Skip to main content


Showing posts from 2013

A poetic connection with Portarlington

‘Say not – when yesterday you gave Your child to sleep beneath the wave, That could it lie beneath the sod ‘Twould nearer seem to you and God” Written for Mrs. Calhoun on the day of my departure from Portarlington.  With love from Olga Straubel’. 16/6/81.   Retired second-hand bookseller Ted showed me a poem by Olga Straubel in an old scrapbook he had acquired fifteen years early. Many of the pages are filled with symmetrically placed die-cut Victorian paper ornaments of flowers and animals printed in Germany. Occasionally there are pressed ferns. Ted contacted me, not because of the scrapbook, but because there are also two carefully handwritten poems that seem somewhat out of place. One is signed by Olga Straubel, an early teacher of Portarlington and Ernst's mother. A brief history of Olga Straubel Johanna Maria Olga Straubel (known as Olga all her life) was born in 1860 and lived in Richmond. Her family were staunch members of the Melbourne German Lutheran Community. Olga took up a p…

What's your favourite fairy tale?

Invited to join the conversation on fairy tales on Life Matters on Friday with Jack Zipes, eminent fairy tale researcher and Kate Forsyth, author of one of my favourite books, The Wild Girl, I was challenged to name by favourite Australian fairy tales by a Glen Iris Primary parent who had listened to the conversation on my return to school. Life Matters Of the classics I choose Cinderella, fascinated by the way inanimate objects such as pumpkins turn into golden coaches and the importance of finding some-one with the 'right fit' for a relationship (if only by the tangible and symbolic search via glass slipper).  My Australian choice is a small book of which there is only one known copy in the State Library, Victoria: Rosalie's Reward; or the fairy treasure. It has some of the elements of the Cinderella fairy tale: an impoverished child abandoned (through financial necessity) by her mother, a Prince who rescues her and a group of fairies who do the work of the traditional sin…

Do early Australian fairy tales interest children today?

Or does their appeal remain fixed in the era they were written? Hart (1950) made the point that, ‘books flourish when they answer a need and die when they do not’ (285) and it is worth considering for example the fairytales of Tarella Quin whose fairy tale books were reprinted numerous times. Quin (aka Quin Daskein), published her first fairy tale, Gum Tree Brownie in 1907[1] with enlargements and variations appearing with regularity in 1918, 1925, 1934 and 1983. Perhaps, the reason is that her publisher - still publishing one hundred years later allowed the opportunity for re-publishing out-of-print books if it was believed that public taste indicated a book may become popular again.
However, when Gum Tree Brownie was republished as The Other Side of Nowhere: Fairy Stories of the Never Never (1983) two stories that did not suit the current socio-cultural world were omitted. Cruelty and death are not seen as suitable topics for children’s books today - or at least not in the way they w…

Frohe Weihnachten

Frohe Wiehnachten.
Ich studiere ihrer Olga Ernst seit zwei Jahren und ich geniesse die Forschung. Ich schätze die Hilfe Familie und interessant Menschen aus aller Welt lesen den Blog. Vielen Dank meinen Lehrerin. Daniela lehrt jede Woche Deutsch. Ich kann etwas Deutsch lesen. Ich werde nach Weihnachten wieder Bloggen.

My career as a reader

My thesis chapters will begin with an image and  'personal voice', a reflective conversation about my thoughts at different times during the thesis process. I took this photo for the chapter on early Australian children's literature, rummaging through my childhood books and trying to choose favourites. Sadly Bottersnikes and Gumbles is no longer there, perhaps fallen to pieces or lost in a move. Maybe I just borrowed it from the Mount Waverley Library during my early career as a reader. It seems there are many readers blogging about it.  Buying a secondhand copy could set you back over a hundred dollars. Could it be republished as an eBook? I like the idea that reading is a career (Fairbairn and Fairbairn),  a 'profession', with educational requirements, and areas of specialisation. I can trace my 'reading career' by perusing my bookshelf: distinctive eras of fairy tales, school stories, science fiction and biography jumbled up, sometimes two books deep on …

Welcome to the Australian Fairy Tale Society

Exciting to hear about the formation of a national not-for-profit society focussed on collecting, preserving, discussing, sharing, and creating Australian fairy tales. Australian fairy tales reflect our unique environment - don't expect handsome princes on white stallions to rescue fair maidens. Shy stalwart bushmen who are at ease in the bush and mindful of old 'hags' are more adept at such challenges. Mermaids swim in the Yarra river, not to lure men to their doom, but with a different attitude, nurturing and protecting those humans living in communities close by.  Rather than the Big Bad Wolf, in one instance a small girl meets a bunyip who admires her goodness and scholarly achievements and rather than eat her up lectures her on the dangers of alcohol. These characters created by Westbury, Ernst, Whitfeld and Lockeyear are just a small sample of those waiting to be heralded. I am planning a trip to Sydney for the inaugural Australian Fairy Tale Society Conference (9 Jun…

Is the First Draft really a first draft?

