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date: 17 August 2017

National Identity in Australian Literature

Summary and Keywords

On January 1, 1901, Australia became a nation; six British colonies—New South Wales, Victoria, South Australia, Queensland, Western Australia, and Tasmania—joined to form the Commonwealth of Australia. At the time of Federation, debates raged over who or what constituted a new national type; the forms best suited to convey the values these figures represented; and the proper settings for their stories. These arguments were had not only with aesthetic interests in mind but with a conscious awareness, or conviction, that literature had a special role to play in establishing what was (thought to be) unique about this new nation. Alliances between literature and the Australian nation have been observed, perpetuated, and contested since at least the last decades of the 19th century, and the result has been multiple imaginings of Australia with many conflicting ideas and interests at play. From the notion that Australia, as a “new nation,” might present white women with the opportunity to shed oppressive gender identities to indigenous knowledge systems questioning the very idea and authority of the nation, literary imaginings of Australia speak to national myths and political interventions alike.

Keywords: nation, settler colonialism, modernity, globalization, Australia, literature, transnationalism, gender, indigenous narratives

Australia: A Double Address

When Australia hosted the Olympic Games in 2000, the first act of the opening ceremony called on characters straight out of its national literature. To the cheers of the crowd and thousands of camera flashes, a white man on horseback cracking a whip entered the arena. He was quickly followed by 120 additional men on horses: “From the outback and from the mountains to the sea, Sydney and this pioneering land Australia welcome the world to the games of the 27th Olympiad in a real Aussie way,” the accompanying television broadcast commentary extolled.

It was a double address, one simultaneously intended for the nation and for the world. For the benefit of the latter, the commentary related that this whip-wielding horseman was none other than “The Man from Snowy River,” “immortalised in the poetry of Banjo Paterson.” For a non-Australian audience this identification might not have made the figure cloaked in a Driza-Bone (a raincoat of sorts) and Akubra (a hat) any more intelligible; that the soundtrack was the score of the early 1980s romantic drama film of the same name probably did not lend much to understanding, either. By contrast, for many Australian audience members the figure was instantly recognizable (even if they had never seen the film and even if they thought the performance cringe-worthy, a dated, testosterone-driven cliché that supported the fiction of white settlement). The initial few lines from Andrew Barton “Banjo” Paterson’s poem “The Man from Snowy River” (1890) are indelibly etched in collective memory:

There was movement at the station, for the word had passed around

That the colt from Old Regret had got away,

And joined the wild bush horses–he was worth a thousand pound.1

This shared recall is due to the perpetual position this poem enjoys on school syllabi—from the outback and from the mountains to the sea, as it were—as the nation’s preeminent folk ballad. Anita Heiss suggests as much in her novel for younger readers Who Am I? (2001). Set in the late 1930s through to the early 1940s, the novel tells of Mary, an indigenous girl of the Stolen Generations, forcibly removed from her family per government policy of the time, who notes meaningfully in her journal, “Today we all had to read out loud in class that famous poem ‘The Man From Snowy River’ … I thought it was a pretty boring poem … You’d reckon there’d be some newer books and poems we could read, wouldn’t ya?”2 While Mary’s protest is private at this point, Tyrone Smith in Bruce Pascoe’s young adult novel The Chainsaw File (2011) gets himself suspended for contesting publicly the version of Australian history he is taught at school, namely that Australia was “discovered” by Captain Cook.

Among those newer books and poems that Mary is perhaps discreetly, proleptically directing her contemporary readers toward include Lemon in the Chicken Wire (2016),3 a collection by Alison Whittaker, a Gomeroi poet from Gunnedah and Tamorth, north-western New South Wales, which relates in innovative forms queer indigenous identities in a rural town. This volume was published forty-two years after Oodgeroo Noonuccal (Kath Walker) published her first book of poetry, We Are Going,4 and in the context of a strong indigenous publishing history encouraged by wider Aboriginal political activism (acknowledged expressly in Larissa Behrendt’s novel Legacy [2009]; Jackie Huggins’s anthology Sister Girl [1998], and Pascoe’s The Chainsaw File); the establishment of presses in Australia such as Aboriginal Studies Press and Magabala Books, and in the wake of the commercial success of Sally Morgan’s life-writing narrative My Place (1987). This life-writing narrative marked a mainstream publishing breakthrough for both indigenous writing and many of the issues relating to indigenous identity and history that the text addresses.5 Whereas Mary is subjected in Heiss’s book to ideas about Aboriginality that are not her own, framed by a notion of national identity that Paterson’s Snowy River character represents, “newer books” such as Melissa Lucashenko’s Steam Pigs (1997) refuse Aboriginality as a fixed category and deliberately entertain the complexities of indigenous identities in postcolonial Australia.6

Yet just as Heiss’s Mary encourages her readers to look to newer texts, beyond those that form part of the national canon and shore up particular values and identities, Mary’s own circumstances are a sharp reminder of the specificities of many Aboriginal people’s traumatic experiences of removal and racism, which were attested to in the devastating Bringing Them Home Report (1997)7 and whose ongoing impact is painfully felt in Ruby Langford Ginibi’s biography of her son, Haunted by the Past (1999)8 as well as Larissa Behrendt’s Home (2004).9 Further, Mary’s call to look to “new poems and books” is also an implicit acknowledgement of ancient indigenous oral narrative traditions. Mary is telling her story in a conversational diary mode, after all, and this melding of oral and written forms is apparent too in Paddy Roe’s Gularabulu: Stories from the West Kimberley (1983),10 which insists on the vibrant, imaginative, and cultural modes of indigenous storytelling that the “Awakening” sequence of the Olympic ceremony registered in dramatic form. It is also at play in a series of books—Mamang (2011), Dwoort Baal Kaat (2013), Yira Boornak Nyininy (2013), and Noongar Mambara Bakitj (2011)—produced as part of the Wirlomin Noongar Language and Stories Project with Kim Scott.

A couple of acts on from the “The Man from Snow River” opening sequence, and with over one thousand performers from across Australia, the performance titled “Awakening” insisted on the diversity of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander cultures and identities: this emphasis was in stark contrast to the unvaried Akubra hats and horses in the previous segment. As such, it provided a complementary narrative to, if not critique of, the preceding “The Man from Snow River” item and the ideas of Australian identity it was asked to carry. Sam Watson Wagan’s poem, “Jaded Olympic Moments,” however, warns against any easy romantic images of indigeneity: “as the ochre-kissed women came out / and did their thing in the center of the stadium / we had tears in our eyes / thinking, that’s our mob! / but no, / only a romantic would think that.” The poem also recognizes colonialism’s ongoing cultural and linguistic impact on Aboriginal people: “it’s still very much an us and them kind of deal in this / modern dreaming, / we’re city people without a language.”11

“Modern dreaming” here insists on the complexities and historicity of indigenous identities, storytelling experiences, echoed in Eva Johnson’s play What Do They Call Me? (1989)—“Who has the magic formula to say what makes you Aboriginal?”12—and also captured in Mary’s resistance to the interpellative power of Paterson’s poem.

