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Presenting my paper in 'Old Geology'

The Old Geology Theatre at University of Melbourne was an apt place for my presentation on Olga Ernst: Creating an Australian bush identity in children's literature.  Of course graduating with a B.Arts and M.Arts from this university Ernst would have been familiar with the original buildings and pathways. Perhaps she could have stood or walked or held a deep conversation somewhere close by.   Always useful to be challenged to look in new directions,  discussion initiated during question time and poster presentations included German culture, second language writing, use of technology for research and visual text.  How well has digitisation of Ernst's books, use of digitised resources such as TROVE and NLA's newspaper archive contributed to your research?How do the pictures contribute to a sense of Australian place meshed with old-world folk figures in the illustrations. (i.e. The cartwheel in the Father Time illustration)?What sources are there to support the German contribut…

My AO Poster AARE 2010

For the past two days I have stood in front of my poster at the Australian Association for Research in Education (AARE 2010) Conference in Melbourne.  Comments and high interest about her University Melbourne education and the essence of 'Germaness' in her stories. Cornelia Funke, German children's writer said, 'I always thought it hadn't influenced me very much, but I heard from many people from England that many motives from German fairytales are to be found in my books'.

Girlfriends! connections camaraderie community

We decided to trial a primary version of the Girlfriends! program at GIPS due to the small number of female year 6 students in this particular year. With only a small group of 8 girls, we found their connectiveness to the school, its teachers and the other students was suffering. The girls were tired of spending time confined to such a small social group but were not making any effort to connect with the girls in year 5. As such the younger students were also missing out on the valuable friendships of the year 6 girls. Our first Girlfriends! group consisted of 4 year sixes and 8 year fives. The combination of the group was formed on what the upper school teachers considered to be a ‘needs’ basis. The group allowed some of the more introvert students to have a voice in an environment where they felt safe and supported. The ‘rules’ of the group were decided by the girls and adhered to during all sessions. All the girls had the right to say anything they felt and the responsibility to …

Producing a poster for AARE Conference Melbourne

The house is in wedding mode with preparations for the 'little' cousins Pantry Tea (give Kel something you'd like to see in her pantry - possibly Timtams and sprinkles!) so I am attempting to finish all that I can in advance. A poster seemed to be an easier option than a presentation but not so - juggling font sizes, colours and quick bites of info to grab the attention is challenging. Now I know that Courier and Arial are easy to read but so yesterday! Main title about 4 cm, subheadings about 2cm and body about 1 cm.  The audience might be attracted  to the design but if they can't read it, what's the point. This was my first attempt -  readable at A4 but will the writing be too big when it is blown up to A0?  I have 3 more attempts and will upload the final design on 3rd December. I submitted poster and paper in the hope one would be accepted and both were - so now I need to start writing.

Rosalie's Reward, a fairytale in a gold rush town setting

This is  a gem,' said the librarian at the State Library as she hands it to me ... and I am inclined to agree. ‘Rosalie’s Reward’ begins with a poetic description of Ballaarat that evokes both mood and time. The house that the impoverished mother and child come to live in stands in ‘gloomy silence’ while the sounds of mining are clear and eerily evocative.  
‘Shrill whistle heard so clearly in the silence that called the miners to midnight toil.’ The resurrected English style cottage garden is the perfect place for a group of fairies that the reader doesn't meet until page six of the story.  There is an energetic discussion by the fairy folk about what is prized more as a reward: beauty or gold. Not surprisingly, in a gold mining town, it is gold. Rosalie’s reward for her kindness to the fairies is being left a fortune by the dying gold miner who owns the cottage. He fortunately arrives at the cottage hours before his death to bestow on Rosalie a golden future in Melbourne.  The…

Sister Agnes: Fairytales told in the Bush.

A warm sunny day, the Special Collections room has the fans humming and is a room with a view - of the grounds of Uni Melbourne. This room is quiet and serene and has a special aura. The past is revered and the lucky can take a look back. I came to hold a copy of Fairytales told in the Bush to see if Sister Agnes built on Ernst's narrative structure.
Suggestions that Sister Agnes was inspired by Ernst are hard to believe. Her settings are not descriptive and most of the stories are those remembered from her childhood. She describes herself as a lover of fairies. They belong to her past and are not invented Australian fairytales. She claims two were told to her by King Barak, one days before he died. She paints Barak, variously called King William, last chief of the Yarra Yarra tribe' or 'Beruk (white grub in gum tree) belonging to the Wurundjeri  whose country lay along the Yarra and Plenty Rivers, as a man who will tell a story for the right price, usually a coin. She name…

Mr. Bunyip - an early Aussie children's book 'character'!

