Denise grew up in Sydney and over the course of her career has worked on a production line in a factory, as a waitress, a receptionist and a counsellor for child abuse prevention. She was the first woman trained as an 'operator' on the Sydney Stock Exchange floor and has a Ph.D. in International Relations, which she taught at Macquarie University in Sydney.
She served on the management committee of International PEN, Sydney Centre for six years, and as a member of that committee in 2004 shared the Human Rights and Equal Opportunity Community Award from HREOC for PEN's 'effective campaign of raising asylum seeker issues within the Australian conscience and...bring(ing) national and international pressure to bear in seeking the release of asylum seekers in (Australian) detention (centres)'. In 2009 she received the Sydney PEN Award.
Through her writing and research Denise has travelled extensively, including time in an AIDS hospital in Kwa Zulu Natal, South Africa; a refugee camp in Lebanon and in the mountains of West Papua. She has been held by Israeli security, threatened by the Indonesian military, deported from Italy and mistaken for someone important (she still has no idea who) by the Senegalese government. In 2007 and 2009 Denise travelled to Rwanda to interview the killers and survivors of the genocide. The only interview she regrets not doing was an invitation to spend time in a women’s prison in Rwanda interviewing the women killers. Given the right circumstances Denise believes genocide could happen in any country.
Denise has two published non fiction books, The Politics of Power: Freeport in Suharto's Indonesia (University of Hawaii Press 2002) and Bearing Witness: The Lives of War Correspondents and Photojournalists (Random House 2004). Her first novel, What Remains (Allen & Unwin 2012), was shortlisted for the Asher Award and the Fellowship of Australian Writers National Literary Awards - Christina Stead Award. Her second novel, The Night Letters, is a bittersweet love letter set in Afghanistan (Ventura Press 2020). She is also a contributor to the anthology Fear Factor: Terror Incognito (Pan Macmillan and Picador 2010) and A Country Too Far (Penguin 2013). She has ghost-written two non fiction books.
Denise has written articles (political, book reviews, travel) for newspapers, journals, serials and on line web sites. She has given conference papers around the world, chaired and been a participant on various panels, has facilitated writing workshops and is a guest speaker in her capacity as an author and academic.
For three years she mentored women writers in Afghanistan in both fiction and non fiction through the Afghan Women Writing Project (AWWP). Because of the need to protect these women’s identity Denise has never known their real names but would warmly welcome contact through this web site.
The Night Letters is dedicated to the women of Afghanistan.