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The Australia Council for the Arts hosted a roundtable discussion on the study of Australian literature in schools and universities on Tuesday 7 August, including 20 eminent authors, publishers, teachers and academics.

In the spirit of beginning a national conversation about the role of Australian literature in schools and universities, the Australian Literature in Education Roundtable participants believe that:

  • Literature presents many perspectives on life, powerfully imagined and memorably expressed, and that exposure to this variety of ways of thinking about the world is one of the main benefits of literary study, particularly in a multicultural and diverse society such as ours;
  • Intensive study of literary works of distinction contributes directly to the development of language skills;
  • The study of literature is a coherent and long-established discipline related to, but not identical with, the study of other forms of artistic expression or cultural phenomena;
  • Teachers have a critical role to play and need the opportunity to explore literature through dialogue with their students as a way of fostering a love of reading. There should be less pressure on teachers to adhere to interpretive frameworks, set out in prescriptive curriculum documents;
  • Curricula should be expressed in plain English;
  • A principal aim of curricula should be to encourage in students a love of literature and reading;
  • Australian literature forms a distinct and distinguished branch of English and world literature;
  • The excellence of Australia’s literary culture depends on a thriving literary education in our schools and universities, which will produce the writers and readers of tomorrow;
  • Australia’s literature, along with its history, has an important role in schools and universities in helping people understand and appreciate the Australian imagination;
  • The teaching and study of Australian literature in schools and universities contributes to the domestic publishing industry and helps to support Australian writers;
  • The decline in such teaching, particularly in universities, has contributed to a situation in which many Australian classics are out of print;
  • The teaching of Australian literature is a key way to preserve, promote and develop our national identity;
  • Literary works of acknowledged importance and artistic excellence should form the core of the English curriculum;
  • Classic works, both from Australia’s literary past and from English and world literature, should form a prominent part of English in school and university curricula;
  • Universities have a responsibility to ensure that future primary and secondary school teachers of English are able to pursue comprehensive, coherent, and rigorous courses of study in Australian and world literature; and
  • The announcement by the Minister for Education, Science and Training, the Hon Julie Bishop MP, of a new chair in Australian literature is warmly applauded, and will further raise the prestige of Australian literary studies.

Therefore, the Roundtable recommends to the Australian Government and governments of the states and territories that:

  • The study of literature should form a core element of English courses in schools, introduced in the primary years and developed at secondary level;
  • Nationally consistent curricula and core standards, which are currently being developed by education ministers, should include a component on Australian literature;
  • This component should be included in any external assessment;
  • There should be a comparative investigation of international models of literary education;
  • Literacy and Numeracy Week should have a greater emphasis on Australian literature;
  • The recently announced summer schools for teachers – along with other aspects of the Australian Government Quality Teacher Programme – should include an emphasis on Australian literature;
  • The Australian Government should initiate a program of support for class sets of Australian books in schools and critical resources for teachers;
  • Education ministers should consider establishing a scheme to assist publishers in keeping Australian classics in print;
  • A group of distinguished writers, teachers and scholars should be convened to establish a list of Australian literary works that form part of the intellectual inheritance of all Australians;
  • There should be an inquiry to discover the most effective way to prepare teachers of literature in the primary and secondary school systems;
  • There should be a survey of the current level of the teaching of literature in universities, in teacher training courses as well as in other undergraduate programs which should include a specific statement on Australian literature courses and on the staffing profile in Australian literature; and
  • Professional scholars of literature and contemporary Australian writers should be involved in the designing and supervision of English curricula in schools.



Brianna Roberts


(02) 9215 9030


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