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QSM, author. Died aged 89.

Amelia Batistich's writings captured the hardships and experiences of Dalmatian pioneers in New Zealand.

Batistich, who was awarded the Queen's Service Medal in 1997, was at the forefront of New Zealand writers of Croatian origin.

Her stories of the pioneering era, of customs, trials and tribulations and of heartache, will be treasured by future generations of New Zealanders.

She was a daughter of John Barbarich and Milka Matutinovich, pioneer settlers in the Northern Wairoa district.

Amelia was born in Dargaville and lived there until she was 11.

She moved to Auckland, where she gained a great fondness for Greenlane, Ellerslie and One Tree Hill.

In her early years she was attracted to English literature, a love that served her well all her life.

Her scholarship, the literary traditions of her parents' village, Zaostrog in Dalmatia, and the love of her heritage led her to write stories for the Listener in the 1940s and school journals in 1950s.

Batistich's musings and recollections translated into a theme she called "They came to the gumfields", an excursion into the Dalmatian experience in New Zealand.

Having set her course, she contributed short stories to magazines and literary periodicals, gathering 23 stories for her first book, An Olive Tree in Dalmatia, in 1963.

She continued to explore her ancestry and search her memories of childhood in Dargaville, to produce many more short stories and books.

Batistich had the ability to unfold a story in rhythmical, short sentences, the Herald said in 1981.

"She does not strive for purple circumlocution but feels a mood and sets it down in simple words."

Batistich started writing seriously at the age of about 44 and as she polished her style, she heeded the inbuilt rhythms in the words she used.

"I write with my ear," she said.

Her achievements attracted the attention of the Croatian Emigrant Foundation (Matica) in Zagreb, Croatia. In 1981 she was invited to visit her ancestral homeland as a guest of the Croatian Writers' Guild, who honoured her as a member.

She also visited her family village of Zaostrog, where villagers turned out to honour her with song and verse.

Perhaps the most lasting examination of this author's work will be Nina Nola's thesis on Batistich for "her significant contribution to New Zealand literature", for which Dr Nola gained her doctorate in English at the University of Auckland.

Batistich was predeceased by her husband, Antun, and daughter, Gloria.


* An Olive Tree in Dalmatia - 1963

* Pjevaj Vilo u Planini - 1981 (Zagreb)

* Another Mountain, Another Song - 1981

* Sing Vila in the Mountain - 1987

* Holy Terrors - 1991

* Never Lost for Words - 2001

* My Story (autobiography) - 2003.

- Stephen Jelicich and staff reporter. Jelicich is an Auckland architect and historian.