When Rupert Murdoch Came to Tea: A Memoir

David Nunan

Whoever coined the phrase 'the middle of nowhere' must have had Broken Hill in mind, because that's where it was -- and still is, although the Road to Nowhere is now all-weather tarmac. Seven hundred miles due west of Sydney. Three hundred and thirty miles northeast of Adelaide. It sprawls about the low range of lode-bearing hills, and, when I was a child, was dominated by the artificial mountains of skimp, grey silt-like stuff that was left over once the ore was extracted from the mines. Most of the skimp dumps are gone now, reprocessed, when extraction techniques improved, for the ore they still contained. To me the town is all the poorer for their demise.

It was here that the mighty BHP-Billiton, largest resource company in the world, was born. It is also where I first saw the light of day -- although, unlike BHP (Broken Hill Proprietary Ltd.), my appearance in this place at that time was purely coincidental. This collection of stories is a memoir of what it was like to grow up in Broken Hill in the 1950s and 1960s. It was prompted by a question from one of my daughters, who grew up in a very different time and place. 'What was it like?' she asked. 'Back there. Back then.'

(Note: Spellings and vocabulary are Australian English; a glossary of terms that may be unfamiliar to North Americans is provided at the back of the book.)

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David Nunan wrote a heartfelt, warts-and-all recollection of life in the “old neighborhood” for his daughter. I’m not sure I would tell my own daughter all about my youthful shenanigans – and I’m sure Nunan hasn’t revealed them all – but he has let slip enough of what his world was like to make life in Broken Hill seem very interesting. The author’s tone is breezy, sincere and serious at times – just what you’d expect from an honest storyteller.

~ Gary S. Sosa, Amazon reviewer


I expected this book to be about linguistics or ESL teaching, since that’s what Nunan is known for, but this was his childhood and adolescence, pre-dating his academic work. Fascinating! I had no idea. Broken Hill at that time sounds both bleak and inspiring. In some ways it reminded me of stories I’d heard of small-town America at the same time, but so many of his experiences were, I feel, uniquely Australian.

~ Jaimie C. Scanlon, author of  Q Skills for Success,
Skillful, and Open Mind teacher’s books


This is a great read as you feel as if you are sitting next to a cozy fireplace in a friendly neighborhood bar listening to a master storyteller weave the tale of a fascinating life growing up in the outback of Australia. Brilliant and entertaining this is a must for your reading list!
~ Michele Morgan, Amazon reviewer

David Nunan

David has worked as a language teacher and researcher in many countries including his native Australia, the United Kingdom, Thailand, Singapore, Brazil, Japan, and China. In the early 1990s he took up the inaugural Chair Professorship of Applied Linguistics at the University of Hong Kong, a position he held for fourteen years. He also founded the first online graduate program for teaching English to speakers of other languages at Anaheim University.

Nunan has published 30 books as well as several hundred articles on language, culture, education, and travel. He also writes textbooks for learning English. His junior high school series Go For It is a world leader, with sales in excess of three billion copies.

In addition to his academic teaching, Nunan carries out consulting work and gives conference presentations in many parts of the world. When not traveling and speaking, he splits his time among Hong Kong, Sydney, and California.