The timeless success of ‘My Place’

August 29, 2022

The annual My Place Competition for creative writing – jointly presented by the Australian Children’s Television Foundation (ACTF), ABC Education and Copyright Agency’s Reading Australia – was inspired by the acclaimed ABC television series of the same name. It tells the story of one Australian community through the eyes of the children who live there, starting in 2008 and going back decade by decade to before colonisation.

Originally, however, My Place began as an award-winning picture book written by Nadia Wheatley and illustrated by Donna Rawlins. First published in 1988, at a time when our prevailing historical narrative was one of peaceful European settlement, it was remarkable for placing Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples at the beginning and end of Australia’s story.

My Place continues to be one of our bestsellers, which speaks to the power of Nadia Wheatley and Donna Rawlins’ work,’ says Steve Spargo, Head of Marketing and Publicity at Walker Books Australia. ‘This has proven to be one of those magical books that draws readers into its pages, engaging them and taking them on a journey through time.’

The book explores change and continuity, which is also the theme for this year’s competition. It captures the changing face of Australia – in terms of our surroundings, demographics, traditions and family lives – as well as long-established values relating to diversity and recognition of migrants and First Nations peoples.

Now more than 30 years old, with timely revisions to its text and artwork, My Place is still one of Australia’s favourite picture books. ‘We are constantly delighted that new generations of readers find and fall in love with it,’ Steve says. ‘We look forward to seeing future generations find it as well.’

Reading Australia’s teaching resource for My Place was first published in 2015, and it has since become one of our most popular resources of all time, with more than 35,000 downloads and an average 4.78 star rating out of five.

The resource, aimed at students in Years 3 and 4, was written by 2019 Reading Australia Fellow Alex Wharton. He is a firm believer in My Place’s enduring value and relevance, even in 2022.

‘The book transcends time in terms of both content and visual appeal, making it just as rich now as it was in 1988,’ Alex says. ‘It offers students and teachers a window into how place and space can be understood and conveyed, and how this in turn shapes our identity as readers and as Australians.’

Ultimately, Alex suggests, the reason My Place is still so effective is that it grounds the reader in a sense of purpose: to read, understand, be informed and grow.

‘What a significant combination for a text to achieve in tackling issues of multiculturalism, belonging and change,’ he says. ‘My Place takes students on a journey of wider cultural and historical appreciation. We can all learn by sitting humbly and learning from those who have come before us.’

The My Place Competition is open to Years 1–8 and all special education students until Friday 16 September. Visit the competition page for all the details, writing tips, rubrics and additional support material. Good luck and happy writing!

Tags: ,