Yet beside any point for the Olympic ceremony is that confident recitations of Paterson’s poem usually peter out after its first three lines anyway, and that the ballad turns on unquestioned property rights inherited from English law (which are put under the narrative spotlight in Jack Cox’s novel Dodge Rose [2016]). The fact that the Sydney ceremony should have referenced so explicitly a late-19th-century poem (and its filmic afterlife) to introduce the nation to the world on the cusp of the 21st century speaks to the extent to which Banjo Paterson and “The Man from Snowy River” are household names in Australia, widely thought to express something unique about the nation. An image of Paterson is on one side of the nation’s ten dollar note; a portrait of the arguably less well-known poet, pacifist, editor, patron, and activist Mary Gilmore, who was scathing of British colonialism—“Their blood is black on our hands that nothing can purge,” she wrote in the poem “The Wild Swan”—is printed on the reverse side.13 It is Paterson’s poem that is remembered most and is widely thought to express a unique, shared understanding of the nation; it is Gilmore’s critique that the positioning of “The Man From Snowy River” as the founding moment of the Olympic ceremony sidesteps. On its own, the opening scene forgets post-invasion histories. Alongside “Awakening,” the “The Man from Snowy River” sequence arguably works to establish and naturalize Australia’s new myth of Australia, its Aboriginal and white belonging, its double indigeneity.

The Sydney Olympics’ staging of “The Man from Snowy River” suggests that some literature holds a particular place in (certain) imaginings of Australia, even as the question of the extent to which Australian literature has had a role to play in shaping the society it sometimes represents is a complex and contentious one. Also at play are ongoing resistances to those images of (white) Australia that the “The Man from Snowy River” sequence and poem perform, but which have played a part in representing Australia to itself and the world. This is so even as it is probable that more than Akubras and Driza-Bones, Australian Aboriginality is now recognized internationally as a marker of Australia’s apparent uniqueness, thanks to tourism campaigns such as that in 2008 by Tourism Australia—“Come Walkabout”—which worked as a tie-in with Baz Luhrmann’s film Australia (2008). At the least, the appearance of Paterson’s figure on the world stage points to the interest some authors have had in imagining Australia, its history, and its inhabitants in particular ways, and in shaping (contested) national identities that were persistent, if debated, throughout much of the late 19th and 20th centuries.


It is instructive that the directors of the Sydney Olympics opening ceremony declined to theatricalize the vehement sentiments toward Australia of the titular character in David Malouf’s novel Johnno (1975), “I’m going to shit this bitch of a country right out of my system … I’ll have squeezed the whole fucking continent out through my arsehole. I’ll have got rid of it for ever.”14 An audience’s puzzlement at that hypothetical opening act can only be surmised. Postwar restlessness and existential ennui put Johnno in a frame of mind substantially different to that which calls on “The Man from Snowy River” to acquaint the world with Australia’s cultural heritage and identity, or at least one version of it.

Johnno might be understood as having internalized what A.A. Phillips nominated in the late 1950s “the cultural cringe”: prevalent self-imaginings of Australia and, by extension, Australians as “lacking,” as willingly conceding authority and superiority especially to Britain, which literature had a hand in registering, repeating, and questioning. A.D. Hope’s poem “Australia” (1943), written in the late 1930s, imagines Australia “Without songs, architecture, history”; for good measure, Australia is also presented as “A woman beyond her change of life, a breast / Still tender but within the womb is dry.”15 (Hope was made an Officer of the Order of the British Empire in 1972; in 1981 he was awarded the Companion of the Order of Australia for services to literature, notably not to feminism). It is a self-fashioning registered in Shirley Hazzard’s novel The Transit of Venus (1980), when two Australian sisters, Caroline and Grace Bell, are formally instructed at school in European and British history, with lessons for one week only on Australian history because “History itself proceeded, gorgeous, spiritualized, without a downward glance at Australia.”16

For Johnno, Australia’s modernity (and specifically his suburban hometown of Brisbane that wartime inducts into modernity, a place inhabited by equally bored characters years later in Andrew McGahan’s Praise [1992]), is hostile to imagination. It is an idea that found earlier expression in D.H. Lawrence’s Kangaroo (1923), which determined Australia to be “the friendliest country in the world … But without a core. There was no heart in it all, it seemed hollow.”17 In the eyes of Johnno (which is not a view endorsed wholeheartedly by the narrative in which he features), Australia is the antithesis of European sensibility, prompting him and his narrator-friend Dante to travel elsewhere to seek out this elusive and highly desirable sensitivity.

When Christos Tsiolkas has his photographer-protagonist Isaac travel from Australia to Europe years later in Dead Europe (2005), however, the character enters (with no Virgil-like guide) a “hell” of anti-Semitism, pornography, Balkan vampirism and sociopathy. In this nightmarish scenario, Australia is a place to return to rather than one to escape from, although it is no longer (if it ever was) the land that is “young and free,” as Australia’s national anthem, “Advance Australia Fair,” would have it. As with Alex Miller’s The Ancestor Game (1992), which turns on a sense of cultural displacement at the heart of any claim of belonging in Australia, the binary that has historically and powerfully paired Australia and Europe to distance, differentiate, and variously value the two places no longer holds. In Tsiolkas’s novel, this state of affairs has been brought about by economic globalization and “world history”; Australia and Europe are understood to have a shared past that continues to haunt and pervert their present. Tsiolkas’s vision is certainly not one of celebratory multiculturalism that Australian governments since the 1970s have (unevenly) promoted as part of Australia’s national image of fairness and tolerance, and as integral to Australia’s “competitive edge” in the global economy. It is a far cry too from versions of Australian life that found expression over a century earlier.


The 1890s, prior to Federation, is seen in retrospect as an important decade for the emergence in Australia of a national literature as well as political debate over the future of the colonies. As Benedict Anderson’s work on nations and “imagined communities” reminds us, nations are made, at least in part, from the stories they tell about and to themselves. Among the publications cited as influential in both realms of public life at the time is The Bulletin, a Sydney-based magazine that has been well-documented by Sylvia Lawson. The Bulletin published the works of Paterson as well as Henry Lawson, arguably one of Australia’s most well-known authors, although Lawson cast the bush and its commonplace (non-indigenous) inhabitants in realist (but certainly not conventional bourgeois realist) terms, shunning the romantic representations of brave horsemen found in Paterson’s work. Those who published in its pages were part of a wider conversation, oftentimes racist and xenophobic, about what, and who, might constitute in the new century the new man and new nation, which the newspaper strongly argued for at the time in its editorials and content. It was the land designated (through settler eyes) as “the bush” that proved to be a suggestive site for many late 19th century writers engaged in the ushering in of national characters and narratives, with “the bush” coming to function as a synecdoche of Australia itself.

It is a very different attitude toward the land and writing, and indeed identity, from that exercised by indigenous people and Dreaming stories. These stories are diverse, multiply interpreted, oftentimes specific to place, and can be gendered insofar as there are men’s stories and women’s stories, and accessible by people of specific ages. They are told in dance, painting, and voice, as well as the written word. And in them, the land is not a subject that the author might select to narrate, or not. Rather, physical sites are inseparable from storytelling, and are concerned with the universe and the place of people, animals, plants, and spiritual interrelationships within it, rather than building or maintaining a geopolitical nation now known as Australia. Jack Davis’s play The Dreamers (1982) underscores the importance and persistence of Dreaming stories for an old Noongar man, Uncle Worru, despite the violence and values British colonialism imposed.

Admittedly “the bush” had served as a literary setting for non-indigenous writers well before the late 19th century. The novellas constituting Mary Vidal’s Tales for the Bush (1845)—to take but one example—offered Christian instruction to the lower classes rather than nationalist ambitions. And tales included in later edited collections such as Mrs. Patchett Martin’s Coo-ee: Tales of Australian Life by Australian Ladies (1891) designed “the bush” to appeal to the curiosities, fears, and fantasies of readers in the imperial metropolis (the Australian bush is populated by mythic bunyips, dead children, savage Aborigines [if present at all] who are denied contemporaneity, and temperance romances) as well as to assert certain particularities about Australia to audiences in the colonies. “Waif Wanderer,” “W.W.” (Mary Fortune) published hundreds of detective stories in The Australian Journal, including “The Dead Witness; or, The Bush Waterhole” (1866), which has its male detective-protagonist Constable Brooke carry out his work against the backdrop of “the bush.”

