Politics, Death and Addiction

Carolyn Hirsh,  Politics, Death and Addiction, Brolga Publishing. (February 2016)

Carolyn Hirsh is a Melbourne-based writer whose memoir, Politics, Death and Addiction, was short-listed for the Finch Memorial Prize, 2013. This is a story of love, tragedy, family, professional life, addiction and recovery.

At the heart of Carolyn’s life has been her commitment to social justice while at the same time, she constantly juggled responsibilities associated with being a sole parent, after she was widowed as a young wife and mother. A product of her time (and her gender), she worked and studied to improve her qualifications and her ability to support her daughters. She joined the Labor Party and again, after a long struggle, won pre-selection for a seat in the Victorian Parliament. She went on to become the first woman in Victoria’s history to be made a parliamentary whip, and retained throughout her time as an MP a passion for accessible housing for low-income earners, and for educational opportunities for adults.

If Carolyn’s book had just covered these issues, it would be still be a gift for those of us who are fascinated by the journeys of people who contribute to public life. But the story of a mother dealing with the unbelievable sorrow of the suicide of her daughter adds a totally different dimension. Her subsequent addictions to poker machines and to alcohol are described with great honesty and sadness, and will surely be an inspiration to anyone struggling with the same issues. Her eventual recovery and the adoption of her new life as a writer provide even more inspiration.

This is a book that doesn’t shirk from the hard issues. The writing of it has been part of Carolyn’s recovery, and is also an extension of her determination to support and affirm others who have suffered family tragedies. Her personal and professional self-analysis is a great gift to the community for which she has worked so tirelessly and to her family and friends.