydney: Reed, 1971) - Box 12

Milliss collaborated with Bruce Thomson and Barry Dwyer in writing this book. The series includes various manuscripts, typescripts and contracts.

Series 6. City on the Peel: a history of Tamworth and district, 1818-1976 (Sydney: Reed, 1980) - Box 13-20

Milliss was commissioned by the Tamworth City Council to write the history of Tamworth and the surrounding districts. This series comprises correspondence, handwritten drafts, typescripts, notes and printed material.

The correspondents are N.L. McKeller (Mayor of Tamworth), Tamworth City Council, Peel-Cunningham County Council, Lyall Green (Tamworth Historical Society), J.M. Reed (Publisher) and Michael English. Copies of some of Milliss' letters are also included.

Series 7. The Wallabadah manuscript: the early history of the northern district of New South Wales, recollections of the early days, 1977-79 (Sydney: University of New South Wales Press, 1980) - Box 21-24

Milliss was commissioned to write the introduction and notes for William Telfer's handwritten memoir of 1900-1901, discovered at Wallabadah station in 1960.

The series includes typescripts of text, introduction and end notes, photocopies, research material and miscellaneous correspondence with the University of New South Wales Press.

Series 8. Serpent's tooth: an autobiographical novel, 1977-85 (Melbourne: Penguin, 1984) - Box 25-35

The book is an autobiography centred on Milliss' relationship with his parents, Bruce and Edith Milliss.

This series comprises drafts, notes, research material and photocopies.

Series 9. Waterloo creek: the Australia Day massacre of 1838, George Gipps and the British conquest of New South Wales (Melbourne: Penguin, 1992) - Box 36-68

The series includes correspondence, drafts, cuttings, typescripts, photocopies and research material. The correspondents include R. Buchhorn, Len Payne, Lyndall Ryan and Humphrey McQueen.

Series 10. Political activities, 1970-91 - Box 69-72

Milliss was a member of the Communist Party of Australia and the New Left Party. The papers include cuttings, copies of Praxis and the Australian Left Review, membership cards, leaflets and miscellaneous printed material.

Series 11. Theatre, 1956-85 - Box 73-78

Milliss had strong interest in theatre and had done some acting in Sydney in the 1960s and 1970s. The series comprises Sydney and Moscow theatre programs, and miscellaneous scripts and photographs of some of his performances.

The scripts include 'The Sign in Sydney Brustein's window', 'Sandhog', 'The R.W. Ringbolter', 'In the matter of J. Robert Oppenheimer', 'Village Wooing' and 'Going, going, gone'.

Series 12. Australian Society of Authors and Literature Board - Box 79

Milliss received several grants from the Literature Board in the 1970s and 1980s, including three Special Purpose Grants for The Wallabadah manuscript and Waterloo Creek and two Senior Fellowships for Waterloo Creek.

The series contains papers relating to these applications, and to Milliss' membership of the Australian Society of Authors.

Series 13. Other activities, 1970-90 - Box 80-87

This series contains papers relating to Milliss' varied career and interests including:

Notebooks, journal and typescripts relating to his work in Moscow (1962-64) and East Africa (1965-66).

Typescripts and film scripts for television and film documentaries, and ABC radio. These include 'Soviet style' (1979), 'The search for the South Land' (1979), 'Clean air for the Isa' (1979), 'Coal and the environment' (1980), 'Harry Butler' (1980), 'The Russians' (1982-83), 'Round the bent ', 'Loner in the lodge' (1980-85) and 'Victims of Petrov' (1986).

Typescripts of various articles (1958-91), theatre reviews for Tribune (1978-80), and drafts of poetry (1954-71).

Papers relating to Milliss' work as a freelance editor. This includes Shadowing secrets by Cris Eipper (Heinemann, 1990), Map of days: life on the left by Denis Freney (Heinemann, 1991) and Angel of death by Julie Wright (Allen and Unwin, 1991).

Papers relating to 'Anti-highrise' campaign, Victoria Street, King's Cross, 1979-81.

Papers relating to Milliss' time at the National Library of Australia as a Harold White Fellow in 1990.

Series 14. Cuttings and printed material, 1966-79 - Box 88 + Folio-Box 1

Newspaper cuttings and copies of Tribune.