Southerly is a journal that aims to publish and promote the study of new Australian literature; “Southerly is to serve the cause of literary art, of scholarship (in its broader manifestations), of literary criticism, and, through these as well as by means of direct report and comment, of the Australian English Association” (Southerly, vol., no.1, 1939, p3). Southerly emerged with the start of Australia’s involvement in World War II; “[a] war must not mean the end or suspension of literary activity... if barbarism is to be kept in check at all, it will surely be as much by this means [the preservation of the tradition of literature] as by the opposition of force" (Southerly, vol.1, no.2, 1940, p3). It was not only the Southerly journal that had to continue through the war, but also, as Ian Buchanan Director of the Institute for Social Transformation Research at the University of Wollongong noted, ‘Critical Theory’, which would later change how literature is approached in journals across the world. Southerly publishes poetry, short stories and book reviews. With the expansion of ‘Critical Theory’ the book reviews have been replaced with critical essays and review essays.
The biggest issue that Southerly had to face, from its beginnings in 1939 until the 1960s, was the belief that there was not enough writing coming out of Australia to require Australian Literature to be studied in depth. It is easy to understand why this was the case, given that at the time of the first edition of Southerly Australia had only been a country for 38 years, after Federation in 1901. Elizabeth Webby, editor of Southerly from 1988-99, explores this in her article ‘Why Australian Literature?’ stating that in the 1950s "...University professors did not believe that there was any Australian Literature to study" (Webby 1993, p45). As the editors of Southerly strove to counteract this, the journal can be seen as nationalistic, meaning that the literature and reviews published are all centred around a fanatic desire to create a distinctly National Australian Literature. Although it does diverge from some of the nationalist writing that had come before, such as that of Henry Lawson and Banjo Patterson, which were centred on the bush or farm life and ideals of mateship, the poetry, short stories and book reviews are still focused primarily on the man, over the woman and reveal little concern for racial inequality.