Picture Books For Kids About the History of Australia

These picture books for kids about the history of Australia are a fantastic way to introduce your children to the story of how Australia was settled by the English in 1788 and of the Aboriginal history of Australia which stretches back 40,000 years before that.

They're perfect for kids aged between 5 and 10 but do try them with your three or four-year-old too.

australian history

I would begin with the brilliant What's your story? which I've only just discovered. Published in 2013, it's beautifully illustrated and actually does a great job of introducing the concept of history as a series of stories to young children.

It also tells the story of white settlement from the Aboriginal point of view and does so beautifully.

Some book shops here in Australia will have copies of these books and your local library should also have them.

They are also available from my two favourite online bookshops, the Book Depository and Booktopia. Click on the book covers to see the books in these stores.

What's your story?

whats your story

This is a fairly new book (published in 2013) which I've only recently discovered and I'm so glad I did!

It's the story of the friendship which grows between Leonard, a little orphan boy from England, and an Aboriginal girl called Milba.

Leonard arrives in the new colony of New South Wales with the First Fleet and the story is set against the backdrop of the first settlement of Australia.

The illustrations in this book are beautiful, as is the story.


This book tells the true childhood stories of eighty Aboriginal Elders and twenty high school students.

'We use the bush as our school and as our playground,' says one of the storytellers.

playground, nadia wheatley

In these stories are memories of getting bush tucker, going fishing and taking part in ceremony, as well as descriptions of playing games, building cubbies and having fun.

This is a book about family, community and connection to the land with wonderful artwork to illustrate the stories.

It's a fabulous introduction to Aboriginal culture for non-Aboriginal children.

It's also simply a wonderful book to share with your child.

This book will have special meaning for your children if you've travelled through outback Australia or if you're planning a trip.

Several years ago when my children were young, we did a trip through New South Wales, South Australia and the Northern Territory to Uluru. 'Playground' had yet to be written then but it would have been a brilliant book to take with us to share with the kids along the way. 

Papunya School Book of Country & History

This book was originally produced as a resource to be used for the Papunya School Curriculum. It's the result of a unique collaboration involving the staff and students of Papunya School, working together with children's writer Nadia Wheatley and artist Ken Searle.

papunya school book of country and history

It's a fascinating account of the history of Western Desert communities from an indigenous perspective and has won many awards.

The book begins with the story of how Anangu from five different language groups came to live together at Papunya.

It tells of their first contacts with explorers, missionaries and pastoralists, of the Papunya art movement and the Warumpi Band.

This leads on to the story of the development of the unique educational environment that is Papunya School.

For non-aborginal children, this book is a terrific way of explaining something of the rich history and culture of indigenous Australians. 

My Place

'My Place' is a well-known book in Australia and is often used in schools. It was originally written to celebrate the bicentenary of white settlement in Australia and was made into a TV series in 2008.

my place, nadia wheatley

The book is a series of twenty-one stories, each about a different child at a different decade in history, beginning in 1788.

Each story is self-contained and shows a different period in Australia's history as seen through the eyes of a child. The stories are set in Sydney and many of the children are linked through family across generations.

Across all the stories, the fig tree, the map and the creek remain constant, tying the stories together.

These three elements are symbols of the land and its sustenance of the people who live there. They link the 'place' to the original owners of the land and highlight how many people and many cultures now share it. Through the stories, we imagine what life was like for the children and their families.

This is a brilliant book which is great to share with children of all ages. 

Meet Captain Cook

meet captain cook

This beautifully-illustrated book tells the story of Captain Cook, beginning with his childhood in England.

The main focus is Cook's voyage to the countries that would later be called New Zealand and Australia and the story of the voyage and the hardships the crew faced is told in an appealing and accessible way.

Well worth reading aloud to children aged from about three to 10 years of age.

The Unlikely Story of Bennelong and Phillip

the unlikely story of bennelong and phillip

This is the story of the friendship between Captain Arthur Phillip, who brought the first white settlers to Australia, and Bennelong, an Aboriginal man.

It's an extraordinary story and an important part of our history but it's often glossed over in history texts and it's rarely mentioned at all in books written for children.

Yet the story provides a rich opportunity for highlighting the contrasts between traditional Aboriginal culture and values and 18th century European culture and values.

A brilliant book, beautifully illustrated.

Meet the Anzacs

This terrific picture book is a new release in 2014 and it's really worth looking out for.

meet the anzacs

In terrific illustrations and text it tells the story of Australia's participation in the First World War, explaining how and why Australian men went to fight and what they did when they arrived in Egypt.

The book doesn't describe what happened at Gallipoli but it describes the lead up to it sensitively and very well, leaving loads of room for discussion and perhaps for further reading.

The book's probably most suitable for 4-10 year olds but older children and adults will also appreciate it.

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