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Lucy Frances (Lu) Rees (1901–1983)

 An acclaimed expert in the field of Australian children's literature, Mrs Lucy Frances Harvey Rees, died in Canberra on Sunday, aged 81.

Born at Guy Fawkes Station, in the Armidale district of NSW, she was an expert horsewoman and developed her early love of literature from the large collection of poetry and the classics of her father, James Waugh. She often spoke of always carrying a book in her saddle-bag.

In 1925 she married Mr Wilfred Rees and lived on a property at Bogan Gate. In 1931 they moved to Brisbane, where she opened an office of the Australian War Memorial and became a member of the Queensland Bibliographic Society, which was responsible for the establishment of the Oxley Library.

The family moved in 1938 to Canberra, where Mrs Rees became personal assistant to Dr Graham Butler, author of 'The Medical History of World War I'. During this period she was associated with the many authors and artists who worked with Dr C. E. W. Bean on his monumental history of World War I.

In 1950 a small group of authors including Tom Hungerford, David Campbell and Tom Inglis Moore met to form the Canberra Branch of the Fellowship of Australian Writers. Lu Rees was their first secretary and remained with the group until 1975.

She had met Dr Andrew Fabinyi, of Cheshires, at the Australian War Memorial and interested him in the publication of 'Australia Writes'.

With involvement from such writers as Manning Clark, Lionel Wigmore and A. D. Hope, further publications were guided to fruition. There followed 'Australian Signpost', 'Span' and 'Australian Voices'.

She left the War Memorial in 1955 to become the manager of Cheshire's bookshop at the invitation of the publisher Frank Cheshire. The Government was then providing collections of Australian books to emerging nations, and Lu Rees selected and assembled these representative, small libraries.

A meeting to form a branch of the Children's Book Council of Australia elected Mrs Rees its first president. Her long, distinguished career with the council was recognised with the award of life membership.

In recent years she initiated many important achievements of the council. Her efforts were largely responsible for Literature Board grants for Children's Book Awards. She assembled exhibitions for the Bologna and Tokyo Children's Book Fairs, and in Canberra inaugurated Christmas gifts of books for needy children.

Lu Rees was the author of a comprehensive history of the Canberra branch of the Children's Book Council and also compiled a number of lists of Australian children's books.

During the International Year of the Child the vast collection of books and other material she has established was expanded to include many foreign editions. This unique material, known as the Lu Rees Archives Collection, is now housed at the CCAE Library.

Her inestimable contribution to literature was recognised by the award of the MBE in 1964. A further recognition appears in the Australia Day honours list with the award of Member of the Order of Australia.

Lucy Rees is survived by her sons, John, Paul and Lauron.

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'Rees, Lucy Frances (Lu) (1901–1983)', Obituaries Australia, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, accessed 19 May 2024.

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