Today I feel like Margaret Mitchell with her draft of 'Gone With The Wind', a suitcase full of unfinished chapters, multiple drafts of chapters and about six months of revision ahead of me to complete a first 'complete' 'First Draft'. Looking through the folders of drafts and re-drafts and mergers I feel quite amazed that I have written so much and quite daunted at the task of making sure this tome is grammatically error free with no errant full stops or semi-colons and follows a line of logical arguments paragraph by paragraph through eighty thousand words. There is no holiday from a PhD. It is always there lurking: looking for connections, seeking the undiscovered and reminding of the need to write, write, write. 
A new connection today delighted me. Ernst mentioned again.The Librarian opened The Age and there was a two page article on Sister Agnes and her fairy tales (October 24, p. 18-19). Interestingly, the full article Told in the Bush: Sister Agnes and he…

A Meeve relative: A research sidetrack in Tasmania

When map reading I note that we are close to the place a distant relative of grandson no 2 died and was buried. The family story is that he was struck by lightning but a little research indicates he was struck by a tree limb that he was felling.  Something to beware of when researching: how time and re-telling changes fact.I also note how first aid practices have changed. A sad story.

INQUEST MARRAWAH An inquest was held at Marrawah Friday, before Mr. H. G. Spicer, coroner, and a jury (Mr. K. C. Laughton foreman) touching the death of Michael William Meeve, which occurred at Marrawah on the previous day. Sergeant Donoghue, of Stanley, represented the district police, and made the necessary arrangements for holding the enquiry. Bernard Charles Cronin, a farmer, residing near Marrawah, deposed to being acquainted with the deceased, whom he had employed to assist him in clearing on his farm. Witness and the deceased, Meeve, started to work in company on the morning of the 14th inst., and …

Wattle Day and a contemporary response to Olga Ernst's fairy tales.

Every so often I quietly 'google' for new references to Olga Ernst and today, appropriately as it is 'Wattle Day', I was rewarded with two new references to Olga's fairy tales. I have been researching Olga's contribution for almost four years and I am thrilled to see some momentum building through the interest of others in her story.
From the Storytelling Guild's blog 
Q&A about Olga Ernst in this interview with Belinda Calderone
Vonny Kemister is testing a story to tell at the Botanic Garden. Vonny’s story comes from Olga Earnst’s [sic] Fairy Tales from The Land of the Wattle (1904)
A reference to my talk at Brighton Historical Society in 2012
My research would not be so rich or so accurate without the help of Ernst relatives who have sourced further information, fellow researchers, friends in the Melbourne Lutheran Trinity community and of course my coffee-drinking companion and research assistant Susan. I am always grateful for further information.

Frank Tate

During the same period that Ernst finished her schooling, began work as a pupil teacher and attended the Pupil Teachers School in Adelaide (1904) educational ideas in Victoria were also evolving under the direction of Frank Tate. Tate was determined that teachers should be well trained, cultured and championed the reform curriculum using the ideas of the ‘New Education’ movement which had its roots in Europe (Gregory, 1997: 14). With the aim of establishing universal literacy and minimising crime through improved social and personal life, subjects were taught using formal methods of rote learning, silent work and drills teaching. Curriculum included the basic elements of reading, writing and arithmetic and geography, grammar, history, singing and, for girls, needlework (Long,1908; 130,155,159). Frank Tate, Director of Education, argued against the old painful ‘unintelligent memory methods that weren’t true teaching’ and suggested that the new programme should aim ‘at training self rel…

A chapter on Pedagogy

Ernst had begun to teach at a time when educational ideas were changing. Frank Tate, Director of Education (1902-1939), argued against the old painful ‘unintelligent memory methods that weren’t true teaching’ and suggested that the new programme should aim ‘at training self reliance and ability to acquire knowledge at first hand’. The revised program (1902) consisted of nature study (elemental) science, manual training (brushwork, paperwork, or school gardening), drawing (including geometry, freehand and use of compass, ruler, mid set square), singing, health and special lessons reading and explanation, composition, word building and spelling, penmanship, map-drawing, geography, parsing, analysis and derivative roots, poetry, tables, arithmetic, measuration, history and exploration lessons. There was opposition to the 'crowded curriculum' by some teachers and parents who preferred the traditional teaching methods of rote learning and memorisation. Tate also declared that teach…

