Brigid Delaney

inducted 2023 The Arts

Brigid Delaney grew up in Warrnambool with her parents Mary and Jim and her three brothers. The talk around the Delaney kitchen table was often very much focused on politics. Those were the Hawke, Keating years – the Labor party’s most electorally successful period to date and Jim, in particular, was definitely a Labor man. With a passion for politics instilled during her formative years, Brigid’s interest would never leave her.

Brigid was part of the very first group of students to graduate as Emmanuel in 1991. This, says Brigid, was a great time in the history of the College to be a student. Brigid made lifelong friends and she recalls school as fun and uncomplicated.

A very influential teacher for Brigid was Mary-Anne Hulin-Browne, who taught her English and Drama. Brigid was already a passionate reader, but Mrs Hulin-Browne just had a way of making text come alive. She also gave Brigid an excellent grounding in grammar, which was to prove invaluable in her future work.

At Monash University Brigid completed a double degree in Arts and Law and then spent twelve months travelling in Europe. On her return, Brigid began working with the law firm, Stringer Clark. Soon Brigid’s love of words, writing, politics and travel would pull her in a different direction.

Brigid became a trainee journalist at the Sydney Morning Herald where she was to become a general news reporter, a feature-writer and a section editor. In 2006 this new career path took Brigid to London, working with the Telegraph news group and the London branch of the multinational news channel, CNN.

While in London Brigid continued to do freelance writing for Australian publications, producing travel stories, features and opinion pieces. Her mentors in journalism had opened her eyes to the idea that it was possible to combine journalism and the creativity of longer form writing. With Brigid’s journalism experience, she received an offer from publisher MUP to write her first book - This Restless Life. This was about globalisation and the way that this concept has changed the way young people love, work and travel.

In 2010 Brigid’s personal politics and social justice values really came to the forefront. When two Australians, Andrew Chan and Myuran Sukumaran, were placed on death row in Indonesia for drug trafficking offences as part of the Bali Nine, Brigid co-founded the Mercy Campaign. Brigid’s upbringing and education had influenced her fundamental opposition to the death penalty. The Mercy Campaign lobbied for Indonesia’s President to show clemency and reduce the sentences. Over 250,000 signatures were gathered. The campaign hosted a candlelight vigil in Sydney in 2015 and it featured some eminent Australian performers, artists and journalists. Ultimately Chan and Sukumaran were executed by firing squad.

During this intense period of time, Brigid also continued to work on her first novel, Wild Things. As a journalist, Brigid found it was relatively easy to have non-fiction books published, but a novel was a much harder sell. It was a controversial novel about boys behaving badly, with a pack mentality influencing a dark underbelly of University life.

In 2014 Brigid began working in the role she is well known for – her work for media outlet, The Guardian. It began as a summer job, writing in a light-hearted way about travel, culture and life, but Brigid’s light-hearted stories were often underpinned by a deeper meaning, and quickly built a following.

Brigid’s next book, published in 2017 was Wellmania: misadventures in the search for wellness. With this book Brigid uses herself as a guinea pig in investigating the wellness industry and questions whether there is any science behind the fads we are drawn to in the Instagram age. The book was a success, having a second print run in 2023, and has captured a growing audience.

Brigid was approached by well-known writer and broadcaster Benjamin Law, together with Fremantle Media, to option Wellmania, for television. Starring Celeste Barber, Wellmania the series has been purchased by Netflix, giving the series a global audience with its release in 2023.

In September 2022 Brigid published Reasons Not to Worry: How to be Stoic in chaotic times, and it is already her most successful book to date. It is an accessible and humourous introduction to Stoic principles of virtue, moderation and self-discipline, adapting this ancient knowledge to inspire practical advice for everyday life.

Brigid has secured her place as a successful Australian writer, but what of those conversations around the Delaney family table?

Life often has a way of turning full circle and the seed that was planted decades ago is bearing fruit. After the Albanese government was elected in 2022, Brigid was appointed as the speech writer for Senator Katy Gallagher, the Minister for Finance, Women and the Public Service. Now writing about important and complex policies, and making them accessible and understandable, Brigid sees her work making a contribution to real change.

Making a contribution to real change

Brigid Delaney

Inducted 2023