Research


“Books are mirrors in which children can see themselves. When they are represented in the literature we read, they can see themselves as valuable and worthy of notice”

— The World of Difference Institute

There is an official term used by the Australian Government to define the ‘traditional’ family model (being, specifically, a two-parent family with biological or adopted children). That label is ‘intact’. This infers that all other family types – step, blended, single parent and so on – are not ‘intact’ families. The use of this term becomes all the more problematic when examining its dictionary definition: Not damaged or impaired in any way. Complete. Whole. Unbroken. What does that say about all the Australian families that don’t fit the ‘intact’ label? The 56,000 foster families, the 99 thousand step families, the 900 thousand single parent families – and that’s just to name a few.

Despite families taking all forms, Australian picture book families remain overwhelmingly traditional; not just ‘intact’, but specifically white, middle class, with both biological parents, a (frequently blonde) male child protagonist, and characters conforming to traditional gender roles. Other family types are rarely acknowledged, and even within ‘intact’ representations, deviation from white, heterosexual and able-bodied characters is rare. This is an issue with far-reaching consequences, as the ability to relate to book characters is a vital tool that engages young children with literature. Studies show that it connects children to the world, validates their personal experiences and helps forge a lifelong love of reading.

In order to address this issue, I am completing a creative writing & visual arts PhD on the importance of family diversity in Australian picture books. As someone from a diverse family (foster and non-biological), this is a topic very close to my heart. For the creative component of my PhD I am writing and illustrating a family diverse picture book. My picture book family is largely inspired by my own family – both my biological family growing up and my non-bio family now.


Presentations

Upcoming:
Assembling Common Worlds, Vancouver Island University, June 2021

Upcoming:
Let’s Talk about Sex in YA, University of Cambridge, April 2021

September 2019
Speaking engagement at the National Centre for Australian Children’s Literature (NCACL)
Presentation: Why representation matters – the importance of family diversity in Australian picture books

August 2019
Silence and Silencing in Children’s Literature, IRSCL Congress, 2019
Presentation: The silencing of family diversity in picture books

March 2019
Radical Young People’s Literature and Culture, ISSCL conference, 2019
Presentation: What makes a family? The radical portrayal of diverse families in picture books

November 2018
Peripheral Visions, 23rd annual AAWP conference, 2018
Presentation: Out of sight – the censoring of family diversity in picture books
(You can view my abstract for the conference on page 101 here.)

September 2018
Top 10 finalist – 2018 Asia-Pacific final, Three Minute Thesis (3MT) competition
Presentation: The importance of family diversity in Australian picture books
(You can view the video here.)

August 2015
A Sense of Wonder, children’s literature symposium, Otago University, 2015
Presentation: Foster Care and the Representation of Trauma in Children’s Literature


Awards

Sep 2018 – Top 10 finalist 3MT (Asia-Pacific final)

Sep 2018 – Winner 3MT & People’s Choice Award (Victoria University finals)

Aug 2018 – Winner 3MT & People’s Choice Award (Victoria University heats)

Aug 2018 – Runner up Visualise your Thesis & People’s Choice Award (Victoria University)


World of Difference Institute cited in Mankiw & Strasser 2013, p. 85

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