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The Spectacular Australia - Books & Movies
- The Man from Snowy River and Other Verses by A.B. Paterson. Andrew Barton Paterson, commonly known by his pseudonym ‘Banjo’ Paterson, is remembered as one of the most prominent voices in the late 19th and early 20th centuries of Australian literature. It is said that more Australians know the words “Who’ll come a-waltzing Matilda with me?...” from Paterson’s famous poem “Waltzing Matilda” better than Australia’s anthem “Advance Australia Fair”.
- My Brilliant Career by Miles Franklin. This is the story of a young woman who faces the modern-day dilemma of choosing between her marriage and her career. This story first appeared in 1901 and created quite a scandal throughout her country. Miles was only a teenager when she published this somewhat autobiographical novel about a passionate young woman, who fantasized about love and life in the outback.
- We of the Never Never by Mrs. Aeneas Gunn. This novel tells the tale of a woman who leaves her home in Melbourne and sets out to live on cattle station located somewhere in the outback. The leading lady of this tale follows her husband to a ranch called “Elsey” found in the Northern Territory of Australia. Set in the 1890’s, this story transports the reader to life in the outback, showcasing the trials and tribulations of living on a cattle farm, an experience unlike any other in the world. This page-turner is an Australian classic that will truly fascinate its reader.
- Walkabout by James V. Marshall. This novel begins when a plane crashes in the vast Northern Territory of Australia. Mary and Peter, sister and brother, are the only survivors left. The children were traveling from Charleston, South Carolina to visit their Uncle in Adelaide, and are now lost in the wilderness known as the outback. By chance they run into a young Aboriginal boy. This boy with no name saves Mary and Peter by showing them how to survive in the outback. This adventurous story is a curious tale of when two vastly different worlds collide.
- The Tyranny of Distance by Geoffrey Blainey. This book explores the history of Australia’s colonization. Sometime after the American Revolution England began to exploded with convicted criminals. They could no longer export them to American as laborers, so they began sending the convicts to a newly setup penal colony in Australia. The original thought was the colony would substantiate some sort of agricultural use and become self-sufficient. In the early stages, this colony was not a great success, until several discoveries on the coast of Australia proved to be quite profitable. The historical novel explains Australia’s history in a clear and understandable way, fascinating the reader with the development of the country of Australia.
- In a Sunburned Country by Bill Bryson. Bill Bryson, a best-selling travel writer, explores the country of Australia in a most memorable way. The American author discovers a country of an entirely different nature, resulting in an ideal guide book. What Bill finds on this vast continent is a country filled with extremes: the deadliest wildlife, the hottest and driest weather conditions, and the kindest people. This humorous guidebook will tug on the reader’s curiosity and fill them with a sense of adventure.
- Breath by Tim Winton. “Breath” is a story about challenging the limits of life. This novel follows two young teenage boys across the coast of Western Australia. After meeting an infamous surfer by the name of Sando, the two boys fall under his spell. Challenging themselves to bigger and riskier waves, without a second thought they throw caution to the wind. The boys do not understand what drives Sando’s fearless behavior, and without realizing it they enter a grown up world that will forever change each of their lives.
- True History of the Kelly Gang by Peter Carey. This fictionalized autobiography follows a legendary felon as he flees from the authorities. The police see Ned Kelly as nothing but a common criminal, yet to his Australian people he is a hero of great proportions. Ned Kelly’s mission is to free his people from the English rule. He runs wild through the colony of Victoria, conquering each town and defying all laws, until ultimately being captured securing his untimely fate.
- Rabbit-Proof Fence by Doris Pilkington. “Rabbit-Proof Fence” is a true story about three girls who have run away from their mission school to find their families. They were abducted from their homes as young girls and forced into an insufferable “white” Settlement. The girls follow the rabbit-proof fence all the way back to their homeland. A rabbit-proof fence was the original name of Western Australia’s State Barrier Fence, it was constructed in the early 1900’s to keep rabbits from the east, out of Western Australia’s countryside. This story of three young girls, born to Aboriginal mothers and white fathers relates to modern-day issues of our worlds large multicultural society. This novel has been adapted into a well-known movie by the same name.
