Lisa Birnie – Writer


Born: Melbourne, Australia, 1928.
Wrote under the names Lisa Hobbs and Lisa Hobbs Birnie.


Started B.A. at University of Melbourne, finished 12 years later at San Francisco College for Women (University of San Francisco)


Started journalism career as “cadet” at 19 with country daily, the Warnambool “Standard”: then Hobart “Mercury”, Melbourne “Argus”, San Francisco “Examiner”, Vancouver “Sun.” (“Cadet” training included covering horse racing, football, crime, fires, courts, politics, high society.)

In the course of her journalism career she interviewed a variety of notable personalities, including Clare Boothe Luce, Joan Crawford, Timothy Leary, Anna Louise Strong, Gabor Maté, and many others.

Second career

Full-time member of the National Parole Board of Canada, Ottawa, 1978-86.

Awards or Honors

  • National Magazine Foundation of Canada
  • Hubert Evans Award for Non-Fiction
  • Writer-in-residence, Monash University Hospital, Melbourne
  • San Francisco Press Club Professional Newspaper Award
  • California/Nevada Associated Press Award
  • Ford Foundation Fellowship, Stanford University
  • Kajima Institute for Peace Award, Tokyo.
  • McLeod Award – Catholic Newsmen of America Award

The National Magazine Foundation Award in 1992 was in the Social Issues section. The Herbert Evans Non-Fiction for her book on ALS victim Sue Rodriguez and her struggle to have physician-assistance help to suicide legalized. The writer-in-residence at Monash University, Melbourne, resulted from the Rodriguez book, and led to TEXT publishing her book of stories on palliative care as practiced at Monash.

The various awards in California resulted mainly from two newspaper exclusives. Lisa was the first woman reporter on an American newspaper to get into China after its Communist takeover in 1949. From this came a book, “I Saw Red China” (not her choice of title) that made The New York Times best-seller list.

The second project was a series exposing the chaos and even cruelty surrounding every phrase of the nursing-convalescent home industry in California. Entitled “Bureaucracy’s Victims: Abuse of the Sick Aged” the series is included in The Congressional Record (April 2l, 1965) and resulted in California creating legislation to stop the abuse. Resulted in McLeod Award.

The Kajima Institute for Peace Award came as a result of the publication of her book on China in Japanese.


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