Literary references to “the bush” were less anchored in a material place than ideas, and ideals. Conceptions of “the bush” that underpinned much of the work of Lawson and other Bulletin writers were at some ideological as well as spatial remove from the rapidly developing capital cities where the majority of the colonial population lived. It is true and important to recognize, however, that while Lawson wrote of bush battlers in pieces such as “The Bush Undertaker” (1893), he represented urban poverty in stories such as “Jones’s Alley” (first collected in While the Billy Boils [1896]) and as such must be seen as contributing also to a long history of writing about “the city” in Australian literature.

Fergus Hume, for example, authored the highly successful The Mystery of a Hansom Cab (1886), set in colonial Melbourne; later Christina Stead’s modernist novel Seven Poor Men of Sydney (1934) and Ruth Park’s Harp in the South (1948) depicted slum-living characters in Sydney. Dymphna Cusack and Florence James’s Come in Spinner (1951) tells the story of three women who work in a Sydney beauty salon at the end of the Second World War. In the 1970s, Helen Garner’s Melbourne in Monkey Grip (1977) was read as an experiment in how to live outside middle-class strictures and expectations. Gail Jones’s Five Bells (2011), part homage to Kenneth Slessor’s elegy of the same name from 1939, has the aesthetically heightened urban space of Sydney’s Circular Quay imprinted with memories, desire, trauma, and loss. Fiona McGregor’s Indelible Ink (2010), set in the first decade of the 21st century and in the day of a dying conservative federal government, weaves the lives of family members also in Sydney.

And complicating this “city and the bush” schema further is the presence of “suburbia” in Australian fiction including Patrick White’s mid-century fictional suburb of Sarsaparilla in Riders in the Chariot (1961), which boasts not only houses, streets, and shops but also religious visionaries. In George Johnston’s My Brother Jack (1964), the suburb of Elsternwick, with its “sad, tidy habitations” is yoked with childhood and there is more than a suggestion that both are to be grown out of.18

Another site that has proven suggestive for writers in the second half of the 20th century and into the next, concerned with how places might shape social relations and, more broadly, national identities, is the beach. Neville Shute’s near-futurist, apocalyptic On the Beach (1957) tells of the existential fallout of nuclear war in the northern hemisphere as radiation makes its way to the beaches of Melbourne. (Another more recent book that is set in the near future, imagines a dystopian Melbourne, and has its narrator on the beach [in this instance collecting bottle tops] is Shaun Tan’s graphic text, The Lost Thing [2000].) The beach has proven to be a popular setting for many contemporary stories about Australia and Australian (sub)culture, including Kathy Lette and Gabrielle Carey’s female coming of age novel Puberty Blues (1979) and Tara Jane Winch’s Swallow the Air (2006), which takes further the critique of sexist male surfer culture Puberty Blues makes to recognize also its racism, “a blade caresses my cheek like a sympathetic breeze. ‘This gunna show ya where ya don’t belong dumb black bitch’”19 “The beach” is also the setting for Robert Drewe’s The Bodysurfers (1983), Fortune (1986), and short story collection The Rip (2008); and Tim Winton’s volume of short stories The Turning (2004), novel Breath (2008), and memoir Land’s Edge: A Coastal Memoir (2010), all of which have enjoyed popular success.

For many authors living in the decade prior to the new 20th century, however, looking to make a career for themselves from writing and seeking to imagine Australia as something unique and not England (such was the anti-imperial tenor), urban centers and their citizens merely mimicked imperial centers and values. For the visiting American writer Mark Twain, however, “American trimmings” were in abundance; he related this observation of Australia repeatedly in his travelogue Following the Equator (1897), underscoring the values observers can bring to their reported experiences. Another case in point is Charles Dickens, whose weekly journals Household Words (1850–1859) and All the Year Round (1859–1895) had a keen interest in antipodean matters and an audience that spanned England and the colonies in Australia, with Dickens’s articles reprinted in local newspapers and journals. (London publication houses dominated the colonial literary market as the main producer and distributor of works written by Australian authors and works with Australian themes.) Dickens’s early periodical writing coincided with the discovery of gold in eastern Australia, and this event led the author, as a keen advocate of social improvement, to no longer conceive of Australia as a penitentiary. (In Dickens’s Great Expectations [1861] Magwitch is deported for life to the colony of New South Wales, where he becomes wealthy; the classic Australian novel of convict life is Marcus Clarke’s For the Term of His Natural Life [1874].) Australia instead is envisaged as a place of opportunity and a “new start,” particularly for England’s poor.

Whatever qualities or features variously attributed to urban spaces, the complex interest Ada Cambridge’s romance novel The Three Miss Kings (1891) has in the various “trades” between the empire and its colonies—the female characters are “on display” much like the commodities on show as part the 1880 Melbourne International Exhibition represented in the text—was of little interest and relevance to the rapidly developing bush myth. At some distance from urban settlement, qualities apparently authentic to Australia (and its bush landscape), such as masculine mateship and self-sufficiency to the point of isolationism, and ordinariness (as exemplified in Steele Rudd’s sketches On Our Selection [1899]) were seen to be taking shape while debates over the literary aesthetic (and gender politics) of the bush were also occurring.

At least two “versions” of the bush emerged, as J.B. Hirst has suggested in his piece “The Pioneer Legend” (1982). The first is that of the bush frontier, which drew from American literary models as well as the experience of colonial “settlement” and was fronted by the hard-bitten, itinerant male bush worker whose egalitarian ethos resonated with both anti-colonial sentiments and nascent labor movement politics. The figure was already open to satire in Joseph Furphy’s Such is Life: Being Certain Extracts from the Diary of Tom Collins (1903). The radical nationalist historian Russel Ward wrote at some length of this (highly romanticized) bush type and ethos in his book The Australian Legend (1958), setting out to analyze its origins by drawing on literary examples but also, in the end, arguing for its political relevance, which was highly contested during the Cold War era the book entered. In literary terms, this bush myth as it was imagined in the works of The Bulletin writers was critically reassessed, also mid-century, by Vance Palmer in his book The Legend of the Nineties (1954). This was a period in which literary scholarship in Australian universities was moving toward formalism and away from any search for an “essence of Australianity,” which poet and academic James McAuley decried,20 along with others including A.D. Hope, Vincent Buckley, and G.A Wilkes. The second version of “the bush” takes on the pastoral mode, which was agrarian, relatively optimistic, and populated by the figure of the pioneer. Steele Rudd’s championing of the farmer in On an Australian Farm (1910) is one example. From the 1970s, feminist literary scholars and historians including Marilyn Lake, Anne Summers, Miriam Dixon, Susan Sheridan, and Kay Schaffer would rigorously question the masculine basis and bias of both bush legends, pointing out the way in which white women, since the beginning of British colonization, had been figured as symbolic boundary markers in material and literary frontier scenarios.