A Saturday morning tour of Ernst's heritage

One of the best (awesomest as my students would say) aspect of researching a writer from your own city/state is that  the places in which they lived, worked, visited are easily accessible. Visiting from Adelaide, Trevor, a descendant of Olga's uncle Christian Martin Ernst, invited me to join him to visit significant 'sites' in Ernst's life. I hoped to gain a 'sense' of the German Melbourne community in which she lived. Of course, my thesis is NOT a biography although I have completed enough research to write one! A writer's environment impacts on their work and so this 'physical' research gives me an opportunity to 'place' Ernst's writing in context. 
A productive morning beginning with the search for the headstone in the Lutheran section of the Melbourne General Cemetery, visiting the East Melbourne Trinity Lutheran Church where Ernst was christened, Theodor's shop in Brunswick Street, now gutted inside with only the window frames a…

Post PhD - Who's the audience?

What happens when I finish? The end maybe in sight - well at least in the next year or so.  What then? Who is the audience, apart from supervisors and examiners? Maybe...the Librarian ... with enough wine and chocolates to convince him that proof reading for spliced commas and other grammatical disasters is important. How will I feel? Elated, Ready for a long holiday! Ready to rejoin the human race – the family and friends? Able to do things I've been putting off? Do I select elements of the thesis  to develop and rewrite for publication? Do I select elements for conference presentation? Is there a book of Ernst's life waiting to be written?
Ah well... the end will not be reached unless I begin my next chapter on Pedagogy and Place in Ernst's work.

Bunyips in early Australian fairy tales

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 gal. 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 dazed …

An Afternoon in Fairy Land

'An Afternoon in Fairy land' sounded enticing. Discovered quite by chance via the Sussex Centre for Folklore, Fairy Tales and Fantasy The Monash Fairy Tale Salon held an 'afternoon in fairy land' to honour the exhibition, In Fairy Land: an exhibition of Fairy Tale Books from the Monash Rare Books Collection. Brilliant that it was happening on my weekly study day!
Although Phillippa and I have championed storytelling as a way to enhance language skills, develop an understanding of linguistic structures and achieve significant gains in Literacy achievement levels it was an absorbing, and relaxing, experience to be the listener rather than the teller. Louisa John-Krol began the afternoon enchanting us with a traditional tale of riddles and overcoming 'the monster'. David Haworth read his invented fairytale 'The Bone Flute', a collage of fairy tales motifs, plots, characters and a twist (that I won't reveal as I'm sure it will be published somewhere)…

Thesis Bootcamp Fan!

On the weekend I began to re-work on 5000 words I wrote for one section of a chapter - a particularly difficult one that I began drafting very early in the process which has evolved over the journey to something unrecognisably different. Today I found a quiet desk in the Giblin Euson Library, and began to reshape the words into the chapter I wanted to write adding references, checking quotes, slashing chunks and re-wording 'bits'. Normally working full time from splurging to agonising  takes about a month - approximately two hours per day but with the splurging done at Bootcamp in Feb it has been a much much quicker process. 
Splurgers Vs Agonisers
Working with Hazel Edwards while mentoring gifted writers she mentioned these terms in relation to how authors write. I think they describe beautifully the writing process. Hazel has heaps more tips on her website. This is the a mini quiz we designed for a Girlfriends! Program forum on writing. (Girls Year 5-9)

Are you a Splurger or an…

Further search for Beatrice Wilcken in Dunedin

In Dunedin as part of a NZ holiday but research always beckons. Limited internet but I manage in snippets when free wi-fi available! Interested to know if I can track down any more information on Wilcken (another German writer of early Australian fairytales) who taught music for sometime in Dunedin and gave a concert at the Choral Hall. A conversation with another PhD student Jai Paterson about her intriguing thesis topic which examines Trans-Tasman migrant  flows between Australia and New Zealand (from respectable families) sent me off on this quest. Unfortunately Beatrice did not emerge in any diaries or papers. The Dunedin Historical Society did not have her name in their archives.  But when visiting Olverston House, amazingly fully furnished as when lived in with its original owners, my ears pricked up when I discovered its library (including children's books) remained intact. Unfortunately her book was not found in the inventory so I couldn't argue for it being taken to N…