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Australian Studies Resources

University of Sydney, Scholarly Electronic Text and Image Service (SETIS)
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Reviewed by:
Kirsten McKenzie
University of Sydney
October 2003

This site offers digital editions of Australian literary and historical texts and additional Australian Studies resources. The site is easy to navigate and arranged in nine sections. Sections list publications and provide access to the full text in PDF format.

There are four sections that contain material of use to teachers and students of world history. “Literary and Historical Texts,” including its subset “AustLit Full Text Projects,” consists of more than 200 texts comprising Australian fiction, poetry, plays, and nonfictional works. The majority range in date from the late 18th century to the 1920s. There are some notable omissions due to copyright restrictions, but this section includes most leading Australian literary figures of the 19th and 20th centuries. Nonfiction texts include Watkin Tench’s account of the first years of British settlement in New South Wales and Raffaello Carboni’s eyewitness account of the 1854 uprising on the Australian goldfields. The site is being expanded as more texts are converted.

The “Australian Federation Full Text Database” comprises more than 50 key texts that record the making of the Australian Commonwealth. These range from official records of the proceedings of federation conferences to political tracts such as feminist Catherine Helen Spence’s “Woman’s Place in the Commonwealth” (1900). “Explorers’ Journals” is still under development and currently includes seven texts dated from 1820 to 1864, covering European accounts of exploration over distinct parts of the Australian continent. Further titles in this section are in preparation and will expand both its temporal and geographical range, although Australia will remain the focus.

One particular advantage is that the site provides both search and browse functions across collections, allowing an extremely diverse site with a large collection of varied primary sources to be searched as a whole. The browse function can be limited by categories such as “literary type” and “subject” (including chronological limitations). The search function is available in both simple and compound format.

The wide assortment of material makes it useful for teaching many distinct themes relevant to world history. Especially well-represented are questions of representation of landscape and Indigenous peoples in colonial situations. The browse and search functions are especially useful in teaching as they make the variety of the site—which can be daunting to students and teachers unfamiliar with Australian history and literature—more manageable. Students might use these functions to draw connections between different kinds of literary representation as well as to highlight resonances between political sources and associated cultural productions.

One example of this might be concerns over questions of race expressed in the immediate context of debates over Australian Federation (1901). This is a particular strength in the site as it combines material such as political texts, travel accounts, and fictional sources (often not organized together by either historians or librarians) into one searchable database. This allows students and teachers to easily make connections that might not be obviously apparent. Useful companions to this site include A Concise History of Australia1 and Australia: A Cultural History.2

1 Scott Macintyre, A Concise History of Australia (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1999).
2 John Rickard, Australia: A Cultural History (New York: Longman, 1996).

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