Introductory activities

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander readers should be aware that some of the following resources refer to deceased persons. All readers should be aware that the novel addresses themes of racism, colonialism, dispossession, and sexual violence. It is important to acknowledge such themes and to treat the experiences of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders peoples with sensitivity and respect.

In her Reading Australia resource for Tara June Winch’s The Yield, Emma Jenkins makes several suggestions for teachers to create safe spaces and support students in addressing challenging or distressing content. She lists the following starting points for building cultural empathy and respect:

  • Read an Acknowledgement of Country before reading the text – this could be a shared experience that the class undertakes together
  • Find out what Country you are on (if you don’t already know)
  • Find out what you can about the local languages in your area
  • Look for opportunities to engage with people’s experiences with languages – involve your students in the discussion
  • Acknowledge that First Nations persons are complex individuals with varied and diverse experiences
  • Be aware of your local traditional custodians and make an effort to understand their histories and connections
  • Be mindful that some students may feel anxious about acknowledging languages they speak at home – don’t force them to explain or demonstrate
  • Avoid making generalisations about Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples and their experiences
  • Don’t involve students in discussions if they find the content distressing – have some other activities that they can undertake independently should they not feel like participating
  • Establish some ground rules for communicating in your classroom in respectful ways

Jenkins also provides strategies for leading students safely in and safely out of sensitive material, such as:

  • Facilitating a safe space for students to engage in the material
  • Acknowledging students’ level of comfort/discomfort around certain topics
  • Creating clear processes for students to inform the teacher if they are uncomfortable
  • Focusing on the successes of individuals and communities
  • Allowing time to debrief at the conclusion of each lesson so that students leave the classroom without concerns or anxieties
  • Teaching students how to respond to material with empathy
  • Avoiding asking students to relate to experiences that they are unfamiliar with
  • Addressing racist attitudes and/or ideologies swiftly
  • Giving students an opportunity to act

You might like to consider a few additional points:

  • Always use plurals to acknowledge the diversity of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples, cultures, histories, beliefs, perspectives, and so on.
  • Use the present tense when speaking about First Nations peoples and the events/forces in our society that continue to discriminate against them.
  • Address the importance of treating First Nations beliefs respectfully, rather than as ‘myths’ or ‘legends’. This may lead to an interesting discussion on how word use reflects societal attempts to subjugate the original inhabitants of a place through minimising language.
  • An emphasis on kindness goes a long way, as does an acknowledgement that there are no stupid questions – only questions that benefit from education and discussion.

Finally, you might like to consult the following resources:

Acknowledgement of Country

As Ghost Bird is deeply rooted in the author’s culture and experiences as a First Nations woman, it would be valuable to begin with an Acknowledgement of Country that is relevant to the land on which learning is taking place. Acknowledgements can be read from a script, but they are more meaningful when personalised to the students’ context as learners upon a particular Country.

Reconciliation Australia provides a useful introduction to the Acknowledgement of Country and its difference from a Welcome to Country. This includes a video that you could share with students. Here is an example of an Acknowledgment that can be delivered on Whadjuk Noongar Country, which incorporates Perth and Fremantle (among other cities and towns) in Western Australia:

I would like to acknowledge the Traditional Owners of the land on which I live and study: the Whadjuk people of the Noongar nation, whose connection to Noongar boodja (country) remains as strong today as ever. I pay my respects to Elders past and present, and to all Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people who contribute to the education of Australians today.

Encourage students to write their own Acknowledgement of Country, and share these at various points throughout the learning sequence.


There can be some confusion around which terms to use when writing or speaking about Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples. This video by Lara Croydon, a Gudjala Kabulba producer and performer, explores this terminology and its appropriate usage. Different communities and individuals will have their own preferences, so you should always follow the lead and respect the cultural protocols of whoever you are interacting with. You can also refer to Narragunnawali’s guide to using respectful and inclusive language.

Croydon also explains how the land mass known as Australia actually comprises many different Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander nations and cultures. Her YouTube channel is worth exploring for its mix of history, culture, politics, and pop culture, including a ‘Deadly Top 5’ series of First Nations televisions shows, musicians, and fashion brands.

You could also explore the AIATSIS map of Indigenous Australia and have students identify the Country upon which they live and study. The Gambay First Languages map is another excellent resource to draw students’ attention to the diversity of First Nations cultures.

Pre-reading activities

Activity 1

Watch the CBCA video in which Lisa Fuller discusses the inspiration for Ghost Bird. Discuss the following:

  1. What does the video suggest about the importance of representing First Nations voices?
  2. Fuller suggests that her novel seeks to represent her community, culture, and spiritual beliefs. How does her creative process reflect this intention?
  3. In what ways has Fuller drawn on her personal context to write this novel?
Activity 2

Context is key to developing a critical and informed understanding of a text. It is important that students understand the impacts of colonisation upon the First Peoples of Australia.

Assign students ONE topic from the list below. Using the resources provided, they will produce an informal talk (two minutes long) to share their learnings with the class. This could also be conducted as a jigsaw activity: students could work in small groups, each investigating a different topic, then join up with students from other groups to share their findings and fill gaps in their knowledge.

NOTE: Some of these resources contain information that may be distressing for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander readers. You may need to be selective in assigning them for investigation; refer to the advice at the beginning of the unit (Introductory Activities) to support your students through this activity.

First Nations peoples and cultures The effects of colonisation
Family and kinship

Reserves and missions

Connection to Country

The effects of colonisation

Roles and relationships

The Stolen Generations

Students could record their findings on a retrieval chart or create posters to display in the classroom.

