The gift impossible: Representations of child removal in Australian children's literature, 1841-1941


Scott, Pamela. (2012). The gift impossible: Representations of child removal in Australian children's literature, 1841-1941 [Thesis].
AuthorsScott, Pamela
Qualification nameMaster of Philosophy (MPhil)

Many in the twenty-first century have become aware of, and incensed at, the childremoval policies of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. Yet child removal in Australia has been practised from the time of colonisation, using policies that were brought to Australia from England and modified for colonial society. What is less understood is that child removal has become normalised due, in no small way, to its perpetuation in the social consciousness through the pages of children’s books. Australian authors have inducted their young readership into an adult ideology informed by the beliefs and practices of their own childhood, including their childhood reading. This thesis explores the use of the child-removal theme in one hundred years of Australian children’s literature from its inception in 1841 and the role of children’s literature in promoting the acceptance, or non-questioning, of removal. This will be done by first reviewing Australia’s child-removal practices and how they were influenced by English child-rescue organisations, then analysing representations of ideal parenting models implicit in the literature and the way in which failure to reach such ideals led to, and justified, child removal. Finally, an analysis of literary instances of removal will be undertaken. Child removal in the literature knew no racial barriers and was presented as being inherent in Australian society, be it white or Indigenous. It will be argued that the way in which children’s literature dealt with Indigenous issues created an environment in which Indigenous parenting was devalued, making child removal a logical conclusion. A broad range of Australian children’s literature will be examined, from that produced by Englishborn colonists, to the quickly developing oeuvre produced by (white) Australian-born writers.

PublisherAustralian Catholic University
Digital Object Identifier (DOI)
Research GroupSchool of Arts
Final version
Publication dates07 Jun 2012
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