Review Blog

Dec 05 2012

Mary MacKillop: Australia's first saint by Gabiann Marin

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New Frontier Publishing, 2012. ISBN 9781921928192.
(Age: 7+) In 1866, Mary MacKillop and Father Woods opened a school in Penola. At the time, their determination to provide an education for all children, regardless of family income, was remarkable. The first colonial governments to introduce free, compulsory schooling did so six years later and the last followed suit in 1893.
The life of the founder of the Josephite movement is told in Mary MacKillop: Australia's first saint. Gabiann Marin has revealed how Mary MacKillop's attitudes were shaped by her family and experiences and how her practical, if sometimes unconventional, thinking enabled her to create a new religious order and establish schools and other institutions in Australia and New Zealand. Mary MacKillops' eventful life and her dedication to both religion and education, make her a challenging subject for a brief biography. The author has succeeded in charting the development of both aspects of this dynamic educator's life and achievements, as well as conveying her ability to inspire others and her resolve when facing criticism from some church and government authorities.
The text is written in short sentences, with minimum elaboration, and a moderately large font. Chapter headings, as well as a timeline at the end of the book, guide readers through the stages of Mary McKillop's life. The hand-painted illustrations by Angela Grzegrolka are sympathetic and in keeping with the publishing style of other titles in the Aussie heroes series. Readers unfamiliar with Catholicism may be unclear about the meaning of some of the terms used, while the use of words now considered to be inappropriate when used in relation to Indigenous people, mars an otherwise readable and informative story.
Gabiann Marin's conclusion that Mary MacKillop's legacy is significant to all Australians is certainly justified by the life story of a woman whose initiative, conviction and commitment to equity, helped to promote the belief that education is a right not a privilege.
Elizabeth Bor

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