Earlier, in his preface to Adam Lindsay Gordon’s poetry collection, Sea Spray and Smoke Drift (1867), the writer Marcus Clarke had explicitly linked what he saw in Gordon’s work as “something very like the beginnings of a national school of Australian poetry” to “the dominant note of Australian scenery,” namely the “Weird Melancholy” that was apparently a quality of the bush. His version and vision of the bush was distinct from that of Lawson, taking cues from paintings by Russian-born Nicholas Chevalier, who worked in the colony of Victoria during the mid-century, and Swiss-born Louis Buvelot, who influenced the later Heidelberg School of painters. For a writer such as Barbara Baynton, however, “the bush,” in her collection of short stories Bush Studies (1902), was not so much weirdly melancholic as threatening and alienating, and something that women and men experienced radically differently. That a woman is left crushed by a tree while clearing the bush on the frontier in Baynton’s short story “Squeaker’s Mate,” and her companion, the male selector, is unmoved by and uncomprehending of her plight, leaves no room for ambiguity on this matter of gendered bush experiences.

However, it is to the idea of Australia as a “frontier” that more recent texts such as David Malouf’s Remembering Babylon (1993), Bruce Pascoe’s Earth (2001), Kate Grenville’s The Secret River (2006), Philip McLarren’s Sweet Water—Stolen Land (1993), Jack Davis’s play Kullark (1982), Kim Scott’s That Deadman Dance (2010), Rodney Hall’s Captivity Captive (1988), and Richard Flannagan’s picaresque and deliberately longwinded Gould’s Book of Fish (2001) have turned in order to grapple with and represent the colonial past, particularly in ways that positivist historiography might not recognize. While each has its own specificity, these texts less uphold the figure of the pioneer and the colonial project it underwrites than recognize the frontier as a contested border zone where cultures, values, identities, and narratives communicate (albeit asymmetrically), and physical and epistemological violence is exerted. These texts do not so much, or only, re-present Australia’s historical past. They question the ideas and images that attach to that past in the present, with its heightened knowledge of the injustices and brutality indigenous people suffered, and continue to live the effects of, in the process of British colonization.

That said, an emerging national literature was thought responsive to “the land” because of the supposed particularity of the latter (even as Clarke’s apprehension of the melancholic bush is indebted to Edgar Allan Poe, as he acknowledges). And it became the setting for the sensational literary exploits of bushrangers (from David Burn’s stage play The Bushrangers [1829] to Rolf Boldrewood’s honorable Captain Starlight in Robbery Under Arms [1888] and Randolph Stow children’s classic Midnite ([967], to Thomas Keneally’s The Chant of Jimmy Blacksmith [1972], Peter Carey’s True History of the Kelly Gang [2000], and cinematic representations in The Proposition [2005]) as well as exploration narratives, diggers, family sagas, debates over Aboriginal people and their representations, stories of lost children, adventure narratives (including the popular romance of Marie Bjelke Peterson Jewelled Nights [1923], which sees a cross-dressing female protagonist head to the remote Tasmanian wilderness to mine for a rare metal), and existential crises—well beyond the late 19th century.

Implicitly acknowledging this lineage and inheritance, Joan Lindsay’s Picnic at Hanging Rock (1967), for example, tells of the mysterious disappearance of a group of schoolgirls from a Valentine’s Day picnic in central Victoria, set in 1900; Colleen McCullough’s bestselling epic The Thorn Birds (1977) spans the years 1915–1969 with its focus on the Cleary family and their lives on a sheep station. In a completely different thematic and formal register, Voss, the titular protagonist of Patrick White’s 1957 novel, journeys into the Australian interior, toward oblivion. Voss (1957) is partly modeled on the story of the naturalist Ludwig Leichhardt, a Prussian naturalist who undertook several expeditions into the Australian interior, disappearing in the 1840s while seeking to pioneer an overland route from Brisbane (on the east coast) to Perth (on the west coast). Where White departs from Leichhardt, however, is in imagining Australia not as a naturalist would but rather as a modernist. White takes seriously the geographic and metaphoric connotations of “the interior,” plotting Voss’s physical journey as a psychological one. It is an enduring literary trope in Australian literature: Gerard Murnane’s enigmatic novella The Plains (1982) casts the imagination of a filmmaker in such spatial form; Eve Sallis notably rewrites the trope in Hiam (1998) to tell a story of cultural alienation, mourning, and religious redemption centered on its female Arab migrant protagonist’s road journey “North” from Adelaide. In 1973, White was awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature “for an epic and psychological narrative art which has introduced a new continent into literature”; in 1957, the first Miles Franklin Literary Award went to Voss, a novel that was seen in Australia at the time to be introducing to the continent a new type of literature.

New Nation, New Gender

Authors such as Ada Cambridge, “Tasma” (Jessie Couvreur), Catherine Martin, and Rosa Praed (writing as R. Murray Prior), meanwhile, were imagining late-19th-century Australia and Australian identity in somewhat different terms. In romances with suggestive titles such as An Australian Heroine (1888) and The Maid of the River: An Australian Girl’s Love Story (1905), and Martin’s An Australian Girl (1890), Australia was implicitly conceived of as a site in which conventional (white) gendered identities and power relations could be called into question, at least to some degree.

Insofar as Australia was understood as a “new nation,” there was also the possibility that it might not be entirely accountable to the traditions and expectations the old world was thought to place on women and men. That said, another felled tree puts paid to Judy, the daring young “Australian Girl” in Ethel Turner’s children’s book Seven Little Australians (1894), tempering any unbridled enthusiasm for Australia as a (first-wave feminist) haven. Half a century later in war-time Sydney, Laura and Clare Vaizey are psychologically imprisoned by the repressed and misogynistic Felix Shaw in Elizabeth Harrower’s The Watch Tower (1966), the city itself tellingly “tawdry, dirty, flimsy as a fun-fair, grit falling from half-demolished buildings,” its streets “blighted.”21 And the central, androgynous bisexual character/soul in Patrick White’s The Twyborn Affair (1979), Eudoxia/Eddie Twyborn, or Eadie Trist, has to leave postwar Australia and the inhibiting heterosexual masculinity the remote New South Wales station, at which Eddie works as a jackaroo, represents. (As it happens the station is located on the edge of the Snowy Mountains, the very (hyperbolic) region from which Paterson’s The Man From Snowy River hails, “Where the hills are twice as steep and twice as rough, / Where a horse's hoofs strike firelight from the flint stones every stride, / The man that holds his own is good enough). As another character in The Twyborn Affair observes, “Australia is not for everyone.”22 It was a sentiment shared by many writers and artists (Charmian Clift, George Johnston, Sidney and Cynthia Nolan, Barry Humphries, Clive James, Germaine Greer, to name but a few) who left Australia in the 1950s and 1960s to seek out environments elsewhere that were thought to be conducive to creativity and intellectual enquiry in a way that postwar Australia was deemed not to be.

