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Teaching with AustLit

  • What can AustLit offer school teachers?

  • What is AustLit?

    AustLit is everything you want to know about the way Australians (and others) have told and thought about the art of story.

    AustLit is...

    • bibliographic database about historical and contemporary Australian stories

      • fiction, non-fiction, criticism, drama, poetry, film and television, picture books, graphic novels, children's and young adult fiction

    • an extensive record of secondary sources about Australian stories

      • including book reviews, newspapers articles, literary criticism, teaching resources, online exhibitions

    • an essential resource for embedding Aboriginal storytelling into education

      • Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander storytelling history, biographies, cultural heritage, with exclusive teaching resources

  • AustLit...


    connects primary sources to secondary sources

    AustLit’s primary value lies in its ability to connect primary sources to secondary sources, that is, to connect stories to the works written about those stories. As such, it can save teachers an enormous amount of time and research.

    Take for example, Sally Morgan’s ‘My Place’. A basic keyword search in AustLit for ‘my place sally morgan’ retrieves the result. 

  • From this one record, you can:

    • find other resources on similar topics by clicking ‘subjects’, for example ‘stolen generations’ as a search term will retrieve results of over 2000 works on the topic;
    • you can see that the book has been adapted to theatre (connecting perhaps an English classroom to the drama classroom);
    • you can see which ‘Exhibitions’ the book has been included in, such as ‘Indigenous identity from the Blackwords Dataset;
    • On the left, you can access the full publication history - this is useful for teachers looking at publishing history in the classroom, you can see here how the covers of the book changes with each edition, publisher, international publisher and translation. Because this text has translations which have been recorded here, there are opportunities to locate Australian literature in other languages, perhaps an Asian language to facilitate use of the cross-curriculum priority ‘Asia and Australia’s Engagement with Asia’;
    • at the top of the menu on the left, you can also see that there are over 200 secondary sources about ‘My Place’. For example, if you are interested in connecting literature from the secondary classroom to the tertiary in order to prepare students for tertiary education, you could access some of the critical resources here and examine them.
  • AustLit...

    provides context for a literary work through:

    • author/illustrator biographical information, particularly cultural heritage
    • a text's or author's publication history
    • geographical contextualisation. For example, for texts that are set on the Mornington Peninsula, or texts by authors whose cultural heritage is the same as the traditional owners of the land on which the school resides, you could search for 'cultural heritage' 'Boonwurrung people.

  • 244

    Example: Advanced search for the cultural heritage ‘Boonwurrung’ 

    Try the following steps:

    • go to advanced search
    • select personal details
    • find cultural heritage
    • type 'boonwurrung' 
    • select ‘Aboriginal Boonwurrung…’

    or click here for the results.

  • From the results list, you can see on the left there are over 200 works about the Boonwurrung people, but under People/Organisations, there are authors with that heritage. Select and browse the record for Bruce Pascoe, a multi-awardwinning author who has written for children and young adults.

  • Bruce Pascoe (example: agent record)

    Source: Adelaide Festival website

    Bruce Pascoe, a Bunurong man, is a member of the Wathaurong Aboriginal Co-operative of southern Victoria, and an award-winning Australian writer, editor, and anthologist. His works have been published nationally and internationally, and have won several national literary competitions. He has combined writing fiction and non-fiction with a career as a successful publisher and has been the director of the Australian Studies Project for the Commonwealth Schools Commission. He has also worked as a teacher, farmer, fisherman, barman, farm fence contractor, lecturer, Aboriginal language researcher, archaeological site worker, and editor.

    See full AustLit entry
  • Why do schools need AustLit?

    AustLit can assist teachers... 

    • to research and prepare for lessons 
    • to locate and access teaching resources
    • by providing ways to embed the cross-curriculum priorities

    It is also relevant to school librarians looking for resources to enhance their collection.

  • AustLit is relevant to teachers who...

    • Are looking to embed more Australian texts in their classrooms

    • Need ways to increase cultural diversity in their text selection

    • Want to identify contemporary literature to engage children and young adults

  • Explore children's and young adult literature

  • AustLit and the Australian Curriculum

    Are you aware that AustLit is identified as a resource on the Australian Curriculum website?

    The F-10 Curriculum: English recommends Austlit in 'Key Ideas' as a resource for teachers.

  • — Learning Area: English


    AustLit is useful to all three strands of the English Curriculum:




    We are however, most relevant to Literature.

