Varuna was once the home of Eleanor Dark (d.1985), and her husband Dr Eric Dark (d.1987). Located in Katoomba in the Blue Mountains, New South Wales, the property was gifted to the Australian writing community in 1989 by their son Mick Dark.
Both Eleanor and Eric Dark were closely connected with the cultural heritage and physical landscape of the Blue Mountains, as well as many of the progressive social issues of their times. The large house, along with its extensive gardens, is now run primarily as a retreat for writers: a place where writers can work in productive silence away from the demands and distractions of daily life. Set amongst gardens established by Eleanor Dark, Varuna has powerful associations in the minds of many of Australia’s writers as a place of peace and solitude, inspiration and creativity. It is also a place of strong community, with writers sharing meals in the evening and enjoying lively conversations around the open fire.
In her extended essay about the history of Varuna, historian Dr Margo Beasley writes: “The transition from the Darks’ spacious private dwelling to a cultural institution took place across the late 1980s and the early 1990s and was propelled by a committed group of people whose motive might broadly be described as dedication to the preservation and promotion of Australian culture and identity.”
You can read Dr Beasley’s essay about the early years of Varuna here.