Posts Tagged ‘Australian literature’

There are, as I have said in previous posts, a couple of different ways to approach the selection of related material for Module C. This is true also for Peter Carey’s The True History of the Kelly Gang (which, by the way, I think is quite a difficult text) in the History and Memory elective.

Approach One: Stick to Ned, his gang and 19th Century Victoria

Some other texts that would work for this approach are:

Gregor Jordan’s 2003 film Ned Kelly. It has Heath Ledger, it has Orlando Bloom and it opens with a scene which it represents as being Ned Kelly’s personal memory. What more could you want?

The Jerilderie Letter. This link is to the State Library of Victoria page on this artefact/text. You can find the full text of the letter (I think this is also reproduced in the novel). There are some other text links from this page that also look interesting.

Stringybark Creek. Ballads are interesting because they have the status of being oral history but are actually usually quite recent. This one supposedly comes from the Kelly era and the story goes that people caught singing it could be fined up to five pounds.

And while we’re on songs:

For a broader approach, I suggest looking at the National Museum of Australia’s webpage about their current exhibition Not Just Ned: A True History of the Irish in Australia. Its appropriation of Carey’s title is deliberate. Like the Smithsonian site (another core text for this module and elective) this site includes personal stories as well as official history. Websites are brilliant to analyse because of their multimodal nature.

Approach Two: Explore other Historical Personalities, Events and Situations

For example:
Constitutional Crisis 1975

Situation: The Whitlam government was elected in 1972 with a small majority in the House while the Senate was controlled by the Opposition. In 1975 the Opposition used its Senate majority to block supply, effectively shutting down the government and causing a constitutional crisis.

Personalities: Gough Whitlam, Prime Minister; Sir John Kerr, Governor General; Malcolm Fraser, leader of the Opposition.

Event: The sacking of Gough Whitlam by Sir John Kerr on November 11 1975.


Whitlam’s Speech This link to an audio extract of the speech at Australian Screen Online  includes curators notes and links to other visual and audio texts.

Whitlam Dismissal Online This site contains links to songs, official documents and new clippings about the situation, event and personalities. There is also a sound and picture archives.

Jeff’s Cartoons Political cartoons from 1975.


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The ETA has very helpfully put together a list of aspects of belonging. The list includes:

belonging through place

belonging through kinship

belonging through shared experience

belonging through shared culture

belonging through global networks

belonging through textual engagement

To this list my students added belonging through shared purpose, as this helped them to include many of their own experiences, including their experience of the HSC English classroom, to their resources for this study.

Remember to think outside the obvious as well. Belonging is also a word for a piece of property.

Please do not think that these are the only aspects of belonging you can refer to in your responses. They are a useful starting place but you must develop your own theses about belonging based on your own experience and texts. You can use these aspects in three main ways:

Section I: a common one mark question early in the first part of Paper One is “what aspect or type of belonging is represented or portrayed in this text? The ETA list can often supply you with an answer. For example, the poem “We Are Going” by Oodgeroo Noonuccal portrays belonging through place (more specifically, the connection between Indigenous Australians and country) and the loss of that belonging due to white settlement.

Section II: I mentioned in my last post that it is important for creative responses to have a thesis. The ETA list can help you to develop one. Which type of belonging does your character long to experience? Does he/she achieve it? How does the character feel about the outcome? For example, one of my students composed a lovely story about a gap year student feeling out of place in a remote African village but coming to terms with his isolation through a kinship ceremony, which made him feel connected to the tribe. His thesis was that one type of belonging could overcome a sense of not belonging.

Section III: when approaching your core and related texts, a good first question to ask is: which aspect of belonging (or not belonging) is portrayed here? For example, Emily Dickinson’s poetry often conveys the poet’s lack of shared experience and perspective with the people around her and her kinship with nature. Peter Skrzynecki’s poetry delves into the displacement felt by immigrants as well as their connection to their homeland and to those who have shared their experiences.

Remember when exploring ideas of belonging that NOT belonging is always implied as well. In a later post I will explore various forms of and words for not belonging to assist students in making their responses more fluent and elegant.

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Belonging is the new HSC Area of Study but it’s more than that, it’s a fundamental human need. I tend to conceptualize belonging in the negative, to think of the outsider, of the person who doesn’t belong. I always identified with those characters in books, with Erika Yurken in Hating Alison Ashley, with Elspeth in The Obernewtyn Chronicles and with poor ignored Anne Eliot in Jane Austen’s Persuasion. Each character was competent in her own way but out of place within their family, school, society. What made them not fit? What made these characters square pegs in round holes? For Erika it is simply a matter of perception, she thinks herself better than (or different from) what she is and, when she finds herself, she finds that she fits exactly in her own place. Anne and Elspeth are both out of place because they are extraordinary. I was always attracted to this idea of not belonging because of being special.

I love this quote about Belonging:

Belonging is a circle that embraces everything; if we reject it, we damage our nature.
The word ‘belonging’ holds together the two fundamental aspects of life:
Being and Longing, the longing of our Being and the being of our Longing.
– John O’Donohue

It is what we are and what we want to be all wrapped up into one. In this module I’m looking forward to exploring the idea of belonging to a Place as well as to groups, communities and families.

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Last week year 9 submitted their essays on the poetry of Judith Wright and its perspectives on the relationship between the Australian people and the Australian landscape. Here are some of the points we came up with in class:

Bora Ring

  • a bora ring is an Aboriginal dancing circle, the one in the poem has been abandoned, which symbolises the loss of Aboriginal culture in modern Australia;
  • the tone of the poem changes from regret to anger at this loss;
  • Wright uses personification, “the grass stands up”, “the apple gums mime a past corroboree”, to reinforce the emotions in the poem;
  • she also uses biblical allusion, which shows her intended audience to be reasonably educated and Western.


  • this poem remembers the bullock teams and their drivers who were the lifeblood of inland Australian in the 18th and 19th centuries;
  • biblical allusion is again used to highlight the loneliness of the driver in a harsh landscape (he is pictured as Moses);
  • the poem ends on a high note, again using the image of Moses to portray the notion that the bullock drivers were founders of this “promised land”.

The Surfer

  • in this poem we shift our gaze from Australia’s past to its present;
  • intensely physical (sexual) imagery is used to express the connection between a surfer and his landscape, the ocean;
  • later in the poem the tone moves from joyful to sinister, with the sea being pictured as a wolf which snarls and gnaws on the beach.


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