  • Example 1. Literature and Context - ACELT1626

    If you are looking to add context to literature in a year 8 classroom for example, you might rely on Content Descriptor ACELT1626 –

    “Explore the ways that ideas and viewpoints in literary texts drawn from different historical, social and cultural contexts may reflect or challenge the values of individuals and groups.”

    Shakespeare’s plays are commonly prescribed as texts for high school students in Australia. And so, for example it might be interesting to examine Shakespeare over time - AustLit can assist you to find Shakespearean stories adapted to Australian audiences. You can search for specific plays, such as Hamlet

    Below is the work record for Hamlet. You can see on the right that Hamlet has influenced several works, it has been adapted, there are at least 50 secondary works about Hamlet as it relates to Australia.

  • Hamlet / William Shakespeare (example work record)

    Hamlet is a tragedy, set in Denmark. The ghost of Hamlet's father, the King, calls on him to seek revenge on Hamlet's Uncle, who is accused of murdering the King.

    See full AustLit entry
  • You can also see that Hamlet is linked to an Exhibition titled Shakespeare for Australian Young Adults

  • Example 2. Responding to and Examining Literature: ACELT1640 & ACELT1642

    Content Descriptor ACELT1640: 

    “Reflect on, extend, endorse or refute others’ interpretations of and responses to literature”


    Content Descriptor ACELT1642:

    “Identify, explain and discuss how narrative viewpoint, structure, characterisation and devices including analogy and satire shape different interpretations and responses to a text."

    Let’s look at a popular text used in both primary and secondary settings: The Rabbits by John Marsden and Shaun Tan.

    The Rabbits is a picture book that uses rabbits (an introduced species) to represent the colonisation of Australia. It has received a lot of attention through awards, its adaptation as a drama and the contentious way it portrays agency in the Indigenous characters.

  • The Rabbits (work record)

    image of person or book cover
    Image courtesy of publisher's website.

    "The rabbits came many grandparents ago.

    They build houses, made roads, had children.

    They cut down trees.

    A whole continent of rabbits..." (back cover)

    An allegorical story using rabbits, an introduced species, to represent the arrival of Europeans in Australia and the subsequent widespread environmental destruction.

    See full AustLit entry

    Looking at the work record here, you can see there are 27 works about The Rabbits identified in AustLit.

    They vary from newspaper articles, book reviews, literary criticism, education journals and awards acceptance speeches.

  • Finding these bibliographical records through AustLit saves teachers time

    ... in identifying and perhaps locating resources to inform the aforementioned content descriptors by connecting different interpretations and responses to the text.

    Because every aspect of the secondary source is indexed, students are also able to understand the context for the publication of these secondary sources. Providing your students access to these records, particularly senior secondary students, will enable them to develop digital literacy skills and research skills in preparation for tertiary studies.

  • — Other Learning Areas

    AustLit is also relevant to other Learning Areas:

    • Humanities and Social Sciences 

    - particularly History and Geography

    • The Arts 

    - especially Drama

    • Digital Technologies

    - through development of digital literacy skills

    • Languages

    - AustLit records translations of Australian works in other languages, including languages taught in schools, Aboriginal languages, and works that contain multiple language translations.

    In the Asian-Australian Children's Literature and Publishing project for example, you can go directly to a list of children's books translated into Chinese, Hindi, Indonesian, Vietnamese, Korean and Thai.

    • Sciences

    To some extent AustLit is also relevant to the Sciences, particularly for primary teachers.

    The Children’s Literature and Environment Exhibition is a useful example here. The Children’s Literature and Environment project highlights Australian children’s and young adult fiction related to the environment in some way, such as through conservation or environmental destruction. It provides teachers a place to start if you are looking to examine environmental science issues, or sustainability through narratives. For example you will find records and discussion on

    • texts about climate change
    • picture books useful for discussing biodiversity and endangered animals
    • books relating directly to the Cross-Curriculum Priorities 
    • an extensive bibliography
  • Examples of how teachers might use AustLit

  • A primary teacher might...


    Explore BlackWords

    ... the comprehensive resource containing information on the lives, careers, and works of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander writers and storytellers and the literary cultures and traditions that formed and influenced them.

  • A secondary teacher might...

    • Ask students to conduct a search for the publication history of a literary work

    For example Dot and the Kangaroo ​​​​​. This is a useful way to explore how a text has changed over time by exploring translations, criticism, book covers, or multiple versions that used this titled, either to adapt the story, or to imagine it in another way such as a film, television or drama.​​

    • Find an Exhibition to aid in preparation of lesson plans

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