The Unlikely Story of Bennelong and Phillip
Berbay Publishing, 2015
Secondary, Upper Primary
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- Aboriginal Australians
- Cultural heroes
- Eora / Iora people (S61) (NSW SI56-05)
- First contact with Europeans
- Intercultural communication
- Settlement and contacts
- Warrane / Sydney Cove (NSW SI56-05)
This narrative non-fiction picture book takes readers back to 1788 with the arrival of the First Fleet in Botany Bay and the early days of settlement. Governor Arthur Phillip arranges for two Eora men to be kidnapped so he can learn more about the customs and culture of the Aboriginal people in the area. A strong friendship develops between Phillip and Bennelong, one of the men captured (the other, Colbee, soon escapes). Bennelong learns English and acts as an important ambassador and peacemaker.
The story is punctuated by moments of humour, understanding and human decency, but also scarred by episodes of tension and violence between the British arrivals and the Eora people. Potatoes are stolen, men are speared and shot. Eventually, these issues put a temporary end to the men’s friendship, although Bennelong is later invited to sail to England with Phillip. The Eora man’s subsequent return to his homeland shows the difficulty of moving between two different worlds: Bennelong is rejected by his own people and moves away for the remainder of his life.
Written in clear, lively prose by Michael Sedunary and paired with beautifully detailed and evocative artwork by ceramic artist Bern Emmerichs, ‘The Unlikely Story of Bennelong and Phillip’ is one in a series from Berbay Publishing exploring first settlement history.
- Teacher Notes. ‘The Unlikely Story of Bennelong and Phillip’. Scholastic. https://resource.scholastic.com.au/resourceFiles/8457523_53932.pdf
- City of Ryde. ‘Finding Bennelong’. (Includes historical evidence, Bennelong’s life through video narrative and research material) http://findingbennelong.com/
- Kiddle encyclopedia. Eora Facts for Kids. https://kids.kiddle.co/Eora
- Best Books for Kids. Picture Books about Australian History https://www.best-books-for-kids.com/australia-history.html
- Bennelong’s Letter. (The AIATSIS Collection holds a very precious copy of what is considered to be the first known use of written English by an Aboriginal Australian. It is a copy of what is known as the 'Bennelong Letter' and represents a seminal work in Australian Aboriginal literature.) https://aiatsis.gov.au/blog/bennelongs-letter