News & Updates

Tom Keneally Centre Celebrates 10 Years

Tom Keneally Centre Celebrates 10 Years
August 17, 2021

The Tom Keneally Centre. Image credits: Graham Jepson

Happy 10th Birthday to the Tom Keneally Centre, SMSA’s cultural hub and welcoming reading room.

Sydney Mechanics’ School of Arts is proud to be the home of the Tom Keneally Centre, which holds the research collection of world-renowned author Thomas Keneally, in addition to copies of his own works and some items from his private collection of photographs and memorabilia.

Construction of the Tom Keneally Centre was generously funded by The Westfield Group, headed by Frank Lowy, and was officially opened on 18 August 2011 by The Honourable Professor Dame Marie Bashir AD CVO DStJ. The Tom Keneally Centre will continue to be of lasting value to SMSA members, as well as providing a cultural hub for all Australians who love literature and learning.

We have had the pleasure and privilege to welcome Tom Keneally and members of his family to the Sydney Mechanics’ School of Arts regularly over the years. They have generously been involved in many of the fantastic literary events we have hosted. We thank the Keneally family for their time and we look forward to many more special events with them in future.

We also extend a special thank you to our wonderful volunteers who support the running of the Tom Keneally Centre, assisting patrons, tirelessly looking after the space and sharing their passion for reading.

Everyone is welcome to visit and browse the Tom Keneally Centre.*  Current SMSA members are also able to borrow books from the Tom Keneally Centre collection.

About the man

Thomas Keneally is one of Australia’s best known and most respected authors, writing both fiction and non-fiction.

Born in 1935, he won the Booker Prize in 1982 with Schindler’s Ark, later made into the Academy Award-winning film Schindler’s List by Steven Spielberg.

Tom’s fiction includes The Widow And Her Hero (shortlisted for the Prime Minister’s Literary Award), An Angel In Australia and Bettany’s Book. His novels The Chant of Jimmy BlacksmithGossip from the Forest, and Confederates were all shortlisted for the Booker Prize, while Bring Larks and Heroes and Three Cheers For The Paraclete won the Miles Franklin Award. The People’s Train was longlisted for the Miles Franklin Award and shortlisted for the Commonwealth Writers Prize, South East Asia division.

As well as writing many novels, Tom has shown an increasing interest in producing histories. His history of Irish convictism was entitled The Great Shame and was published in all the English language markets. The same was true of his later work, The Commonwealth of Thieves, which looked upon the penal origins of Australia in a way which sought to make the reader feel close to the experience of individual Aboriginals, convicts and officials.

Tom Keneally has the won the Miles Franklin Award, the Booker Prize, the Los Angeles Book Prize, the Royal Society of Literature Prize, the Scripter Award of the University of Southern California, the Mondello International Prize and the Helmerich Prize.

Tom’s most recent works include The Monsarrat Series (2017-2019) of historical crime fiction which he co-authored with his daughter Meg Keneally, The Dickens Boy (2020) and Corporal Hitler’s Pistol (2021).

Tom lives in Sydney with his wife, and is Number 1 ticket-holder of the Manly-Warringah Rugby League team.

*Sydney Mechanics’ School of Arts (SMSA), including the Tom Keneally Centre, is currently closed due to Sydney’s COVID-19 lockdown. Check back on our News page for further detail about reopening.

Happy 10th Birthday to the Tom Keneally Centre, SMSA’s cultural hub and welcoming reading room.

We look forward to welcoming visitors again when we are able to.

To find out more about hiring our Tom Keneally Centre or meeting rooms, please click here.


When you join SMSA as member, you get a wide range of benefits.

Access to the SMSA Library

We are home to a unique collection of books, a highlight being our Mystery and Crime section.

Able to borrow from the Tom Keneally Centre

We are honoured to be the home of Tom Keneally’s personal collection of books, many of which have been used as research for his own works.

Access to member only events

Join a members group, share your passions, learn new skills, make new friends and get involved.

Access to member only activities such as members groups

We provide a variety of member only events, these are relaxed social occasions to have fun and make new friends.

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