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The Coolest People in Australian History

Tania McCartney (photo)
Tania McCartney

Tania McCartney is one of our favourite visitors and — hooray! — today she’s visiting again. We’re celebrating her newest book Caroline Chisholm: The Emigrant’s Friend. This is the fifth book in the ‘Aussie Heroes’ series of junior historical fiction, it’s an illustrated chapter book for children aged 8–12. (Illustrations are by Pat Reynolds.)

Tania is on a blog tour to celebrate the book. You might remember when Tania launched her book Australian Story: An Illustrated Timeline, she gave us Ten Reasons Why History is Exciting. Today she’s here with her list of The Coolest People in Australian History. Awesome!

Over to you, Tania.

There’s a saying you may have heard: fact is stranger than fiction.

What does this mean?

Well, it means that Real Life — and the many quadrillions of things that happen in Real Life — are often more shocking, more exciting, more adventurous, more interesting, funnier and crazier than anyone could ever make up in a storybook.

History and its stories are particularly stranger than fiction — and the further you go back in time, the more bizarre these stories can be. Some of you may have read the Horrible Histories books, and you’ll know exactly what I mean!

The history of the Australian people is, of course, many thousands of years old. It all began when our First People arrived — some say over 60,000 years ago. Other than the precious relics of our Aboriginal stories and cave paintings, our country’s recorded history is a lot shorter than that — just over 200 years.

In that time, many people have dedicated their lives to shaping this great country of ours — standing up against injustice, providing a helping hand or creating something beautiful. There are simply too many people to choose from, but I’ve chosen five people I think are some of the coolest Aussies in history.

To me, these people are cool because they were either brave or talented — or both. The brave ones were ferociously brave. The talented ones were the best in their field.

I wonder who will make this Cool Aussies list in 100 years’ time. Will it be you?

  1. May Gibbs (1877–1969). Cecilia May Gibbs was an artist and author responsible for the beautiful Snugglepot and Cuddle Pie series of children’s books (among many others) that celebrate our Australian flora. Once upon a time, the only books Australian children had to read were from British or American authors! May Gibbs was one of the very first authors with a true focus on Australian life and our environment, and of course, many Aussie authors have since followed in her footsteps. Very cool indeed.
  2. Donald Bradman (1908–2001). Australia is a nation of sport-lovers and quite possibly our most famous Aussie sportsman would be Sir Donald Bradman. I’m sure you’ve heard of him. He was such a fine cricketer, people said he was the equivalent of three batsman, not just one. He was also cool because he was a vibrant, entertaining sportsman; his skills would attract enormous crowds. I must admit, I still don’t ‘get’ cricket but there’s no doubt Mr Bradman was probably responsible for making it so popular.
  3. Ned Kelly (c.1855–1880). Some people would argue that a murderous bushman is not the coolest of historical Australians, but much has been written in support of Ned Kelly — that he was misunderstood and targeted by the authorities — perhaps even set-up. Some have even called him a modern-day Robin Hood, robbing from the rich and giving to the poor. When he was hanged at age 25, his final words were ‘such is life’.
  4. Eddie Mabo (1936–1992). Eddie Koiki Mabo was born in the Torres Strait Islands and was a champion for Indigenous land rights. He was deeply committed to forging a landmark decision with the High Court of Australia that allowed Aboriginal people to claim back the land that was taken from them when white man arrived in Australia. Today, we celebrate Mabo Day on 3 June every year, in honour of Eddie’s important achievements. Not only cool — awesome.
  5. Caroline Chisholm (1808–1877). Caroline was born in England but emigrated to Australia with her family, where she began helping the penniless, homeless young women sent by boat to Australia. As more women and families began to arrive, Caroline helped them find work and housing. She also reunited families and improved appalling conditions on immigrant ships and on the Victorian goldfields. Caroline helped families make the best of terrible situations and dedicated her life to the wellbeing of others. Not much cooler than that.

What do you think of my 5 Coolest People in Australian History list? Do you agree with it? Who would be on your list and why?

Leave a comment below, with YOUR top 5 Coolest People in Australian History, and I’ll publish your picks on my blog! Make sure you leave your first name and age with your comment.

~ Tania McCartney, author of Caroline Chisholm: The Emigrant’s Friend.

Caroline Chisholm - book cover

Do you want to know more about Tania McCartney and her new book? Check out the other stops on the Caroline Chisholm Blog Tour.