top of page

William Shum

The Untold Story of
By Sue Walker
The Beagle Press | $59.95 RRP

Discover the hitherto untold story of William Shum, founding editor of two popular Australian magazines, The New Idea and Australian Home Beautiful (both still in print to this day), and the extraordinary impact he had on people’s lives through the first half of the 20th century, when modern Australia was being formed.

Sue Walker tells the life story of her magazine editor grandfather against the larger backdrop of Australian history and cultural growth in this meticulously researched and beautifully illustrated biography. William Arthur Somerset Shum (1875-1961) was a pioneer in Australian magazines, at a time when magazines were a powerful influence on the way people lived. At the helm of these exciting publications, Shum came into people’s homes every month for 43 years, from 1902 to 1945.

Home Beautiful magazine The Future
William Shum book family at Clyre

Born in 1875, William grew up in the goldfield town of Bendigo, in a loving Methodist family. His unwavering positive outlook on life continued, despite losing the sight in one eye at the age of 10 and being orphaned while still in high school. Shum wrote for local papers and was an active member of the Mechanics Institute in Bendigo before moving to Melbourne in 1896. He secured work with Rev Dr W.H. Fitchett who ran a flourishing publishing company, launching The New Idea with Shum as editor in 1902. Shum married Edith Moore (youngest daughter of Thompson Moore MP, and sister of William Moore, author of The Story of Australian Art) in 1905 and moved to Brighton. Their beachside home ‘Clanrye’ with rambling gardens, stables for the pony and cart, and an aviary, stayed in the family for nearly 100 years.

In 1925 Shum joined The Herald under Keith Murdoch and was soon given editorship of The Australian Home Beautiful; where his influence on the homes, gardens and lives of Australians from all walks of life was immense. Shum led his readers through a time of great change. He encouraged people to break with traditional thinking about their homes and gardens and be open to ideas – particularly the modernist movement - more appropriate to a new country. Australia, as we know it today, was taking shape, and Australian Home Beautiful led the way.

The New Idea magazine
Home Beautiful magazine Frank Hedley Sanders
Home Beautiful magazine

“Never one to seek personal publicity or acclaim, William Shum was happiest writing stories as a journalist, capturing people’s daily lives in photographs and working in the editorial role where he loved the creative challenges it presented ... fascinated by new ideas he was ahead of his time in many ways. Meeting up in the clubs and societies of bohemian Melbourne, William’s friends included important artists and literary figures of the day. His great enthusiasm for life, his endless curiosity and his warmth and goodwill to others was a wonderful influence as I was growing up.”  - Sue Walker

Generously illustrated, with rich visual support for the text, The Untold Story of William Shum contains many of Home Beautiful’s memorable hand painted covers by Frank Hedley Sanders, in addition to some of Shum’s own spontaneous photographs of family life in the early decades of the 20th century. It is a fitting tribute to William Aurthur Somerset Shum and his many contributions to the development of modern Australia.

Available nationally from bookshops, art galleries and in many places where fine books are sold.

Home Beautiful magazine The modern era
Home Beautiful magazine covers
Inside Home Beautiful magazine

The Australian Home Beautiful

'Clanrye' Their Home

Clanrye became the Shum's home in 1906 and remained in the family for nearly 100 years.

Articles and Links

Australian Home Beautiful May 1935.jpg


Write Now; Southern FM

Literature, news and guests with Gaytana;

Thu 9 May 2024

Sue Walker in discussion with Gaytana Adorna about her new book The Untold Story of William Shum: Editor of Australian Home Beautiful 1926 - 1946

00:00 / 59:55


The man who reinvented the Australian Home

In Black and White with

Jen Kelly, 2024

For 43 years William Shum ... showed modern Australians how to dress themselves - and the places they lived. Now his granddaughter, author Sue Walker, joins the show to recount his colourful life.

William Shum.JPG


William Shum: The original influencer

Herald Sun, 3 May 2024

Before TV, social media and the internet Australians turned to magazines to help define their style. And for 43 years William Shum was one of the titans of print who showed modern Australian's how to live.

bottom of page