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Cover image of the book An Australian Childhood

The enjoyment of a good story

Dr Anne Jamison
Narelle Ontivero
Deirdre Wildy
A fascinating look through the Library’s collection of nineteenth-century literature for Australian children.

From tales of colonial adventure to moralising educational tracts, children’s literature in nineteenth-century Australia played a significant role in educating children as the nation’s future citizens. As the Library’s collections demonstrate, Australia’s women writers also played a key part in this education.


Thyne Reid Trust Collection bookplate in Stirring Tales of Colonial Adventure: a book for boys (1894) by James Skipp Borlase
The Thyne Reid Trust Collection bookplate on the inside cover of James Skipp Borlase’s colonial adventure tales for boys published in 1894

Scottish-born Australian writer and political reformer, Catherine Helen Spence (1825-1910), believed that at the heart of a good education is ‘the enjoyment of a good story.’ Amusement and instruction, literature and education, are all seen to go hand in hand. For many nineteenth-century educationists, like Spence, literature also played a formative role in educating children to become active citizens of the nation and Australia’s women writers took a leading part in this literature.

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