With those details firmly acknowledged, the female “Australian Girl” protagonists in late-19th- and early-20th-century novels showed pluck and daring that marked them out from their comparatively staid and conventional counterparts at the center of empire. At least, this difference was in part how the Australian Girl’s distinctive identity was determined. At a time when writers at the metropolis were registering the coming of the New Woman, Australian authors were also questioning the fin de siècle roles and identities of white women that the “young” nation of Australia threw into particular relief, and which offered new, if not quite known, possibilities. The conclusion of Henry Handel Richardson’s coming-of-age story, The Getting of Wisdom (1910), sees its protagonist Laura Tweedle Rambotham discard her school satchel, hat, and gloves (into the inheriting hands of her uncomprehending younger sister) and run off “growing smaller and smaller” into that distant and indistinct future.23

Even so, the plot requirements of the romances in which any of these Australian Girls routinely found themselves very often saw them cast them into the heterosexual arms of suitable mates in the service of the new nation and its enterprises. In Praed’s The Maid of the River, for example, the female protagonist (unwed and with an “illegitimate” child by an English cad) has a moment of romantic realization that her proper role is as a wife to “a true Australian … It was men like him of whom Australia stood in need, to guide her counsels and to develop her resources.”24 The marking out of Australia as a place rich with reserves awaiting benevolent exploitation and commodification conveniently overlooks indigenous presence and ownership in the service of colonial-capitalist interests. It was this picturing of (Western) Australia as a “resource” that Katherine Susannah Prichard later called into question in her novel Golden Miles (1948), set in the goldfields; a drought-stricken, disappearing gold-mining town, marked by metaphysical and environment despoliation, rather than abundance, is at the heart of Randolph Stow’s novel Tourmaline (1963). That Australia is also characterized in Praed’s romance as female, requiring “guidance,” points to the persistence of gendered tropes that motivated and authorized colonial proprietorship and governance. And that the story’s “true Australian” Willy Chase omits the female protagonist’s previous seduction—quite radically, in the context of fiction of the time—underscores just how “splendid, kindly, honest [a] creature” he is.25

Representing Indigeneity

Other stories tell of what these turn-of-the-century romances cannot, of Aboriginal men and women murdered, forced into domestic slavery and station-hand labor, and displaced from their lands. Katharine Susannah Prichard’s Coonardoo (1929; first serialized in the Bulletin and published under a pseudonym) was arguably one of the first novels to provide a sympathetic (and romanticized) portrait of an indigenous woman “employed” as a housekeeper on a white-owned cattle station. When Aboriginal characters did appear in earlier literature, it was as marginal figures at best. Prichard’s narrative was deeply shocking to many of its first readers because of its depiction of interracial sexuality, something that the Officer in Charge of the Native Compound in Xavier Herbert’s novel Capricornia (1938) damningly considers to be at the heart of white national policy and identity:

Were they to flourish and be incorporated into the life of the Nation the problem of miscegenation would become great. The prudes who ruled the Nation were afraid of that. To prevent it they would rather wipe out the Aborigines—wipe out a race! That in a nutshell was the reason of the National Government’s vast and almost incredible callosity.26

Herbert’s novel works to expose the physical, economic, and epistemological violence involved in imagining Australia white. Not only did this project of making Australia white uphold British claims to land and the indigenous dispossession this proprietorship involved, but it also found expression in immigration policies that can be traced from restrictions on Chinese labor in the 1850s through to the late 1970s when non-discriminatory immigration policy was officially introduced. As Brian Castro writes in his novel The Garden Book (2005), which sensitively traces connections between China and Australia through its characters’ desires and quests, “The day Australia woke to a national identity, it fell asleep on the thorn of racial prejudice. It was defined by its wound.”27

The bicentenary year of 1988 was a public and political flashpoint for the exposure of such wounds. A national celebration of “British settlement,” commemorative medals were struck and distributed to schoolchildren across the country. Yet, the bicentenary also served to question its own narratives. Funded by the Australian Bicentennial Authority, Kate Grenville’s novel Joan Makes History (1988) told (gendered) stories of Australian history that official accounts had sidelined, for instance. Further, it was a time when the meaning and implications of white invasion were widely debated, underscoring the need for reconciliation as detailed in the “The Redfern Speech” delivered by Prime Minister Paul Keating in 1992 and in Prime Minister Kevin Rudd’s “Apology to Australia’s Indigenous Peoples” in 2008.

It is not that these issues and histories that indigenous people knew all too well had not before been known or discussed openly. In the immediate years prior to the anniversary date, Jack Davis’s play No Sugar (1986) offered theatrical critique of national-colonial policies; the film clip to David Bowie’s song Let’s Dance (1983) imagined and critiqued Australia as a place of white prosperity and privilege not least with images of an Aboriginal woman (Jolene King) pointlessly scrubbing clean a road congested with traffic and working at the feet of a white woman, a representation that recalls for an international audience images of American plantation-era slave labor and mammies. It also underscored modern indigenous agency by means of the central, dancing indigenous couple (King and Terry Roberts). But the bicentenary made more urgent alternative stories of the nation and those who live within its enforced boundaries.

Contemporary indigenous writers very often call into question the very applicability of a national identity named “Australian.” Benang (1999) and That Deadman Dance (2011) by Kim Scott (a member of the Noongar community), and Carpentaria (2006) by Alexis Wright (a member of the Waanyia nation of the Gulf of Carpentaria Country) are books that are not “within the imagined borders that have been forced” on Aboriginal people, to quote Wright’s assessment of her own writing.28Carpentaria, set in the fictional town of Desperance in Gulf Country of north-western Queensland and focused on the Phantom family, pushes at the limits of the novel form and the regulatory role it has played in consolidating and self-validating both colonialism and nationalism. And while not sidestepping for a moment the impact of invasion on indigenous lives and the land—the debris of 19th-century white settlement, “thousands of bits and pieces of chipped and broken china–sugar-bears, yellow chickens, spotted dogs, and pink babies of lost cargo,”29 litters the Gulf of Carpentaria of the text—indigenous social relationships (including enmities), stories and knowledge are prioritized. There is no assumption that Australia’s geographic or ideational borders neatly correspond with indigenous understandings of identity and place or, indeed, that these borders are, or have been, a primary source of authority, identity, or social agency. The Phantoms are members of the Picklebush people of Gulf Country.

Global Australia

If texts such as Wright’s and Scott’s unsettle the idea that “Australian life” is a shared, knowable, and inclusive category that might find uncomplicated expression in a national literature, other determinations have sought to fix and locate it, if not in literature then by means of the frameworks deployed to construct and identify a national literature. Christopher Koch’s novel The Year of Living Dangerously (1978), for example, was expressly excluded from consideration for the Miles Franklin Award because, although Australians are counted among its characters, it is set in Indonesia and hence was deemed not to be “about” Australian life at all.

The provenance of “Australia literature” can be illuminated by the criteria novels must exhibit to be considered for the Miles Franklin Literary Award, or, more accurately, by the debates that have taken place around the meaning of the criteria the award promotes. The Miles Franklin Literary Award is arguably Australia’s most prestigious literary prize, whatever “literary” might mean. There is a case to be made, for example, to consider the song ballads of Paul Kelly, telling of travelling in silver-top taxis in the city of Melbourne (“To Her Door” [1987]) as narratives in a musical mode at not too great a remove from those late-19th-century folk ballads now regarded as Australian literature. Similarly the songs penned by David McComb for his band The Triffids, with “Wide Open Road” (1986), which regularly appears in “top 5” Australian songs lists, conveying both lyrically and sonically an Australia of distances and heat (as well as the desires and longings these inspire) that would perhaps be recognizable to the explorer character of Voss in White’s novel of that name. The prize is awarded annually to a novel deemed to display the highest literary merit (however that might be measured) and to present “Australian life in any of its phases” (whatever that and they might be).

The award was established through the will of Miles Franklin, the author of My Brilliant Career (1901). A much-lauded kunstlerroman regularly taught in Australian high schools and universities today, its female first-person protagonist Sybylla Melvyn resists the all-too-familiar turn-of-the-century romance plot: her quest is to become a writer rather than to be a wife. (It is unclear whether she will achieve the former ambition; the latter opportunity she refuses twice. The first time the wealthy landowner Harold Beecham proposes to Sybylla [she later retracts her acceptance] she impulsively strikes her new fiancé in the face with a horsewhip rather returning the kiss he offers her.)