It has been suggested that the jokey humour of ‘Mr. Bunyip’ set the tone for the description of bunyips in later books.  To an eager Mary Somerville who has strayed from the path in a ‘Red Riding Hood like’ ramble Mr. Bunyip is not a monster who wants to eat her but is a kind hearted chap giving her some social and historical pointers. The Murray River and Melbourne contrast with the magic of the talking beast and references to the old country (England).
Mary has all the qualities needed to be the 'perfect' Colonial chick. She is a good scholar, winning school prizes, obeying her father, is trustworthy, neat, prayful and rises early. The disparity between her goodness with Mr. Bunyip’s admission of alcoholism and wife beating is thought provoking. Mr. Bunyip is forgiven by his wife for this lapse into the unacceptable practice of thrashing one’s wife as he was under the influence of the evil alcohol.   However, the fish in the river who become silly and meander stunned and daze…

A PhD! What's in it for me?

To be honest it won’t further my career, add an extra dollar or two to my salary and in fact, most of those I meet wonder why I would waste my holiday reading on topic related books rather than the latest Nick Hornby. Inquiry-based curriculum develops deeper understandings around concepts. Watching students develop critical and creative thinking skills is one of the pleasures of teaching. A PhD is the ultimate inquiry requiring flexible thinking, persistence and when working full time – exemplary time management!  Luckily, the nature of my topic lends itself to holiday ventures into State Libraries and Public Records Offices and I do small amounts of reading and writing during the term – just chipping away rather than spending hours. Embarking on a PhD is a chance to ‘practise what I preach’ and model depthful inquiry to students. Besides, the opportunity to be a historian as well as a researcher is there and finding that small piece of necessary evidence is both rewarding and fun!  Re…

An Australian Prince

The 'princes' of Australian fairytales were often miners and stockmen glorifying the bushman character. Reflecting the appeal and allure of the outback male we find that in Australian Fairytales (Frank Atha Westbury, 1897:35) the 'prince' is a shy youth called Nugget with an appealing bush toughness and lack of social graces. He rescues a princess whose hand in marriage is well above his station and is quite 'smitten.'                                                                            'It was amusing to see the attention the Nugget bestowed upon the fair young creature by his side, and to note the tell-tale blushes which ever and anon suffused her face as their eyes or their hands chanced to meet.' This princess is transported home, not on a magic carpet or coach but on a means of transport common in the colonies - a donkey! Rather than castles, Australian palaces were more likely to be a mansion in Toorak (in Melbourne) or Valcluse (Sydney) -  the…

Sometimes fairytales aren't

When looking for Australian fairytales I used title as my first classification method but this was not always successful.  I initially included ‘Up the Moonpath’ a story by Macdonald in Childhood in Bloom and Blossum. This was a souvenir book of the Children's Hospital bazaar complied and edited by Joshua Lake and published in 1900. On page three the editor suggests that ' This book is a contribution to the Children's Hospital by the Art and Literature of Melbourne.'  Image of Children's Hospital ( circa 1909) Though fairyland is presented as being at the end of the shimmering moonpath that ‘ran across the lake and faded out to a faint glow in the distance, just under the moon’ and is peopled with ‘bright little people l’ it is not really fairyland but a book about the death of a child and fairyland is a metaphor for heaven.  Ita takes her place in fairyland (heaven) and another little ‘King’ arrives to take her place in her mother’s bed and soothe her parents' …

Tassie Tales

Opening one of the last remaining copies of the first Tasmanian fairytale book at the Tasmanian State Library was a memorable moment.  Although accessing was made difficult by the expectation that I should print a copy of the book details on paper before entering - not noted on their website and after devesting myself of bags etc downstairs to enter- a tad difficult without money or a photocopy card. Beatrice Wilcken's book  written on a visit to Tasmania when staying with friends is a delight. Reprinted twice (1890/1891) before she returned to NSW and later to Germany it seems to be her only foray into print.  A reviewer said,
A little, and nicely bound and ornamented book, has just been published, entitled Fairytales, Fables and Legends, by Mrs. Beatrice Wilcken. These tales, we understand, have met with so much approbation privately that the author has been persuaded to publish them, and we think they will meet with a very favourable reception from the public also. The various t…

A gorilla in an Australian fairytale!

How beastly! What's a gorilla doing in an Aussie fairytale?
Reading Australian Fairytales, written in 1897 by Atha Westbury,  I find 'Twilight '( definately not about vampires) is a 'Beauty and the Beast'  ripoff set in Melbourne.  A gorilla seemed an odd choice for an antipodean 'Beast' until i discover  that a gorilla arrived in the colony of Victoria in 1865. This one though was truly immobilised in an action pose guaranteed to terrify the fainthearted and small children (including me a hundred years later).   The  display at National Museum at The University of Melbourne obviously fired the imagination of Melburnians and Westbury. 
Read more: Gorillas at the Museum

Chopper Rescue - Writing Rescue?

Finding myself disadvantaged and needing a translator when working with deaf students to create bilingual (English/Auslan) animated books was the catalyst for 'Signs of Friendship', one of the stories in Chopper Rescue.Hazel Edwards was generous with her support for my foray into the short story!