Our History

The May Gibbs Children's Literature Trust was established in 1999 to support today's creators of books for children.

The founding Chairman was the Hon Ian Wilson AM, a retired South Australian barrister and solicitor who spent 24 years in Federal Parliament as the member for Sturt, including time as Minister for the Environment and Home Affairs. Ian and his wife Mary were part of the team that helped to save May Gibbs' home Nutcote from demolition in the early nineties.

On 2 April 2013 Ian died peacefully at home. Everyone involved with the Trust acknowledges his leadership, wisdom and unfailing patience and courtesy.

Board member and author Elizabeth Hutchins paid tribute to Ian at a Trust event a few days later:

"Ian had the gift of making everyone he met feel special, and it is for this endearing quality that he will be missed most by his family and friends. Ian is widely known as a well respected retired federal Minister and philanthropist; but he was much more than that to the MGCLT team – an inspirational leader and colleague and a warmly enthusiastic believer in our work as creators or promoters of books for children."

One of our former Fellows, Sheryl Gwyther, summed up beautifully the impact that Ian had on our residents at The Burrow:

“I remember how welcoming and caring Ian and Mary were to me during my May Gibbs Residency. What a lovely, gentle person he was.  In fact I think he and Mary have entertained almost every one of the fifty or so Adelaide-based Fellows since 2000. Angela Sunde, Adelaide's first 2013 Fellow wrote: “I guessed I might be the last Fellow to have met Ian. He left a strong impression on me. I knew I was in the presence of a great man even though he was tired and talking used all his energy. Visiting Ian and Mary in their home was very special and such an honour. They are so gracious and I loved my time spent with them. It was a beautiful evening in beautiful surrounds.”

Krista Bell, who is also a member of the Trust's Selection Committee said:

Ian was so generous and dogged in his support of children's literature. Without his determination and financial support the May Gibbs Children's Literature Trust would only have been a dream, but he made it happen. He so rightly deserves our thanks and praise. Farewell Ian – your dreams will live on."

The National Library of Australia's digital collection of oral histories includes an interview by Susan Marsden with Ian Wilson as part of the Old Parliament House political and parliamentary oral history project. Ian discusses his life and career and makes reference to the Trust. The interview is available online as follows: Ian Wilson (2009)

In 1999, the late Ian Wilson invited Meredyth Sarah to join the Steering Committee and SA Support Group. The support that Meredyth gave to the May Gibbs Literature Trust in its early years is difficult to quantify. Ian was well aware of her passionate interest in good quality literature for children and how reading could bring such benefits to a child’s literacy, well-being and understanding of the world.

Meredyth played a key role in launching the Trust in 2000, establishing the Fellowships Program and developing fundraising initiatives which the Trust still benefits from to this day. She and her husband, Don, remained loyal attendees of all Trust events, even when she was actively involved with numerous other organisations.  

In 2018 Meredyth was invited to be a member of the MGCLT Board by Dianne Gray who was Chair at the time. Meredyth was a highly respected Board member over these past four years.

Sadly, Meredyth Sarah AM passed away on the 8 July 2022.

Julie Wells, who is Chair of the MGCLT Board, pays tribute to Meredyth:

"She brought her wisdom, sound advice, enthusiasm and good common sense to our organisation; one that she obviously had a had great affection for. On a personal note, I found that Meredyth was always at the end of the  phone or email to guide me when I asked. She will be missed greatly by so many people; she just had such a wonderful way about her.

The May Gibbs Children’s Literature Trust farewells you, Meredyth, and thanks you for the unforgettable way that you have contributed to its ongoing success."

Over many years Ruth Starke had been a wonderful supporter of the May Gibbs Children’s Literature Trust, and most recently, a member of the MGCLT Judging Panel responsible for awarding Creative Time Residential Fellowships. Ruth was also a recipient of one of our early Fellowships.

Closely connected with the SA writing community, she was an author of children’s books, a mentor to many aspiring and established creators, a highly regarded reviewer and a lecturer in English and Creative Writing at various academic institutions.

Dr Ruth Elaine Starke passed away on the 5th September 2022.

Julie Wells shares:

"It is with great sadness that we farewell Ruth and thank her for the many contributions she has made to our shared writing community."