- The Fatal Shore: The Epic of Australia’s Founding by Robert Hughes. A best-selling nonfiction comprised of an overview of the birth of Australia. Similar to the “The Tyranny of Distance” by Geoffrey Blainey, this book describes in detail the colonization of Australia, all resulting from England’s criminal export system. From 1788 to 1868 England, no longer able to export its criminals to America, transported all of its convicts to Australia. The punishment for these prisoners as the first immigrants in Australia was to build the colony. Hughes used articles such as diaries, letters, and many other authentic sources to accurately document Australia’s stimulating history.
- The Thorn Birds by Colleen McCullough. This classic romance novel describes the epic tale of a forbidden love between a young woman and her town’s Catholic Priest. The Cleary family migrated from Ireland originally to New Zealand, finally settling in Australia. Meggie, the young Cleary daughter, falls madly in love with Ralph de Briccasart, the local priest. Ralph attempts to discourage Meggie’s feelings, but as she matures he himself has trouble staying faithful to the Catholic religion. The epic romance is extraordinary tale of life and love in Australia’s picturesque outback that will captivate the reader from beginning to end.
- Walkabout (1971): The hauntingly beautiful and disturbing movie set in the Australian desert stars Jenny Agutter and the Aboriginal actor David Gulpilul. A white girl and her brother get hopelessly lost and survive with help from a doomed Aboriginal hero.
- Picnic at Hanging Rock (1974): This Peter Weir movie is about a group of schoolgirls and a teacher who go missing at an eerie rock formation north of Melbourne. It’s set at the beginning of the 20th century, when bonnets and teapots were the norm.
- Mad Max (1979): Mel Gibson fights to the death in the Outback, which presents the ideal setting for a post-apocalyptic world. The movie was so popular that it spawned two sequels: “The Road Warrior”(1981) and “Mad Max: Beyond Thunderdome”(1985).
- Gallipoli (1981): Peter Weir’s brilliant movie tries to capture the reality of the World War I military disaster that saw Australian and New Zealand troops fighting against overwhelming odds on the Turkish coastline.
- The Man from Snowy River (1982): Kirk Douglas, Tom Burlinson, and Sigrid Thornton star in this startling Australian movie that showcases the mountainous wilderness of Australia, where wild horses roam.
- Crocodile Dundee (1986): Paul Hogan shot to worldwide fame as a “typical”crocodile-wrestling Outback hero. He wears the same hat and a few more wrinkles in “Crocodile Dundee II”(1988) and “Crocodile Dundee in L.A.”(2001).
- Shine (1991): This portrayal of the real-life classical pianist David Helfgott, who rose to international prominence in the 1950s and 1960s before having a nervous breakdown, is remarkable. Oscar-winner Geoffrey Rush gives a powerful performance as the adult Helfgott; Sir John Gielgud plays Helfgott’s teacher.
- Strictly Ballroom (1992): A boy, played by Paul Mercurio, becomes a champion ballroom dancer in this whimsical, playful movie with, thankfully, not too much dancing.
- Muriel’s Wedding (1994): This classic Australian comedy tells the tale of Muriel Heslop (Toni Collette), a young woman who dreams of getting married and moving far away from her boring life in Porpoise Spit. Fabulous characters, great catchphrases, and Abba music abound.
- The Adventures of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert (1994): A transsexual takes to traveling through the desert in a big pink bus with two drag queens. They sing Abba classics and dress the part, kind of. Where else but Australia . . . .
- The Dish (2000): This comedy about Australia’s role in the Apollo 11 mission in 1969 was set around a group of characters operating the Parkes/Canberra radio telescope.
- Rabbit Proof Fence (2002): This fictionalized tale addresses the real-life experience of plucking Aboriginal children from their homes in order to put them in white foster families or—as is the case in this true story—to train three girls to work as domestic servants.
- Australia (2008): An English aristocrat in the 1930s, played by Nicole Kidman, arrives in northern Australia. After an epic journey across the country with a rough-hewn cattle drover played by Hugh Jackman, she is caught in the bombing of Darwin during World War II.
- Samson and Delilah (2009): This challenging movie depicts two indigenous Australian 14-year-olds living in a remote Aboriginal community who steal a car and escape their difficult lives by heading off to Alice Springs.
- Animal Kingdom (2010): Jacki Weaver’s role as a crime family matriarch in this gripping drama set in Melbourne won her multiple awards, including an Oscar nomination for Best Supporting Actress.
- Red Dog (2011): A tearjerker family flick about a kelpie looking for his master in a Western Australian Outback mining town. Adapted from the novel by Louis de Bernières and based on a true story.