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Australian Colonial Narrative Journalism
Project leader: Dr Willa McDonald
(Status : Public)
  • About

    Welcome to the Australian Colonial Narrative Journalism (ACNJ) project. This is the first stage of a larger study that aims to define Australian narrative journalism and trace its history from 1788 to today.

    The term ‘narrative journalism’ (sometimes called ‘literary journalism) has come to be associated with factual reporting that uses scenes, characterisation, dialogue, point of view, setting and other literary techniques usually connected with imaginative storytelling.

    While legacy media outlets are shrinking around the world, narrative journalism can be found in book form, in prestige Australian print publications and on websites that provide long-form, in-depth content. The form has been attracting growing academic attention internationally because of its unique impact in communicating matters of national and international consequence in ways accessible to the reading public

  • “A Cheap Melbourne Restaurant: Waiting for Breakfast”, The Illustrated Australian News, December 21, 1881, p237.
  • Narrative journalism has a long history. Investigations similar to this one have been undertaken in the United States and in a more piecemeal way in Europe, Canada and parts of South America. Until now, no serious attempt has been made in Australia to investigate the history of the craft of narrative journalism from the early days of the colony.

    As a search through the dataset demonstrates, there are rich examples of this form from Australia’s colonial past including the “Vagabond’s” undercover reporting on conditions in some of Melbourne’s toughest institutions; AB ‘Banjo’ Patterson’s descriptions of life in the Boer War; journalists George Morrison’s and JD Melvin’s accounts of the “blackbirding” trade that transported Indigenous Australians and Pacific Islanders to work in northern Australia, and Annie Bright’s celebrity profiles written for Cosmos magazine.

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