About the author

Book signing at Ballarat Library

Maureen’s story

Born in Grenfell, New South Wales in 1944, Maureen Mary Riches or “Maurn”, was raised in a religious family and educated in Catholic schools.

Side-by-side with the strict disciplines of her Catholic childhood, Maureen had a lifeline. From her earliest days her mother encouraged a wide diversity of reading. The books Jean Riches read to her children came from classical and modern authors all over the world, and ahead of her time, Jean included a wide selection of Australian authors and poets.  It is her mother that Maureen credits with nurturing her interest in Australian history, albeit a somewhat whitewashed version in those days.  All this reading was not only young Maurn’s escape, it nurtured the budding writer within her.

Upon finishing school, she entered the convent and became a novice in the order of the Sisters of Mercy at their Rosanna Novitiate.

 Leaving the convent three years later, Maureen studied nursing at St John of God Hospital in Ballarat. She married and had four children. The death of one of those children, three-year-old Andy-Jack, saw the family’s darkest days and challenged their survival as a unit. Maureen struggled against almost overwhelming depression, motivated and rescued by the existence of her three remaining children. Together they embarked upon a family adventure into outback Australia, a magical two-year odyssey. During this time, Maureen visited remote aboriginal communities, listening and learning.

In 2007 her first book, “The Greek Campaign: A Soldier’s Story” was published. It is a non-fiction account of Australian and New Zealand troops lost on Mt Olympus during the defence of Greece in World War II. She later travelled to Greece to meet the Mayor of Larissa, the town at the centre of the story. They shared information about the people of Larissa’s rescue of the ANZAC soldiers.

The same year, (2007) Maureen received the Order of Australia Medal for services to Aboriginal and multicultural communities.

John Howard’s refusal to apologise to the Stolen Generations sparked Maureen’s debut novel, The Crossing and her previous life proved an invaluable resource. She became active in the campaign which demanded a national apology and in one of the most emotional moments of her life, she was present in parliament house on 13 February 2008, the day that Kevin Rudd as Prime Minister of Australia, offered the awaited apology.

Maureen went back to school, graduating Federation University’s Professional Writing and Editing diploma course. She has been published in anthologies of short stories, poetry and works of non-fiction. The Crossing is her first full length novel.

Since 2014 Maureen has been actively involved in the fight for justice for refugees. She is a regular visitor at the Melbourne Immigration Transit Accommodation (MITA), a detention centre for people seeking asylum, and she is a constant contributor to newspapers and social media on the conditions faced by refugees in Australia.

Maureen’s family and friends know her as “Maurn”. She is proud of her Irish descent and takes delight in her nickname being pronounced the same, though spelled differently to the Druid storyteller, Mawn. Always a family-oriented person, she is never happier than when she can be surrounded by her children and grandchildren.

AUTHOR TALK at SEBASTOPOL LIBRARY

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