Nadia Wheatley

Professional biography

Nadia Wheatley is currently the school’s Artist in Residence – a position she shares with painter Ken Searle.

Wheatley graduated from the University of Sydney in 1970 with an honours degree in history, and was awarded a master's degree from Macquarie University in 1975.

A full-time professional writer since 1976, Wheatley has written a number of award-winning books for children, young adults and adults, in a variety of genres including novels, picture books, short stories, biography and history.

The author’s biography of the influential Australian essayist Charmian Clift was described by critic Peter Craven as “one of the greatest Australian biographies”. The Life and Myth of Charmian Clift was the Age Non-Fiction Book of the Year (2001) and won the New South Wales Premier’s Award for Australian History (2002).

Wheatley’s books for children and young adults reflect her commitment to supporting cultural diversity, environmental understanding, and reconciliation with the First Peoples of Australia.

While nine of these books have been recognised in the annual awards of the Children’s Book Council of Australia (CBCA), Wheatley is perhaps best known for the picture book My Place, produced in collaboration with illustrator, Donna Rawlins. The author was also history consultant and script consultant for the recent 26-part television adaptation of My Place, released on the ABC in 2009 and 2011 and acknowledged as Most Outstanding Children’s Series in the 2012 Logie Awards.

Wheatley’s most recent book is a compilation of art and autobiographical stories by more than 100 Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people. Produced in consultation with renowned Aboriginal historian Dr Jackie Huggins, and including new illustrations by Ken Searle, this compilation gives a fascinating insight into Indigenous childhood and learning, both traditional and contemporary. Playground is on the 2012 CBCA shortlist for the Eve Pownall Award for Information Books.

As well as writing for children and young adults, Wheatley is committed to helping them develop literacy skills and a love for literature. For the past 30 years she has run workshops in primary and secondary schools across Australia, and has lectured at tertiary level to students and professional colleagues.

Wheatley also has a particular commitment to Indigenous education. During the period 1998 to 2001 she and artist Ken Searle worked as consultants at the school at Papunya (an Aboriginal community in the Western Desert, Northern Territory). While assisting the Anangu staff and students to develop resources for the Indigenous curriculum that the school had developed, Nadia and Ken helped produce the multi-award-winning Papunya School Book of Country and History – a collaborative account of the history of this internationally-famous Western Desert community, told from an Indigenous perspective.

In 2005 Nadia and Ken used the Papunya Model of Education as their inspiration when they ran an innovative harmony project with 16 children from Muslim, Catholic and state schools in Sydney’s south-west. The resulting picture book, Going Bush, showcases the poetry and art of the students in the project alongside an environmental text by Nadia Wheatley and artwork by Ken Searle.



Awards

  • Logie, Most Outstanding Children’s Television Series, My Place, 2012
  • Six-month residency at Rome Studio (B.R. Whiting Library) granted by Literature Board, Australia Council, 2002
  • Australian History Prize, New South Wales Premier's History Awards, The Life and Myth of Charmian Clift, 2002
  • The Age Book of the Year, Non Fiction, The Life and Myth of Charmian Clift, 2001
  • Awarded Four Year Senior Fellowship, Literature Board, Australia Council, 1996
  • CBCA Book of the Year for Younger Readers, My Place, 1988
  • Inaugural Eve Pownall Award for Non-fiction, My Place, 1988
  • IBBY Australian Honour Book, My Place, 1988
  • KOALA Award, My Place, 1988
  • US Library Best Books for Young People, My Place, 1988
  • New South Wales Premier's Special Children's Book Award, Five Times Dizzy, 1983


Professional and community roles

  • Patron of Jannawi (a specialist child protection agency based in south-west Sydney), 2012
  • Member Outback Advisory Committee, Wakakirri Outback Festival of Visual and Performing Arts, 2008-2012
  • Judge, New South Wales Premier's History Awards, 2006 and 1997
  • Foundation Member New South Wales Premier’s Reading Challenge, 2002
  • Deputy Chair, Australian Society of Authors, 1992–1995


Current projects

  • Growing Up in Australia, due for publication by Allen & Unwin in 2013.


Selected publications

Picture books

  • My Place, illus. Donna Rawlins, Walker Books
  • Highway, illus. Andrew McLean, Omnibus
  • Luke's Way of Looking, illus. Matt Ottley, Walker Books

Illustrated non-fiction for children and young adults

  • Papunya School Book of Country and History (in collaboration with Papunya School), Allen & Unwin
  • Going Bush, illus. Ken Searle, Allen & Unwin
  • Playground, illus Ken Searle, Allen & Unwin

Fiction for children and young adults

  • Five Times Dizzy and Dancing in the Anzac Deli, Hachette
  • The House That Was Eureka, Penguin
  • Lucy in the Leap Year, Omnibus
  • The Night Tolkien Died, Random House
  • Vigil, Penguin
  • A Banner Bold, Scholastic Australia
  • Listening to Mondrian, Allen & Unwin

Biography for adults

  • The Life and Myth of Charmian Clift, HarperCollins