Review Blog

Sep 10 2013

Australians All: A History of Growing Up from the Ice Age to the Apology by Nadia Wheatley

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Ill. by Ken Searle. Allen and Unwin, 2013. ISBN: 9781741146370.
Highly recommended. Nadia Wheatley has compiled an important and beautifully presented resource which will be valued as much for the narratives presented as the historical context that they represent. The eighty or so stories collected in this book cover in chronological order what it was like to be a child and live in the Australia of the time.
From an exploration of the arrival of Aboriginal people 40 thousand years ago through the experience of some children living in England during the 18th century to the arrival of the convicts and the subsequent growth of the Australian population including the experience of refugees, the stories are a snapshot of the lives of children and their families.
Each chapter is contextualised with a brief account of the issues of the time and a timeline of significant events. The individual accounts cover experiences of hardship and good times, work and play, schooling in all situations, disadvantage, discrimination and death for both aboriginal and non aboriginal Australians.
A comprehensive reference at the end lets us know what happened to the children and families to give further insight to their lives. A Glossary explains some of the terms used and an extensive Index enables one to follow a theme, e.g. education, over many eras, whilst the Bibliography and annotations enable specific stories or pictures to be followed up.
I can see many uses for these stories both within the History Curriculum as an exploration of the past, as well as an opportunity to become familiar with some of the figures that have shaped our country and culture whether they go on to become famous like Henry Lawson or Eddie Mabo or the ill-fated McCallum children who died of diphtheria near Port Lincoln.
Sue Keane

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