From the happiness and freedom of her bush childhood, Tanya Heaslip is sent to a boarding school sixteen hundred kilometres away from everything and everyone she loves. As these years pass surrounded by the friends she makes, Tanya's memoir is a humorous and inspiring story of strength, resilience and the realities of Australian outback life.
In 1975, twelve-year-old Tanya Heaslip leaves her isolated home in outback Australia and is sent sixteen hundred kilometres south to a girls' boarding school for an education the bush can't provide. Tanya is terrified at the prospect of leaving the safety and security of the life she has known but is also aware ‘there is no other way’ for kids in the bush.
The freedom of her young life gives way to a frightening world of stone and concrete, high walls, small skies, uniforms, harsh words and endless rules that make no sense. The boarding house mistresses are cruel and at night, when she stares out through the dormitory window, she can’t find stars amidst the glare of city lights.
In common with many children of the outback, Tanya struggles to adjust to boarding school. ‘How will I survive in a world with no stars?’ she weeps to herself at night.
Yet, over time, her fellow boarders become her new family and Tanya survives both by writing, and by telling her stories of family, race meetings, gymkhanas, campdrafts and stock camps to her loyal friends. She weaves memories of the freedom of the bush into dreams for the future and keeps connected to her homeland through her stories. In between study, she taps away at her little orange typewriter, and then races joyfully home for holidays – three times a year – to live her stories out for real. Horses, siblings, dust and cattle, huge blue skies and red earth sustain her for those precious moments.
And music, there is always music. Tanya plays guitar, and teaches the girls the country music of her upbringing, and before long they have created their own boarders’ anthem, that will raise the roof of the big school hall every time they join together to sing as one, powerful group. From these girls, she learns the strength and joy of the sisterhood, and how it can transform you.
'A tender, raw and beautiful coming-of-age adventure, that forces Tanya to pivot between the vast freedom of desert life, and the rigid expectations of city boarding school. From start to finish Beyond Alice is beguiling!' Renee McBryde, bestselling author of The House of Lies
About The Author
Raised on an isolated cattle station north of Alice Springs during the 1960s and 70s, Tanya learnt about the outside world through the Correspondence School and School of the Air. She spent many hours dreaming of the overseas lands depicted in her childhood storybooks.
When she was twelve years old, she was sent sixteen hundred kilometres away from her outback home to a boarding school, a traumatic and life changing experience. Ultimately, she became the first student from School of the Air to go on to graduate from Law School.
She built a career in law – focusing as much as possible around outback issues because of her passion and interest in the land. Highlights included working on the Lindy Chamberlain Inquiry, and litigation involving mining magnates in multi-million dollar disputes.
Tanya never stopped dreaming, though, which led her to the foot of the Berlin Wall as it fell in November 1989. Later she found herself in a tiny Eastern Bloc town where no one spoke English, and then onto fairytale Prague, a city of spires and castles and cobblestones. There she used her law to teach English to lawyers and judges, and discovered – to her joy - how truly connected our world really is.
Tanya has since published Alice to Prague (AU 2019), An Alice Girl (AU 2020) and Beyond Alice (AU 2021).
Tanya still works in law and lives back in Alice Springs with her husband. Tanya is President of the NT Writer's Centre.