Category Archives: Australian Literature

Snugglepot and Cuddlepie by May Gibbs


Published in 1918, The Adventures of Snugglepot and Cuddlepie chronicle the adventures of two gumnut babies and their adventures in the Australian bush. The antagonists are The Big Bad Banksia Men who thwart the adventures of the gumnut babies. The two brothers set off on the adventures to see a human, something that they are curious about. On these adventures, they are joined by Mr. Lizard and Little Ragged Blossom, and have to battle not only The Big Bad Banksia Men, but also Mrs. Snake. Aimed at children, these stories can be read to younger children or read by confident readers. Each reading can reveal something new about these stories that might have been missed during other readings. This adds to the beauty and longevity of these stories.


The Cass Lehman Series by Melanie Casey


Browsing bookstores and their online counterparts over the years, it would seem that Australians love a good crime story. Even our television shows have a proud crime genre tradition, one of the most iconic perhaps being the nineties drama, Blue Heelers. In book form, they are just as popular, whether from overseas or home-grown with Australian themes and Australian characters. Whilst television dramas have focussed on the police procedural aspect, series such as The Rowland Sinclair series by Sulari Gentill, and this week’s feature, The Cass Lehman series by Melanie Casey, have amateur detectives who are sometimes reluctant to help out in cases, but who have police contacts who assist them, or whom they assist.

These amateur detectives are often people from all walks of life who somehow become tangled up in a case. Whether they stumble across a crime in progress, or are somehow involved through a friend or family member asking them to help discreetly, an amateur detective can be reluctant or willing, or perhaps somewhere in between. Inevitably, they will find that, somewhere along the way, something goes wrong and they will find themselves in some kind of trouble linked to the case, which is usually where the detectives they have been assisting, or who have been trying to deter them from assisting, come in to help them out.


The Matilda Saga by Jackie French


The Matilda Saga is a series of five books, spanning seventy to eighty years. It starts with A Waltz For Matilda, set in 1894, and the most recent book, set during the Vietnam War, is The Ghost By the Billabong. The series chronicles the journey of Matilda and her descendants throughout the decades and across the Australian outback. They encapsulate the Australian bush culture and the experiences of the bush and the surrounding area, transporting readers to a world beyond what they know. The reading order, and a synopsis of each taken from the author’s website are below:

A Waltz For Matilda: In 1894, twelve-year-old Matilda flees the city slums to find her unknown father and his farm.
But drought grips the land, and the shearers are on strike. Her father has turned swaggie and the troopers want him. In front of his terrified daughter, he makes a stand against them, defiant to the last. ‘You’ll never catch me alive, said he…’
Set against a backdrop of bushfire, flood, war and jubilation, this is the story of one girl’s journey towards independence. It is also the story of others who had no vote and very little but their dreams. Drawing on the well-known poem by A.B. Paterson and from events rooted in actual history, this is the untold story behind Australia’s early years as an emerging nation.


Australian Historical Fiction

Historical fiction is a genre that uses fictional characters in a retelling of a historical time, or setting. The stories can also incorporate historical figures from the time period interacting with the fictional cast to create a sense of history alongside the narrative. In Australia, historical fiction, the narratives centre around colonial times, times of war, the Great Depression, or using one of these events as a backdrop to a family story and mystery. Sulari Gentill’s Rowland Sinclair series deserves another mention, as she uses the turmoil of the 1930s, as a backdrop to the crimes. Her characters also interact with historical figures of the time such as: Kingsford-Smith, Nancy Wake and Eric Campbell. In a series such as this, the combination creates interesting storylines, and each novel is linked together with the events that are unfolding. In doing so, the link between the characters, the crimes and the historical outcomes that Rowland and his friends must inevitably face is stronger and creates a stronger storyline.


Australian Crime Fiction

Another popular genre in Australia is crime fiction. Australians read crime fiction to be entertained, yes, but also to be reassured that criminals will be brought to justice. Crime fiction in Australia is an integral part of the literary landscape, perhaps inspired by the convict history linked with the inception of the colony in 1788. 1830 saw the publication of Quintus Servinton by Henry Savery, and since then crime novels in Australia have explored crimes committed from colonial times to the present day.


Australian Children’s Literature

The first book written for Australian children can be traced back to A Mother’s Offering For Her Children (1841) by Charlotte Barton. She wrote the book to entertain her children, but also to earn money to take care of them after running from her ex-husband, their stepfather, in an effort to keep them safe from his rages. This story is recounted in The River Charm by Belinda Murrell, one of her descendants, who writes historical time slip novels for children, including The Locket of Dreams, The Ruby Talisman, The Sapphire Star, The Forgotten Pearl, The Ivory Rose and the latest, The Lost Sapphire. Up until the publication of Charlotte Barton’s book, Australian children had read the same stories as children in Britain, and still did up until the end of the Second World War. The end of this war heralded a call for children’s stories in Australia, and the formation of the Children’s Book Council of Australia, and speciality bookstores.


Australian Poetry

From 1830, the distinctive voices that many associate with Australian poetry began to emerge. The poems they crafted conjure up images of the bush and he hard life in the colonies. Henry Kendall and Dorothea MacKellar are two of the most well known poets of the age – their poems chronicling the life and stories of early life in the colonies. Henry Kendall, born in 1839, and dying in 1882, was one of the well-read and well-known bush poets that Australia produced during the colonial period. During the 1870s, Kendall and his family lived in Gosford, and he wrote beautiful poetry throughout his life such as “Bellbirds.”


Australian Science Fiction & Fantasy

Australian literature is made up of many genres. Australian science fiction and fantasy began to grow after World War Two, in the fifties and sixties. The growth of the genre has allowed for the idea of stories in Australia to be seen in a new way, a different way, to what might be traditionally expected. The development of an Australian genre of science fiction and fantasy ensured the creation of science fiction and fantasy-centric imprints under larger publishers, bookshops specifically for the genres, and magazines, such as Aurealis and Andromeda Spaceways Inflight Magazine. These magazines showcase short stories from Australian authors with science fiction and fantasy themes.


Australian Literature

Australian literature characterises what it means to be Australian, from colonial times to the modern day. It deals with the bush and the city, often in contrast, experiences of war, convicts, bushrangers and pioneering, as well as family sagas, and the outcomes of floods and bushfires. It has also dealt with Aboriginal people, the Irish and lost children, all images that have contributed to what is seen as the collective Australian identity that is constantly changing and evolving, something that can be seen through the stories told by Australians.