The main events take place in 1950's rural Australia, but the present actions are intertwined with actions that took place a hundred years before during the early colonial days. The main character illustrates the feeling of being disconnected from the past and one’s ancestors, as white Australians are descendants of immigrants who moved from place to place in the past.
“Flight” is set in Australia, probably in the early 1900s as indicated by the references to the policy of removing half-caste children from their families. The social setting presents various aspects of Australian society in the beginning of the 20th century.
“Heart is Where the Home is” takes place in the early days of the policy of removing Aboriginal children from their families to be raised and educated in Australian state institutions. The story illustrates the injustices the Aboriginal population endured from the white government.
“Cloud Busting” is set in Australia and covers events that take place in 1967 but also in the 1980s. The story illustrates the structural discrimination against Aboriginals, as the state separated children from their mothers. Also, the story illustrates that, even in a political system that promoted discrimination, friendship was still possible between white Australians and Aboriginals.
Published in 1959, “N’Goola” is probably set around the same time in a Native camp in Australia. The short story illustrates complex views on the lives of Aboriginals in Australia, their culture and relationship with the whites in that time and age.
The short story deals with the stereotyping and prejudices the white community has regarding Aboriginals. However, the story also presents the contempt Billy, an Aboriginal, has for his own community.
“Freddy Andrews” by Polly Borland describes a half-Aboriginal young man who is confused about his identity as he would like to know more about Aboriginal culture, but he realises that he will avoid the white people’s discrimination if he passes off as white.
The story deals with the discrimination of Aboriginals in Australia and the violence both Aboriginals and whites use in their interactions. The story also describes how the conflicts between Aboriginals and whites changed over time.
The main theme of the short story “Growing Up” by Anthony Hill is taught racism. The author’s message behind the short story is that racism is perpetuated by both whites and Aboriginals. The whites promote it by discrimination and rejection, but the Aboriginals also promote it by internalising and accepting their alleged inferiority.
Poems and speech
The poem's message is that the Australian land should be loved and praised not because it is a place where it is easy to live, but because of its harshness which should teach people the importance of diversity and resilience and to respect nature.
Though there is nothing mentioned in the poem about Australia and its Aboriginals, given the poet’s origins, we can assume that she refers to the way Aboriginals perceive themselves. The poem is an appeal to introspection regarding the influence of one’s origins and past on one’s present. At a social and political level, it is an appeal for valuing ethnic cultures and their contribution to society.
In this 2008 speech, Australian Prime Minister Kevin Rudd delivers a formal apology to Indigenous Australians for the terrible treatment they have been exposed to by the Australian government in the past.
Below are further suggestions for texts or movies that may be relevant when working with Australia. We do not currently have study guides for these texts, but maybe you can be inspired to look for some of these titles yourself.
- Broome, Richard - Aboriginal Australians: A History Since 1788 (2010 book)
- Hill, Anthony - The Burnt Stick (1994 novel)
- Luhrmann, Baz - Australia (2008 movie)
- Noyce, Phillip - Rabbit-Proof Fence (2002 movie)
- Pilkington, Doris - Follow the Rabbit-Proof Fence (1996 book)
- Scott, Kim - That Deadman Dance (2010 novel)
- Sen, Ivan - Beneath Clouds (2002 movie)
- Thornton, Warwick - Samson and Delilah (2009 movie)