James writes provocative essays about important things and shares stories of meaning. From working in a mine in Bolivia to share the miners’ stories and compare a miner’s life in Bolivia to those in Australia, to revealing the story (inside and out) of the short-lived Pontville Detention Centre; from discovering the uncanny parallels between Tasmania and Tierra del Fuego, to interviewing former guerrilla fighters in El Salvador, Colombian presidential candidates and the president of Kiribati; from responding to the letters of a 14 year old girl written from the Tarkine wilds and lost for a century, to pondering society without imagination; from the death of a dear friend, to the birth of a son; James’ experiences and encounters illuminate his writing.
His articles and essays have been published widely and in 2012, he spoke at the International Congress of Rural Sociology in Lisbon, Portugal, on the role of the media in amplifying the voices of the world’s poor.
James’ first book was Essays from Near and Far (Walleah Press) 2014 and his second book is The Balfour Correspondent (Bob Brown Foundation) 2017. Read what others say about them HERE:
He lives in Hobart.
In his compelling dialogue Dryburgh gives us a powerful sense of the forces that still do battle to shape our existence in this country, and on this earth. The glimpses Sylvia gives us of her too-short life were framed by far vaster forces – of migration, colonisation and settlement, of mining interests and endeavours to exploit the wilderness, of nature itself that she encountered in its near-unsullied state along the Frankland River. Her life was shadowed, too, by the things she does not mention – violence against the land’s original inhabitants, by the wars that were building far away. In Dryburgh’s sensitive engagement, this small female voice, so solitary that it sought connection through missives to a newspaper editor hundreds of miles away, reminds us that the settlers’ place on this continent was never a given, and that sustainable existence on it requires acknowledgement of its fragility, and our own.
A fourteen-year old girl writes to her local newspaper from Tasmania’s wilds. Her letters from what we now think of as the Tarkine have gone ignored and been forgotten for a century. James Dryburgh recognizes that these letters are not just worth reading; they require answering, creating a strangely powerful dialogue across time and space.
Sylvia and Mt Balfour will always be with me now. This book does what is most essential if we are to make true home – story after story, layer upon layer, until we return home… Before I read The Balfour Correspondent I had never heard of Mt Balfour, let alone the spirited Weekly Courier correspondent who lived there. Thanks to James Dryburgh, both the lost Tarkine town and its talented writer – an extraordinary teenage girl called Sylvia – now enrich the humus that feeds my heart.
A spirited girl, a short, bright life, wonderfully unearthed from the mud and gleam of Tasmania’s history. As we still fight to liberate girls’ potentialities, James sends his fatherly admiration back in time. Unique, precious and deeply affecting.
To span the baffle of time. To touch a lost life at once ordinary and extraordinary, across time’s opacity. That is the challenge James Dryburgh sets himself in this sensitive, loving book. Come with James into the sad, doomed bush town of Balfour. Here you will meet Sylvia and your life will shift.