Giveaways special – our literary members

Our members have been busy putting pen to paper

Gregory Baines, a History teacher at Merici College in the ACT has published The Nail House with UK publisher Fairlight Books.

Gregory spent 13 years teaching in China and has used his experience in his novel, which explores the rapidly changing Chinese culture.

Nail house is a Chinese term for when an owner refuses to sell out their home to a developer.

In the novel, a white Australian comes to China to represent developers, who want a traditional man to be removed from his home. In the process, the Australian falls in love with the old man’s daughter.

Gregory said the character of the daughter is typical of many young Chinese caught between traditional ways and the rapidly emerging new more globally influenced culture.

When he first moved to China, Gregory lived in a ‘third tier’ city, relatively undeveloped, with people still riding around on bicycles wearing Mao suits.

But the city began changing at a phenomenal rate, and Gregory said he became “addicted to change”.

“I would return to Australia for a holiday and everything was the same, so I stayed in China.”

Gregory met his Malaysian wife there and eventually returned to Australian when they started a family.

“The experience of feeling lost in another country has influenced my writing. Chinese culture is very complicated, and relationships and roles are different from in the west. The characters in the book are figuring this out from their various perspectives.”

Gregory said Chinese culture is fascinating with lots to offer that is not being fully appreciated by Australians.

“It’s good that we have a heightened awareness of foreign interference in our country, we have been a bit naive about that in the past. But the US has done horrible things in other countries and interferes with foreign powers to a great degree.

“I think the focus on China has some xenophobia behind it and we relate to Chinese culture only in terms of security, which is a real shame.”

The Nail House is available online:


We Were Reos Andrew Bigwood is a History teacher at Hennessey Catholic College Young and, in conjunction with his father, Richard, has self-published We Were Reos.

Andrew said the book began as an attempt to reconstruct his father’s fragmented recollections of his time in Vietnam.

“As a child I had a pretty poor relationship with my father. It’s a common theme among the children of Vietnam veterans, which I came to understand as I matured and undertook studies in military history,” Andrew said.

“It was not until I announced my intent to research and write my undergraduate honours thesis on the ‘Americanisation’ of wartime experiences for Australian veterans of Vietnam that my father and I began a journey of reconciliation that culminated with the publication of We Were Reos.

“After the submission of my thesis (and a trip to Vietnam) my father and I sat down to record his memories and put together this book.

“It took some time to reach fruition simply because (as with all oral history is) his recollections were, at times, incomplete or disjointed, so when the skeleton of the book was written and laid out I handed it over to my father, who was getting ready to retire, so he could ‘fill in the gaps’ that were missing.

“He then spent the time researching and contacting old army mates so as to add to the text and fill in missing names, places and dates. We launched the final publication at NSW Parliament House in 2011.”

Andrew began teaching in 2004 after retraining from a 10 year career in nursing.

“I was always a passionate historian and teaching gave me the opportunity to share that passion with my students.

“I have worked at various schools around Western Sydney including several years at an 11-12 senior college and some time at an Islamic school before ending up here at a Catholic school in rural NSW.

“Although the direction teaching has taken has changed dramatically in recent years, sharing my love of history and literature with my students remains my driving force.”

We Were Reos is available through various online sites.

Newsmonth is able to offer members a chance to win one of these books in a giveaway.

Email entries to with the giveaway you are entering in the subject line and your name, membership number and address in the body of the email. All entries to be received by 15 January 2020.