Saturday September 12th, 2015 – Story by Jacqui Halpin
Nadia Wheatley is the author of the hugely popular picture book My Place, which has been constantly in print for more than twenty years and made into a TV series by the ABC.
Nadia is passionate about Australia’s history and in particular the child’s place in that history. During her presentation on Saturday morning, she drew attention to the fact that children are often left out or disregarded in historical works yet it was the children who played a large part in shaping this nation. Nadia spoke of the importance of including children in the stories of our past because they were and are an integral part of it.
Children worked hard to build this nation. They fetched water, trapped rabbits, worked in shearing sheds, cleared the land and cared for younger siblings. And it was the children born in this country of migrant and convict parents that developed our distinctive accent and that first identified themselves as Australian and not Irish, English, Chinese, or any number of other nationalities who came to this country by force or purpose.
A sense of place is what inspires and drives Nadia’s stories. Starting at the very beginning of our history with the aboriginal children who called this land ‘my place’, and who have a strong connection the land, Nadia has found a unique and inspired way to visit and record our history and bring it to a young audience in a manner that they can relate to and find interesting. In fact, history coming alive through the point of view of an individual, a child, for me seemed to be a theme running through several of the programs at this year’s StoryArts festival.
Nadia’s latest picture book Australians All, the story of the Australian continent from the ice age to the apology, again shares our unique history in a vibrant and engaging way that encompasses the young. While not enjoying the same degree of success that My Place has (and Nadia has an interesting theory on why that is the case) it is none the less an important and captivating look at our history designed to appeal to children. As Nadia puts it, each story opens a window into our national identity.
For someone like me who is passionate about preserving and promoting our social history, it was a fascinating presentation that resonated with what I also believe.