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Put the Billy On
Ann Jones

Put the Billy On gives us insights into what it was like to grow up in Australia in the 1930s and 40s. The story is mixed with undertones of delightful humour and fading innocence. Historical events, such as the lead up to World War II, are artfully compared to the tensions in the speaker’s own life.

Ann Jones invites us to reflect on how far we’ve come, and the precious things that may have been lost on the way.

Put the Billy On won the IP Picks 08 Best Creative Non-Fiction Award.





Ann Jones


At the age of three, Ann Jones arrived from Sydney with her parents and her sister to live on a sheep and cattle property in the Gulf of Carpentaria, where the family remained for the major part of World War II. It was this experience that inspired her to put her creativity to work and document a way of life that has long since gone. 

Since her first labourious encounters with correspondence lessons at the kitchen table, education and motherhood have been the major focuses of Ann’s life. She became a teacher by default ‘to escape the expected female career as a shorthand-typist’ and discovered a lifetime vocation.

She tutored in Speech Remediation and lectured in Practical Studies at James Cook University and Australian Catholic University in Brisbane and taught in various roles in Papua New Guinea where she and her husband lived for a number of years.

She now enjoys retirement on Bribie Island.


from Are We There Yet?

Dad stopped the car and switched off the engine. I tried to speak through the film of dust that swirled about us, but I was winded by the drop into the pothole. Mum opened the car door and moved quickly to take me in her arms, and, while I struggled to regain my breath, she held me gently until my lungs resumed their normal rhythm.

Dad unfolded his body from the confines of the Ford to examine the damage. He ran his fingers through his crew cut and said, ‘I hope we haven’t done the axle.’ To ‘do an axle’ in such an isolated place was a serious mishap. We were miles from anywhere with no communication facility and the sun was scorching. When he completed his inspection Dad expressed his relief to Mum, ‘We’ve only blown a tyre, May. I’ll have to patch it, so you may as well put the billy on.’ He was a tall young man, thirty-three years old, with a head of thick, black hair and a heavy, black beard that demanded a twice-daily shave. Because he loved life in the bush and enjoyed working with stock, he had augmented his academic education in Sydney at an Agriculture College.

Mum was two years younger than Dad and had been brought up on a prosperous sheep property in Western Queensland. She was the eldest daughter in a family of ten and received her formal education at a boarding school that embraced the arts. She was a tall girl with fair skin and long, black hair pinned up in the fashion of the day, as a bun at the nape of her neck. She had a happy disposition, loved people and, like Dad, loved life in the country.


[Read more on GoogleBooks]

Focus on IP Picks 08: Winner, Best Creative Non-Fiction. Read IP eNews 37.

Lauren Daniel's interview with Ann Jones about Put the Billy On. IP eNews 40.


ISBN 9781921479083 (PB, 210pp) Non-Fiction / Memoir AU
ISBN 9781921479281 (enhanced eBook with audio reading) AU

"Put the Billy On is about growing up in far northern Queensland during the war years. Ann Jones' autobiographical tale is an important work in that it describes rural life in Australia during this turbulent period.
More specifically, and significantly, it provides an insight into the lives of women during this period.
When researching for my own writing projects, one would think that women didn't exist at this time in Australia’s history; so few, it seems, have had their stories told. The work is a valuable record of rural women's experience of life on the land and shows women's roles to be broad. In addition to maintaining the home and raising families, they played a key role in maintaining a sense of social connectedness among the members of these isolated communities. They were the first aid officer and nurse for the property, the radio operator, the dressmaker, the secretary, the teacher and childcare worker, the cleaner, baker, hotelier for visiting officials as well as unpaid labourer when an extra hand was required on the property. And in the case of Ann's mother, part-time enemy aircraft spotter!"
- Marlene Lewis

"It was a lot of fun reading this first-person account of Ann Jones' experiences of her childhood in the Australian bush. It is a way of life that has all but disappeared.
The chapters of the book are her recollections of this and that... This really was a very enjoyable book! Maybe there will be another book, a sequel -- perhaps by one of her children or grandchildren. I can hope ..."
- Anne Salazar