Review Blog

Mar 16 2008

True Blue? On being Australian by Peter Goldsworthy

cover image

Allen and Unwin
(All ages) What an introduction to the range of peoples that make up Australia today, Goldsworthy has drawn together excerpts from books, speeches, newspaper articles as well as poems and short stories to show us what it means to be an Australian. Ranging from David Malouf to Michael Leunig and John Clarke to High McKay, the pieces included here will engender some debate. Produced by Allen and Unwin with the support of the Curriculum Corporation, Australia Day Committee and the Australian Government Department of Education, Science and Training, the book has the feel of a text for schools, but is enjoyable reading for a range of interests.

Many of the stories are unforgettable, as people struggle on with their lives, despite all adversity. One of the most endearing is that of Hieu Van Le, now the Lieutenant Governor of South Australia. His first sight of Australia escaping from Vietnam in 1975 is one that will live with the reader for all time, and is in sharp contrast to the 'welcome' dealt out decades later to people in a similar plight escaping from the Middle East. This one is a stand out for me, but all add to the vast range of people that make up Australia, and give it its broadness.

For students in the classroom, that favourite topic, What it means to be Australian, will be well served with a class set of this book. Students will be able to dip in to read authors they have heard of and many they have not seen before, and argue with their class mates about what is an Australian, what should have been included or not included, what best describes us. Some may notice the lack of children's voices or the dearth of women's voices, some may question the Anglo Saxon predominance, some may want a greater representation from expatriate Australians, but all will bring their own views and values to the book, adding space for discussion and debate. Students will be invited by an astute teacher to put together their own list of what could be included in such a book, sending them to a wider reading and selection of Australian writing, and photos and films will be watched to tease out other quotes and mythologies.
Fran Knight

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