Franklin expressly positioned literature as central to any understanding of, and belonging in, Australia, claiming that, “Without an indigenous literature, people can remain alien in their own soil.”30 P.R. “Inky” Stephensen, whose work influenced the jingoistic Jindyworobak group, had earlier determined that Australia was a nation without a literary culture. In his manifesto The Foundations of Culture in Australia (1936), he called for the creation of “our own indigenous culture” and set about this self-appointed project in part by drawing on, or appropriating, what he and others viewed as Aboriginal tropes and “themes” to rid poetry of imperial vestiges such as pastoralism.31 It is a poetic inheritance also grappled with by John Kinsella in poetry collections such as The Silo: A Pastoral Symphony (1995), albeit with very different political motivations and commitments given the Jindyworobaks’s conservative if not fascistic leanings. Recalling with some irony the five-part structure of Beethoven’s “Pastoral Symphony” (1808), Kinsella’s work, self-reflexive and socially critical, witnesses not idyllic idealization but ecological catastrophe wrought by settler farming practices in the Western Australian wheatbelt.

A list of disqualified texts was last published for the Miles Franklin Award in 1994, and judging panels now arguably interpret their brief more creatively. This shift in how the criteria of the Miles Franklin Award are construed recognizes that imaginings of Australia, national identities and their interpretations, are composite configurations that respond to and inform wider social values and experiences. Australian life and literature might well include transnational and global “phases,” as well as ones more introspectively critical and manifold. Yet, this global turn is not necessary something new. Mrs. Patchett Martin’s preface to Coo-ee: Tales of Australian Life by Australian Ladies is suggestive of past global conceptualizations of Australia: “I venture to express a hope that our ‘Coo-ee’ … may linger pleasantly round the Bush Station and by the English fireside.”32 It is arguable that some late-19th-century cultural producers already saw themselves and their work as operating across nascent, in the case of Australia, national borders, as being connected unapologetically to the world, albeit a world unevenly structured economically, culturally, and politically by colonial power relations.

Such transnational relations between Australia and other nations, identities, and cultures are apparent in Randolph Stow’s Visitants (1979), for example. Set on the Trobriand Islands in 1959 (when Papua New Guinea was under Australian administration), the story is formally and thematically suggestive of the uneven interconnections between the Kiriwina and their white administrators; the story is told in fragments of entangled voices, the colonial voices of the planters and patrol officers, who do not understand themselves to be “visitors,” as well as the voices of the Kiriwina. Fragments are also important for Nicholas Jose’s short story collection Bapo (2014). These stories have a thematic interest in Australia-China relations. The rivalry between two women in the story “Empress and Shaman” is mapped in familiar geopolitical terms, “China growing and emerging, the West making a strategic withdrawal, redefining itself—and Hong Kong in the middle living it out, as we have done in our different ways.”33 Further, the volume takes its stylistic cue from a technique of uncommon Chinese painting that tricks the eye into seeing a collage of fragments.

Ouyang Yu’s volume of poetry Self Translation (2012) similarly resists singular vision. While “Song for an Exile in Australia” might tell of a “poemless season in Australia,”34 it is not A.D. Hope’s vision of Australia’s artistic desolation that is presented. Instead, there is irony—after all, there is this poem, which puts paid to the absence suggested—and there are other poems too in the volume that alternate and combine the languages of Chinese and English, with one effect being that attention is drawn to the role language has in shaping identity beyond any one nation. Brian Castro’s novel Shanghai Dancing (2003) is a fictional autobiography, also fragmentary by means of shifts in techniques and perspectives. Its punning writer-protagonist nominates himself “a bit of a disorientalist”;35 born in Hong Kong and resident in Australia for forty years, he returns to China; the stories related of his parents and ancestors confound and complicate any stable sense of self and memory.

Antigone Kefala’s diasporic protagonist of the eponymous novella in the volume Summer Visit (2002) also travels, albeit briefly, to a country of her childhood where she is both a tourist and overwhelmed by a sense of intimate familiarity. This novella ends mid-air, with the protagonist on a return flight to Australia tellingly contemplating “the static wing of the plane, alone in the dark universe” while the film The Man from Snowy River II (1988) plays as part of the inflight entertainment.36 The appearance in the novella of the sequel to the film based on Paterson’s poem recognizes the persistence of an image of Australia and national identity that Kefala’s story calls into question. Gail Jones’s novel Dreams of Speaking (2006) begins and ends in Australia as Alice Black, a young Australian academic relocates to Paris to write a book on modern things and meets Mr Sakamoto, a survivor of the bomb dropped on Nagasaki. Mr Sakamoto is writing a biography of Alexander Graham Bell and playfully tells Alice at one point, “Think of your Australian kangaroo … The kangaroo is truly unmodern.”37 The two characters are drawn together by their shared fascination with the technologies of modernity that have arguably helped to usher in new “global” perceptions of social relations and identities that Australian literature registers.

It might be said that Australia has always been imagined “globally,” at least if such a condition is dated from Pythagoras, who theorized quite some time ago now the presence of southern lands counteracting the weight of northern hemisphere landmasses. Crucially, however, this vision did not extend to the possibility of people living there with their own sets of understandings and oral cultures about the land they lived with. Yet, this hypothesis of “balanced” interdependence is a reminder that “the global” is not a natural space or set of relations any more than the nation is, but rather is a discursive practice that assists in the production of its ostensible subject. It is also true that Australia and Australian identity has been persistently imagined in its literature in relation to elsewhere—particularly England; more broadly, Europe and also Asia—even as, at the same time, efforts have been expended on discovering, asserting, and questioning Australia’s singular character. It is these shifting imaginings of Australia that literature represents, confounding, questioning, and underscoring both the double address and the national figure that are registered in the first act of the Sydney Olympics opening ceremony.

Review of the Literature

Scholarship on representations of national identity and its various aspects in Australian literature is pervasive and diverse. As the debates in academic and popular realms over the terms (and their interpretations) of the Miles Franklin Award alone suggest, persistent attention has been given to how Australia is variously imagined in Australian literature, and why such representations might matter when it comes to thinking about identity.

Mid-20th century studies such as Vance Palmer’s The Legend of the Nineties (1954), R. M. Crawford’s Australia (1952), and Russel Ward’s The Australian Legend (1958) drew attention to representations of Australia and Australian identity in Australian literature. In so doing, they worked on the conviction that imaginative texts could be read with such interests in mind and within a framework that rested on an idea of the nation. They also were presented in the spirit of adding positively to the stock of knowledge about the nation and its culture. This was at a time not only when some doubt about the value of Australian literature was at play (at least according to A.A. Phillip’s “cultural cringe” thesis) but also when international currents in literary scholarship that academics in Australian universities were attuned to increasingly favored formal concerns. The Bulletin writers of the 1890s, including authors such as Henry Lawson and A.B. Paterson, were singled out for particular attention by these mid-century studies because some of their work was written in a pre-nation period, when debates over the future of the British colonies were vociferous and thought to be registered in the ballads, poetry, and short stories the magazine published.

Mid-century scholarly works took for granted the gendered (and racialized) lens that was trained on literary representations of Australia. This assumption shaped the production of figures such as the iconoclastic “bushman” and the radical nationalist “Australian Legend,” and was largely silent on the violence, both material and epistemological, against indigenous bodies, lands, and knowledge that British colonialism involved. Later, beginning in the 1970s (a decade in which the Association for the Study of Australian Literature was first established), feminists gave their attention to the same period (as well as other eras, of course). And they pointed out the limitations of such frameworks, directing attention to the role of white women in producing popular literature (romances, adventure stories, detective fictions, short stories, and poetry) that also often featured white women as agents and symbols of national identities and borders.

