Thursday 16 March 2017

The Story of Australia

The Story of Australia by Robert Lewis in association with the National Museum of Australia (Random House Australia) PB RRP ISBN 9780857983145

Reviewed by Dianne Bates

This is a beaut book to gift to anyone interested in Australia’s history from its earliest and first Australians to post World War II Australia. At 410 pages, it covers white discovery and colonisation, the changes brought about by population expansion and gold discovery, the creation of the nation, Australia and the First World War, the roaring twenties and the Second World War The stories are told under coloured sub-headings and in frequent break-out boxes with full-colour and black and white photography, maps and diagrams.

In the section called ‘Creating a Nation’, there is a section on Australia before Federation, with separate stories about Henry and Louisa Lawson, the introduction of time zones in Australia (1895), opposition to Federation, political differences, how Federation was achieved, the Australian Constitution and much more. At the end of the chapter is a double-page spread table comparing Australia’s constitution to that of America and Great Britain. Break-out boxes include information and photographs of Alfred Deakin, Charles Kingston, Catherine Helen Spence and Andrew Inglis Clark. Every section is like this – crammed with vital and often entertaining stories.

Throughout the book there is much valuable and comprehensive information, but sometimes it makes for dry reading, especially for young people who are targeted in the book’s introduction which tells how ‘The Story of Australia has been written with a close eye on the Australian Curriculum.’

The book draws on the National Museum’s rich collection of 200,000 objects, images and artefacts – some of which are displayed, for example Phar Lap’s heart, political handbills, an instruction booklet that shows how to draw caricatures of political leaders of the second World War, a 1885 British Doulton porcelain kangaroo umbrella stand and much more.

The story of our country finishes with ‘Australia in the Future’, informing the reader that on 15 September 2000, an estimated 3.5 billion people watched Australia present itself to the world during the Olympic Games opening ceremony in Sydney. The page is illustrated by a painting titled ‘Land Rights’ by Eunice Yunurupa Porter, 2011.

At the end of the book there is a three-page selected bibliography, a comprehensive index and four pages of image credits. This book is likely to be an essential history resource for homes and libraries.

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