Date of Submission



Representations of home and homeland in twentieth-century Australian Young Adult novels are regularly associated with violence towards people and place. I have worked with the Nolan Historical Children’s Literature Research Collection to undertake close readings of seventy-eight Australian novels published between 1896 and 1968. In the method articulated by Literary Discourse Theory, I have examined paraliterature such as Australian literature, films, Acts of Parliament, and environmental texts to contextualise and elaborate the notions of home, homeland and violence which appear in these novels. The novels represent the Australian home as a place that is populated almost exclusively by British people, as a place in which eating together is highly valued and which is surrounded with English-style gardens. The novels actively devalue landscape features that pre-date white settlement and they portray sheep and cattle as the primary, critical inhabitants of the Australian homeland, ignoring the impact that these animals have on the environment. Australian young women in particular are personified as under threat by Chinese, Japanese and German peoples, who are construed in a variety of derogatory ways. Aboriginal characters are presented in one of two ways: as station workers, trackers or native police who “help” settlers, or as “wild” and threatening. Aboriginal women are described in extremely offensive terms and are sexualised. The novels do not generally recognise Aboriginal languages. I examine the depictions of people and place in the context of discourses of colonial settlement and Lorenzo Veracini’s model of the tripartite social structure of settler colonial societies. I find that this model is reproduced in the novels, as settlers, immigrants and Aboriginal peoples are segregated. Drawing on theories of violence developed by Walter Benjamin, Hannah Arendt, Giorgio Agamben and others enables an analysis that differs from previous studies of Young Adult novels that have examined themes of racism, the environment or colonialism as individual subjects, which presume the presence of violence but which do not examine it. Several types of violence are identified by this study: written violence on the page; the book as a vehicle of violence; depictions of fictional or historic violence; hate-speech; structural violence of binary classificatory systems implicit in the novels; the ‘violences’ of various moral, environmental, scientific, political, racial, social and anthropological discourses, in which some of the novels participate and citational violence, in which the novels refer to historical discourses. I find that Walter Benjamin’s theory of mythic violence and its connection with law provides a productive framework with which to theorise the function of violence in the novels. Each of the different types of violence that appears in these novels is related to written or unwritten laws about the home and homeland and serves to promote or maintain those laws, as Benjamin theorised.


School of Arts

Document Type


Access Rights

Open Access


327 pages

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Faculty of Education and Arts