Nadia Wheatley

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Nadia Wheatley
Born (1949-04-30) 30 April 1949 (age 66)
Sydney, New South Wales
Occupation Writer
Known for Children's fiction, historical fiction, short stories, articles

Nadia Wheatley (born 30 April 1949) is an award winning Australian writer of children's fiction and non-fiction, adult non-fiction and biographies, and newspaper and journal articles. When she received the honorary degree of Doctor of Letters from the University of Sydney it was in recognition of 'her exceptional creative achievements in the field of children's and adult literature, her work as an historian and her contribution to our understanding of Indigenous issues, cultural diversity, equity and social justice and the environment through story'.[1] While many of her books for children and young adults have been received awards from the Children’s Book Council of Australia and Premier’s Literary Awards, Nadia has recently been nominated by the International Board on Books for Young People for the prestigious 2014 Hans Christian Andersen Award for Writing — the highest international recognition given to a living author whose complete works have made a lasting contribution to children’s literature.


Nadia Wheatley was born in Sydney and brought up as a foster child,[2] spending most of her youth in the Strathfield area and attending Meriden School. She began an Arts Degree at the University of Sydney in 1966, intending to major in English, but she changed to History and graduated with Honours in 1970. She later graduated from Macquarie University with an MA Honours degree.

In 1975, Wheatley went to Greece to live, with her then boyfriend, poet Martin Johnston, son of Australian writers George Johnston and Charmian Clift.[3] It was here that she began to write seriously.[4] They lived on both Crete and Astros, and had a routine of writing six days a week. In 1977, they went to London via Yugoslavia, and over the next year they visited Ireland, England and Scotland, before going back to Greece, and then returning to Australia in 1978.[3] On her return to Australia, she lived in Newtown.


Wheatley's first book was Five Times Dizzy.[4] Published in 1983, it was acclaimed as Australia's first multicultural book for children.[5]

She also wrote a biography of Charmian Clift (2002) which won that year's Premier's reading challenge at the New South Wales Premier's History Awards. In 2006, she was a judge for these awards. She was also, in 2006, the University of Canberra's May Gibbs Fellow.

Increasingly, Wheatley has become involved in programs which further social, cultural and environmental awareness, particularly in children. She and Ken Searle took part in the Australian Society of Authors funded mentorship program for Indigenous writers. The result of their involvement was Mary Malbunka's children's book When I was Little, Like You (2003, Allen & Unwin).[6]

"Going Bush" project[edit]

Going Bush
Author Nadia Wheatley
Illustrator Ken Searle
Country Australia
Language English
Genre Children's non-fiction
Publisher Allen and Unwin
Publication date
March 2007
Media type Print (hardback)
ISBN 978-1-74114-911-1
OCLC 174105642

Nadia's book, Going Bush, grew out of a Harmony Day project developed in 2003 by eight inner-Sydney city schools. The initial plan was to break down barriers between the communities but it developed into a larger project which included learning about the environment, Indigenous culture, and living in multicultural communities, and involved sixteen Muslim, Catholic and government schools. In 2005 Nadia Wheatley and Ken Searle were invited by the committee to work with the children on "the theme of freedom".[7] Wheatley and Searle used an educational model they had developed with others in the 1990s at Papunya School in Central Australia which "puts country at the core of the curriculum".[7] The result was the book, Going Bush, which captures what the children learnt through exploring a section of urban bushland along Wolli Creek.[7][8]

Awards and nominations[edit]

Five Times Dizzy[edit]

Dancing in the Anzac Deli[edit]

The House that Was Eureka[edit]

My Place[edit]

won the devil award (2000)

Lucy in the Leap Year[edit]

The Night Tolkien Died[edit]


  • Honour Book – CBCA (1999)

Papunya School Book of Country and History[edit]

  • Shortlisted – CBCA (2002)

The Life and Myth of Charmian Clift[edit]

Going Bush[edit]

  • Shortlisted – Australian Awards for Excellence in Educational Publishing (2007)

Australians All[edit]

  • Winner, NSW Premier's History Award, Young People's History Award, 2014

Selected bibliography[edit]


  • Five Times Dizzy (1982, Oxford University Press)
  • Dancing in the Anzac Deli (1984, Oxford University Press)
  • The House that Was Eureka (1985, Viking Kestrel)
  • 1 is for One (illus. Helen Leitch, 1986, Oxford University Press)
  • My Place (illus. Donna Rawlins, 1987, Collins Dove)
  • Lucy in the Leap Year (1993, Omnibus)
  • The Night Tolkien Died (1994, Random House)
  • The Greatest Treasure of Charlemagne the King (illus. Deborah Klein, 1997)
  • Highway (illus. Andrew McLean, 1998)
  • Luke's Way of Looking (illus. Matt Ottley, 1999)
  • Vigil (2000, Viking)
  • Papunya School Book of Country and History (2002, illus, Ken Searle; in collaboration with Anangu staff and students, Papunya School)
  • A Banner Bold: The Diary of Rosa Aarons, Ballarat goldfield, 1854 (2000, Scholastic)
  • Listening to Mondrian (2006, Allen and Unwin)
  • Going Bush (illus. Ken Searle, 2007, Allen and Unwin)
  • Playground (illus. Ken Searle, 2011, Allen and Unwin)
  • Australians All (illus. Ken Searle, 2013, Allen and Unwin)
  • Flight (illus. Armin Greder, 2015, Windy Hollow Books)


  • The Life and Myth of Charmian Clift (2001, HarperCollinsPublishers)


  1. ^ "University of Sydney Honorary Awards Nadia Wheatley". University of Sydney. University of Sydney. Retrieved 30 April 2015. 
  2. ^ Adelaide (1988) p. 202
  3. ^ a b Tranter (1993)
  4. ^ a b AusLit (2007)
  5. ^ "Nadia Wheatley". Allen & Unwin. Retrieved 30 April 2015. 
  6. ^ Diamond (2003)
  7. ^ a b c Students "going bush" in the city (2007)
  8. ^ Allen and Unwin Media Release for "Going Bush" (2007)