Peter Walkinshaw Cowan (1914–2002)

Peter Cowan authored eight volumes of short stories, five novels and three biographies including A Unique Position, the only biography written about Edith Cowan. He also edited two books of diaries and letters, co-edited seven volumes of short fiction and was co-editor of the literary journal Westerly from 1975.

Peter Cowan

Peter was applauded for his modernistic style that relied on understatement and implication to draw on the reader’s imagination. His stories included themes of isolation, loneliness and despair set in the beautiful, unrelenting landscapes of Western Australia, and later in contemporary suburbs. His unique literary methods won him many prestigious awards and an international following resulting in his literature being translated into five other languages.

His achievements include:
Awarded the Western Australian Premier’s Book Award for Fiction and the Western Australia Week Literary Award in 1986 for his novel The Color of the Sky.

• Received a Member of the Order of Australia in 1987 for his service to literature.
• The Patrick White Award for an Australian Writer of Great Distinction in 1992.
• Received the first Honorary Degree (Doctor of Philosophy) conferred by Edith Cowan University in 1995.
• Named a ‘Living Treasure’ for the State of Western Australia in 1999.
• Awarded a Centenary Medal in 2001 for his service to literature through writing.
• Elected as a life member of the Association for the Study of Australian Literature; an honour reserved for only twelve Australian authors.

The Peter Cowan Writers’ Centre Inc. was officially opened at the Joondalup Campus of Edith Cowan University in 1998 in honour of Peter Cowan’s literary achievements. The centre is sited in the reconstructed house of his grandmother, Edith Cowan, Australia’s first female parliamentarian.

Extracted from a biography on Peter Cowan compiled for PCWC by ECU Student, Deborah Ford, 2012.