Inside the Australian and New Zealand book industry

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Vale Margaret Hamilton

Australian publisher and author Margaret Hamilton has died, aged 81.

Brian Cook of The Authors’ Agent, Hamilton’s friend and a former publisher, writes:

‘It is with a huge amount of sadness that we announce the passing of Margaret Hamilton after a protracted period of illness with cancer. Margaret died peacefully in the Blue Mountains at Springwood Hospital and is survived by her loving husband Max and daughter Melissa.

‘For over fifty years Margaret enthusiastically and generously pursued a lifetime filled with of her love of books, the creation of books and the publishing and marketing of books and reading.

‘Her life in books commenced in 1958 with her first job as a library assistant at the then new Parramatta City Library where she realised a keen interest in children’s books which shaped her destiny and the rest of her entire life.

‘In or around 1960, urged on by the late Maurice Saxby AM, Margaret joined the Children’s Book Council of Australia, NSW branch for what was to become a lifetime’s association. With her active involvement in the organisation over the years, Margaret saw the CBCA grow to become a national body with huge influence in the world of Australian children’s books. Her role as National President of the CBCA, resulted in her initiative in 1992 of a First National Conference in Manly, a legacy which continues today. Another of Margaret’s enduring legacies was the CBCA Awards foundation. Along with bookseller and friend, the late June Smith, Margaret drove the establishment of the CBCA Awards Foundation where over $1 million was raised to secure the future of independent annual awards for children’s writers and illustrators.

‘Margaret became a bookseller in 1971 and her joy of bookselling extended to promoting and reviewing children’s books just as the children’s book industry was starting to flourish. Some three years later, Margaret entered the world of publishing when Eddie Coffey, MD at Hodder & Stoughton Australia, employed her in a production role which was the start of her illustrious career in publishing, and children’s publishing in particular. It was at a time when Australian children’s publishing was striving to strike its own identity as a key part of the greater Australian publishing industry in this country and markets around the world.

‘Margaret and Max Hamilton became independent publishers in their own right in 1987 with the creation of Margaret Hamilton Books where she built an impressive list of prestigious writers and illustrators with their offices based in the upper floor of their restored heritage stone home in Hunters Hill. Along the way Margaret held active roles in the creation of the NSW Writer’s Centre Rozelle, was on the Board of the rescued May Gibb’s home, Nutcote, in North Sydney, and many other industry roles.

‘In 2000 Margaret and Max purchased a property in Blackheath in the Blue Mountains which was to become the home of Pinerolo, a centre for creation of children’s books where she ran many highly successful book creation programmes with writers and illustrators. It became so much more and housed a brilliant collection of original works from published books. A collection she donated to and now resides with the State Library of NSW.

‘There is so much more to tell. Margaret was greatly loved and certainly lived a full life. She will be missed by many, many people.


Wendy Rapee, chair of the Children’s Book Council of Australia, writes:

‘As the National Chair of the Children’s Book Council of Australia (CBCA) you have many joyous opportunities to celebrate talent and creativity—but today it is not so joyous. Margaret Hamilton AM our most loved, creative and talented CBCA leader passed away on November 24. Her publishing intuition was so admired. A good publisher knows who is great talent, or more importantly, they can nurture and inspire a new writer or book illustrator to future greatness—and at times you pair them up and double their impact. Margaret was a supremely gifted, good publisher. By reading her memoir Falling Forward (Westwords), you will hear from the supreme story maker.

‘At the heart of the CBCA lies Margaret’s deeply held passion for ensuring Australian children have stories in which they can see themselves. Margaret will be so missed, and our children will miss the stories that potentially may never be heard without her magic touch.

‘The CBCA we would like to acknowledge her influence as a devoted Member, National President, Deputy Chair, National Conference Convenor and co-founder of our Awards Foundation.  Because of her unrelenting volunteer service and devoted championing for a thriving Australian children’s book culture, we have the foundations to continue to grow. Most importantly, the establishment by Margaret and June Smith of CBCA Awards Foundation means outstanding children’s book creators will continue to receive prize money for our Book of the Year Awards. Margaret was utterly determined, and provided the leadership to make this all happen.  An important lesson I learnt from Margaret, is always make the “ask”—and if a potential sponsor or partner says no, think creatively about another way to ask. Again.

‘Margaret was obsessed with owls. She collected every shape and size. It makes perfect sense then that the owl, in Ancient Greece, was associated with the goddess Athena and symbolised wisdom and strategy—personally I can attest to how well these attributes symbolise Margaret’s vision, and how she generously brought each of us along with her through them.’

Hamilton’s memoir Falling Forward, will be published by Westwords on 10 December.


Category: Obituaries