The work of Aileen Moreton-Robinson, Talkin’ Up to the White Woman (2000), drawing on and contributing to the fields of whiteness studies and postcolonial theory, rightly argued that such feminist scholarship had a tendency to speak about women in the past and the present as though their presumed shared identities, experiences, and representations “as Australians” hinged on gender, with little or no consideration of race, or to speak for indigenous women as a homogeneous grouping. Penny van Toorn’s book Writing Never Arrives Naked: Early Aboriginal Cultures of Writing in Australia (2006) underscored that “literature” is a freighted term in colonial contexts such as Australia, which has not undergone decolonization, and turned critical attention to the many writing strategies historically practiced in indigenous cultures and communities that unsettle any presumption that “Australia” or “literature” are categories to be taken for granted.

Studies on the representation of Australia (and Australian identity) in Australian literature register wider issues that have persistently marked political, cultural, and social life in Australia and are registered thematically in aspects of literature: migration, indigenous rights and reconciliation, gender equality, the environment, and Australia’s place in the world, for example. Recent edited collections by Peter Pierce (The Cambridge History of Australian Literature [2009]), Elizabeth Webby (The Cambridge Companion to Australian Literature [2000]), Judith Ryan and Chris Wallace-Crabbe (Imagining Australia: Literature and Culture in the New World [2004]), and others underscore such interest, its breadth and depth. A variety of methodologies are recruited to produce their subject, from poetics to postmodernism as well as the recent methodological (re-)turn to global literatures, and transcultural and transnational frameworks in literary studies, which have put under pressure the notion of nation as a category of analysis. Interests in regionalism (from the Asia-Pacific “region” to regions internal to the borders of the nation such as the Western Australian wheatbelt and suburbs) resonate with these broader literary trends.

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Scott, Kim, Hazel Brown, Roma Winmar, and the Wirlomin Noongar Lanugage and Stories Project, with artwork by Anthony (Troy) Roberts. Yira Boornak Nyininy. Crawley, Australia: UWA Publishing, 2013.Find this resource:

Scott, Kim, Russell Nelly, and the Wirlomin Noongar Language and Stories Project, with artwork by Helen (Ing) Hall. Dwoort Baal Kaat. Crawley, Australia: UWA Publishing, 2013.Find this resource:

Scott, Kim, Lomas Roberts, and the Wirlomin Noongar Language and Stories project, with artwork by Geoffrey Woods and Anthony Roberts. Noongar Mambara Bakiti. Crawley, Australia: UWA Publishing, 2011.Find this resource:

Scott, Kim, Iris Woods, and the Wirlomin Noongar Language and Stories Project, with artwork by Jeffrey Farmer, Helen Nelly, and Roma Winmar. Mamang. Crawley, Australia: UWA Publishing, 2011.Find this resource:

Sheridan, Susan. Along the Faultlines: Sex, Race and Nation in Australian Women’s Writing, 1880s–1930s. St. Leonards, N.S.W.: Allen and Unwin, 1995.Find this resource:

Shute, Neville. On the Beach. London: Heinemann, 1957.Find this resource:

Stead, Christina. Seven Poor Men of Sydney. London: Peter Davies, 1934.Find this resource:

Stephensen, P. R.The Foundations of Culture in Australia: An Essay Towards National Self-respect. Gordon, N.S.W: W.J. Miles, 1936.Find this resource:

Stow, Randolf. Tourmaline. London: Macdonald, 1963.Find this resource:

Stow, Randolf. Midnite: The Story of a Wild Colonial Boy. Melbourne: Cheshire, 1967.Find this resource:

Stow, Randolf. Visitants. London: Secker and Warburg, 1979.Find this resource:

Summers, Anne. Damned Whores and God’s Police: The Colonization of Women in Australia. Ringwood, Australia: Penguin, 1975.Find this resource:

Tan, Shaun. The Lost Thing. Port Melbourne, Australia: Lothian, 2000.Find this resource:

Tsiolkas, Christos. Dead Europe. Milsons Point, N.S.W.: Vintage, 2005.Find this resource:

Turner, Ethel S.Seven Little Australians. London, Melbourne: Ward, Lock and Bowden, 1894.Find this resource:

Twain, Mark. Following the Equator: A Journey around the World. Hartford, CT: American Pub. Co., 1897.Find this resource:

Vidal, Mary. Tales for the Bush. Sydney: D.L. Welch, 1845.Find this resource:

Wagan Watson, Samuel. Itinerant Blues. St. Lucia: University of Queensland Press, 2002.Find this resource:

Ward, Russel. The Australian Legend. Melbourne: Oxford University Press, 1958.Find this resource:

Webby, Elizabeth, ed. The Cambridge Companion to Australian Literature. Cambridge, U.K.: Cambridge University Press, 2000.Find this resource:

White, Patrick. Voss. London: Eyre and Spottiswoode, 1957.Find this resource:

White, Patrick. Riders in the Chariot. London: Eyre and Spottiswoode, 1961.Find this resource:

White, Patrick. The Twyborn Affair. London: Jonathan Cape, 1979.Find this resource:

Whittaker, Alison. Lemons in the Chicken Wire. Broome, Australia: Magabala Books, 2016.Find this resource:

Winch, Tara Jane. Swallow the Air. St Lucia: University of Queensland Press, 2006.Find this resource:

Winton, Tim. The Turning. Sydney: Picador, 2004.Find this resource:

Winton, Tim. Breath. Camberwell, Australia: Penguin, 2008.Find this resource:

Winton, Tim. Land’s Edge: Coastal Memoir. Camberwell, Australia: Hamish Hamilton, 2010.Find this resource:

Wright, Alexis. Carpentaria. Artarmon, N.S.W.: Giramondo, 2006.Find this resource:

Wright, Alexis. “On Writing Carpentaria.” HEAT Magazine 13 (2007): 79–95.Find this resource:

“W.W.” [Mary Fortune]. “The Dead Witness; or, The Bush Waterhole.” The Australian Journal 1.21 (January 20, 1866): 329–331.Find this resource:

Yu, Ouyung. Self Translation. Melbourne: Transit Lounge Publishing, 2012.Find this resource:

Buvelot, Louis. Waterpool Near Coleraine (sunset). 1869. National Gallery of Victoria.Find this resource:

Chevalier, Nicholas. The Buffalo Ranges. 1864. National Gallery of Victoria.Find this resource:

The Dreaming, Australian Government website.

Lurhman, Baz, dir. “Come Walkabout” for Tourism Australia, 2008. YouTube.

Heidelberg School of Painters, Australian government website.

Jones, Ignatius, dir. “The Man From Snowy River” scene, Sydney Olympics Opening Ceremony, September 15, 2000. YouTube.

Journal of the Association for the Study of Australian Literature.

Kaartdijin Noongar—Noongar Knowledge, South West Aboriginal Land & Sea Council.

Keating, Paul (Prime Minster of Australia). “The Redfern Speech,” December 10, 2002. YouTube.

Kelly, Paul. “To Her Door” performed live for the Australian Broadcasting Commission, 1987. YouTube.

Mallet, David, and David Bowie, dirs. “Let’s Dance” film clip, 1983. YouTube.

Miller, George T., dir. The Man From Snowy River film trailer, 1982. YouTube.Find this resource:

Nannup, Noel. “A Nyoongar Perspective on Spirituality.” YouTube.

Page, Stephen, and Rhoda Roberts, dirs. “Awakening” sequence, Sydney Olympics Opening Ceremony, September 15, 2000. YouTube.

