Join us online or in person for our first seminar of 2024.
“Finding Eva”: Writing the life of Australia’s First Walkley Award Winner, Eva Sommer.
In 1956, Eva Sommer, 22, won the first-ever Walkley Award, Australia’s equivalent of the US Pulitzer Prizes for her extraordinary story about a “mystery stowaway” on a ship who had amnesia and no identification papers. Through her reporting skills, Sommer discovered he was 26-year-old Jacob Bresler, a Jewish immigrant and Australian citizen who was sent to the Buchenwald Concentration Camp when he was fourteen. Sommer accomplished in days what the authorities had failed to do in months.
When she died in 2019 there was no mention of her in the media. I wanted to know why and the answers led me to write a biography on a courageous, principled woman who struggled with mental illness and the restrictions of a patriarchal, conservative Australian society. Sommer arrived in Australia in 1939 as a four-year-old with her Jewish parents, who had fled the Austrian Anschluss. Her father was imprisoned in Dachau and when Sommer was 16 he committed suicide. It was her family’s background that gave her the empathy to tell Bresler’s story.
I embarked on my own journey to visit the places where Eva Sommer and Jacob Bresler were from and where their families were murdered by the Nazis: Germany, Austria and Poland. I explore the temporal, geographical, political, social and cultural boundaries that intersected the lives of Sommer and Bresler to ask who were the people behind the headlines and the prize and what can their lives reveal to us about society and the media in post-war Australia?
Dr Jennifer Martin’s research explores how journalism can ignite our emotions and encourage us to live well together as a society. She has developed the ‘Virtue Map’ as a means of identifying how journalists use their reporting and writing skills to make us feel emotion when we read their work. She is the author of a book on the topic: ‘Emotions and Virtues in Features Writing: the Alchemy of Creating Award-Winning Stories’ (Palgrave, 2021).
11am, Wednesday 6th March 2024
Waurn Ponds: IC2.108
Zoom: Click here