Born Patricia Mary Brady on 5 January 1929, “Veronica” was the name she adopted when she entered the Loreto order at the age of 21. It is a teaching order, not a cloistered one, and this suited Veronica Brady admirably; she gained a reputation as a stirring and inspiring teacher, particularly after joining The University of Western Australia in early 1972. With the late Bruce Bennett she championed the introduction of studies in Australian literature, at the time in the face of sometimes stern opposition. There was nothing like stern conservative opposition to get Veronica moving: her ancestors were Irish Catholics and on her mother’s side included convicts, so in one sense she always remained true to her roots.
Veronica Brady gained a national and international reputation as a public intellectual, literary critic and tireless moral crusader. She was fearless, a Mother Courage whose causes were her ‘children’. That courage often put her at odds with governments or the Church, and drew controversy but also admiration from many people across a wide range of Australian and overseas societies. She was a literary commentator whose work was noticed well outside the literary community. She spoke on philosophical, literary, social and ethical issues not only across Australia but in China, India, Indonesia, Italy, Singapore, Spain, the United Kingdom and other countries for fifty years. She was a white person whom the Aboriginal community trusted, a symbolic figure for many women engaged in Australian literary, religious and social studies, and the only literary critic whom Patrick White trusted and admired.
Veronica was the author of The Future People, A Crucible of Prophets: Australians and the Question of God, Playing Catholic: Essays on Four Catholic Plays and Caught in the Draught, as well as many other essays on Australian literature, religion and the place of Aborigines, women and the church in Australian society. Apart from her university roles, Veronica served on the Board of the Library and Information Service of Western Australia, Fremantle Press and the ABC, and was Chair of the Perth Branch of International PEN. On her retirement from UWA in1994, a festschrift was published in her honour titled Tilting at Matilda . She was there described as a “larrikin angel”, and this phrase became the title of her biography, written by Kath Jordan and published in 2009. On its back cover Fred Chaney is quoted as saying “In an often smug and complacent society, we need Veronica Brady and her ilk to remind us to look beyond ourslves. I think Jesus would be OK with her”. She’s probably testing him out now.
Dennis Haskell, University of Western Australia