Paterson, A. “Banjo” B. “The Man from Snowy River,” 1890. The Poetry Library.Find this resource:

Rudd, Kevin (Prime Minister of Australia). “Apology to Australia’s Indigenous Peoples,”April 13, 2008.

The Triffids, “Wide Open Road” film clip, 1986. YouTube.

Further Reading

Bennett, Bruce, and Jennifer Strauss, eds. The Oxford Literary History of Australia. Melbourne: Oxford University Press, 1998.Find this resource:

Birns, Nicholas. Contemporary Australian Literature: A World Not Yet Dead. Sydney: Sydney University Press, 2015.Find this resource:

Birns, Nicholas, and Rebecca McNeer, eds. A Companion to Australian Literature since 1900. Rochester, NY: Camden House, 2007.Find this resource:

Dalziell, Tanya, and Paul Genoni, eds. Telling Stories: Australian Life and Literature, 1935–2012. Monash, Australia: Monash University Press, 2013.Find this resource:

Gelder, Ken, and Paul Salzman. After the Celebration: Australian Fiction, 1989–2007. Carlton, Australia: Melbourne University Press, 2009.Find this resource:

Hergenhan, L. T., ed. The Penguin New Literary History of Australia. Ringwood, Australia: Penguin, 1988.Find this resource:

Huggan, Graham. Australian Literature: Postcolonialism, Racism, Transnationalism. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2007.Find this resource:

Jose, Nicholas, ed. The Literature of Australia: An Anthology. New York: W. W. Norton, 2009.Find this resource:

Jose, Nicholas, David McCooey, Kerryn Goldsworthy, Anita Heiss, Peter Minter, Nicole Moore, and Elizabeth Webby, eds. Macquarie PEN Anthology of Australian Literature. Crows Nest, N.S.W.: Allen and Unwin, 2009.Find this resource:

Pierce, Peter, ed. The Cambridge History of Australian Literature. Cambridge, U.K.: Cambridge University Press, 2009.Find this resource:

Ryan, Judith, and Chris Wallace-Crabbe, eds. Imagining Australia: Literature and Culture in the New World. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2004.Find this resource:

van Toorn, Penny. Writing Never Arrives Naked: Early Aboriginal Cultures of Writing in Australia. Canberra: Australian Studies Press, 2006.Find this resource:

Turner, Graeme. National Fictions: Literature, Film and the Construction of Australian Narrative. 2d ed. St. Leonards, Australia: Allen and Unwin, 1993.Find this resource:

Wallace-Crabbe, Chris. The Oxford Literary History of Australia. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1998.Find this resource:

Webby, Elizabeth, ed. The Cambridge Companion to Australian Literature. Cambridge, U.K.: Cambridge University Press, 2000.Find this resource:

Wilde, W. H., Joy Hooton, and Barry Andrews. The Oxford Companion to Australian Literature. 2d ed. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2005.Find this resource:


(1.) A. B. Paterson, The Man from Snowy River and Other Verses (Sydney: Angus and Robertson, 1895), 3.

(2.) Anita Heiss, Who Am I? (Sydney: Scholastic Press, 2001), 91.

(3.) Alison Whittaker, Lemons in the Chicken Wire (Broome, Australia: Magabala Books, 2016).

(4.) Oodgeroo Noonuccal [Kath Walker], We Are Going: Poems (Brisbane: Jacaranda Press, 1964).

(5.) Sally Morgan, My Place (Fremantle, Australia: Fremantle Arts Centre Press, 1987).

(6.) Melissa Lucashenko, Steam Pigs (St. Lucia: University of Queensland Press, 1997).

(7.) National Inquiry into the Separation of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Children from Their Families, Bringing Them Home: Report of the National Inquiry into the Separation of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Children from Their Families (Sydney: Human Rights Commission, 1997).

(8.) Ruby Langford Ginibi, Haunted by the Past (St. Leonards, Australia: Allen & Unwin, 1999).

(9.) Larissa Behrendt, Home (St. Lucia: University of Queensland Press, 2004).

(10.) Paddy Roe, Gularabulu: Stories from the West Kimberley, ed. Stephen Muecke (Fremantle, Australia: Fremantle Arts Centre Press 1983).

(11.) Sam Wagan Watson, Itinerant Blues (St. Lucia: University of Queensland Press, 2002), 35. See also Lisa Meekison, “Whose Ceremony Is It Anyway? Indigenous and Olympic Interests in the Festival of the Dreaming,” in The Olympics at the Millennium: Power, Politics and the Games, eds. Kay Schaffer and Sidonie Smith (New Brunswick, NJ: Rutgers University Press, 2000), 182–196.

(12.) Eva Johnson, “What Do They Call Me?, in Australian Gay and Lesbian Plays, ed. Bruce Parr (Sydney: Currency Press, 1996), 234.

(13.) Mary Gilmore, The Wild Swan: Poems (Melbourne: Robertson and Mullens, 1930), 26.

(14.) David Malouf, Johnno (St. Lucia: University of Queensland Press, 1975), 98.

(15.) A. D. Hope, “Australia,” Meanjin Papers 2.1 (Autumn 1943): 42.

(16.) Shirley Hazzard, The Transit of Venus (London: Macmillan, 1980), 48.

(17.) D. H. Lawrence, Kangaroo (London: Martin Secker, 1923), 342.

(18.) George Johnston, My Brother Jack (Sydney: Collins, 1964), 29.

(19.) Tara Jane Winch, Swallow the Air (St. Lucia: University of Queensland Press, 2006), 36.

(20.) James McAuley, “Literature and the Arts,” in Australian Civilization, ed. Peter Coleman (Sydney: F. W. Cheshire, 1962), 123.

(21.) Elizabeth Harrower, The Watch Tower (Melbourne: Macmillan, 1966), 108.

(22.) Patrick White, The Twyborn Affair (London: Jonathan Cape, 1979), 87.

(23.) Henry Handel Richardson, The Getting of Wisdom (London: Heinemann, 1910), 233.

(24.) Rosa Praed, The Maid of the River: An Australian Girl’s Love Story (London: John Long, 1905), 416–417.

(25.) Rosa Praed, The Maid of the River, 25.

(26.) Xavier Herbert, Capricornia (Sydney: Angus and Robertson, 1938), 201.

(27.) Brian Castro, The Garden Book (Artarmon, N.S.W.: Giramondo, 2005), 229.

(28.) Alexis Wright, “On Writing Carpentaria.” HEAT Magazine 13 (2007): 82.

(29.) Alexis Wright, Carpentaria (Artarmon, N.S.W.: Giramondo, 2006), 61.

(30.) Miles Franklin, Laughter, Not for a Cage (Sydney: Angus and Robertson, 1956), 3.

(31.) P. R. Stephensen, The Foundations of Culture in Australia: An Essay Towards National Self-respect (Gordon, N.S.W: W.J. Miles, 1936), 11.

(32.) Mrs. Henry Patchett Martin, ed. Coo-ee: Tales of Australian Life by Australian Ladies (London: Richard Edward King, 1891), n.p.

(33.) Nicholas Jose, Bapo (Artarmon, N.S.W.: Giramondo, 2014), 100.

(34.) Ouyung Yu, Self Translation (Melbourne: Transit Lounge Publishing, 2012), 25.

(35.) Brian Castro, Shanghai Dancing (Artarmon, N.S.W.: Giramondo, 2003), 12.

(36.) Antigone Kefala, Summer Visit: Three Novellas (Artarmon, N.S.W.: Giramondo, 2002), 91.

(37.) Gail Jones, Dreams of Speaking (Milsons Point, N.S.W.: Vintage, 2006), 21.