Thomas Keneally was born in 1935 in country New South Wales to Irish Catholic parents. As a child he dreamed of becoming a famous sportsman. In 1958 he entered the seminary but left in 1960 before being ordained. He had a number of different jobs and became for a time a schoolteacher.
Keneally published his first book The Place at Whitton in 1964. He won the Miles Franklin Award in consecutive years for his novels Bring Larks and Heroes (1967) and Three Cheers for the Paraclete (1968). He was shortlisted for the Booker Prize three times before being the first Australian ever to win it, in 1982, for Schindler’s Ark. This book formed the basis of Steven Spielberg’s Oscar Award-winning film Schindler’s List. His novel The Chant of Jimmie Blacksmith was made into a film by Fred Schepisi. The author played a cameo role.
Thomas Keneally has written over thirty books, both fiction and non-fiction, as well as plays and essays. He is an ardent Republican and was the founding chairman of the Australian Republican Movement. In 1983, Keneally became a member of The Order of Australia and in 1997 was named as an Australian Living Treasure.