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BOOK: The Lucky Country

Donald Horne, who was born on December 26, 1921 and died on September 8, 2005, wrote 'The Lucky Country' which was published in 1964 by Penguin. The title was meant to be ironic but came to be popularly associated with all that was good about Australia. Horne used the title to reflect what he saw as institutionalised national complacency in the last years of the long post-war prime ministership of Sir Robert Menzies. He wrote: 'Australia is a lucky country run mainly by second-rate people who share its luck. It lives on other people’s ideas, and although its ordinary people are adaptable, most of its leaders (in all fields) so lack curiosity about the events that surround them that they are often taken by surprise.' He followed up with other titles, most recently with The Lucky Country Revisited (1987) and 'Death of the Lucky Country' after the dismissal by Sir John Kerr of Prime Minister Gough Whitlam in 1975.

The only son of a school teacher, Donald Richmond Horne, was born in Muswellbrook, a town in the Hunter Valley centred on coal-mining and pastoral interests. Clever and rather solitary, he enjoyed a happy childhood yet grew up conscious of acute class divisions and sectarianism in Australian life between the wars. This is explored in the first of his three volumes of memoir, 'The Education of Young Donald' (1967).

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