Activity 3

Understanding the importance of Dreaming stories will help students to appreciate the significance of the spiritual elements in Ghost Bird. ‘The Dreaming’ is an English term for a First Nations concept that encompasses creation stories, beliefs about the world, rules for living, and morality. Dreaming stories vary between First Nations cultures but often share common features. This article by Common Ground provides further insight into this complex concept.

NOTE: As the Australian Government Style Manual explains, the term ‘Dreamtime’ has fallen out of use as it incorrectly implies that the Dreaming is fixed in time. Some older First Nations people may still use this term, but many others choose not to.

In her TEDxAdelaide talk, Adnyamathanha and Ngarrindjeri woman Jacinta Koolmatrie tells the story of the Yamuti, a large creature that is said to steal children (Koolmatrie has written about the Yamuti and its connection with the Diprotodon, one of Australia’s extinct megafauna, for the Australian Museum). This example reveals how First Nations stories – which are sometimes dismissed as myths or legends – preserve and communicate important knowledge about the world. Koolmatrie also draws attention to Elders as the keepers of such knowledge, and discusses why they are held in such esteem by their communities.

Use Koolmatrie’s TEDx talk to lead a classroom discussion on the significance of stories shared by First Nations Elders, such as Stacey and Laney’s Nan in Ghost Bird.

Further activities for exploring First Nations stories and beliefs are listed below:

  • Dust Echoes, although aimed at slightly younger students, offers an engaging introduction to Dreaming stories from Central Arnhem Land. Produced by the ABC in collaboration with Djilpin Aboriginal Arts Corporation, this series communicates themes, values, and cultural understandings that are important to the Bagala people of the Jawoyn Nation. As a homework activity, students could watch one of the Dust Echoes animations (there are twelve to choose from) and identify the key message. There are also ATOM study guides for each video should you wish to explore this series further.
  • The tawny frogmouth is a nocturnal bird and the titular ‘ghost bird’ of the novel. In this interview, Fuller – who is descended from the Wuilli Wuilli, Gooreng Gooreng and Wakka Wakka peoples – explains its significance in her culture as well as in the story (see question four). This resource from the Australian Museum outlines the broader importance of birds in First Nations cultures. Students could undertake further research and create a fact sheet about the tawny frogmouth that combines Western knowledge about the bird with First Nations knowledge.
  • Consider signing up for Common Ground’s First Nations Bedtime Stories, an annual week of storytelling in which respected Elders share significant stories from their cultures. Teachers can sign up for free to access the films and educational resources. Some can also be viewed on Common Ground’s Instagram. The Dreaming (an animated series created in close consultation with First Nations communities) and ‘Journey into the Dreamtime with Aunty Munya Andrews’ (a presentation by a Bardi Elder and cultural educator) may also be useful.
Activity 4

It is possible that you will have students in your class who have limited knowledge about – and have had limited interactions with – First Nations people. It may be valuable to address any preconceptions if this is their first time engaging with First Nations voices. The following videos may assist you to break down stereotypes or biases that non-Indigenous students may bring to class:

If appropriate, students could compose a journal entry reflecting on three ways in which their prior understanding of First Nations peoples or cultures has been refined. If a safe environment has been established, and they are comfortable to do so, they may share their thoughts in a class or small group discussion.

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Personal response on reading the text

First Nations voices today


Although it is set in 1999, Ghost Bird draws attention to the ways in which First Nations peoples continue to experience prejudice and discrimination in the contemporary world. This video, produced by Reconciliation Australia, outlines key facts from the 2021 State of Reconciliation in Australia Report.

Investigate the steps taken within your school or local community in furtherance of reconciliation. Foster student agency in supporting this vision by having them create a poster or banner that promotes it. Alternatively, they could record brief (30-second) video messages that could be edited together as a statement of their commitment to reconciliation in their community.

The Uluru Statement from the Heart

In 2017, more than 250 Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander delegates of the National Constitutional Convention signed the Uluru Statement from the Heart. The Uluru Statement is an invitation to non-Indigenous Australians to join First Nations peoples in bringing about genuine and substantive reform and recognition. This hinges on three key pillars: Voice, Treaty, Truth. There are further resources on the Uluru Statement website, including an informative video to introduce the Statement to students.

Encourage students to read the Statement and discuss the significance of having First Nations representation at all levels of society. Draw connections to First Nations representation in the classroom via texts such as Ghost Bird; this will be explored further in the Informed Reaction section.

Sibling relationships

Stacey and Laney’s relationship will be recognisable to many students with siblings. In this interview, Fuller explains the concept of ‘mirror twins’. There is a deep connection between the sisters, despite the conflict that arises from their differing personalities. Their bond is so great, in fact, that Stacey has dreams in which she vicariously experiences Laney’s abduction and incarceration in the cave near the Potters’ place. Their biological connection, as well as their shared culture and history, binds them together even though they have quite different values and goals.

If appropriate, students could compose a journal entry reflecting on the nature of their relationship(s) with their own siblings, OR another significant relative or loved one. Encourage them to reflect on the strength of their bonds, and the lengths to which they might go to help that person in a difficult or dangerous situation. Alternatively, students might write imaginatively about the pros and cons of being a twin.

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Outline of key elements of the text


Stacey and Laney Thomson are mirror twins living in Eidsvold (rural Queensland) with their mum, Alana. Their beloved Nan has passed away and, with Alana working long hours, the girls are often on their own. Stacey studies hard, waiting for the day she can escape the racist town, while Laney gets involved with a local boy named Troy.

Stacey is terrified by a strange dream in which Laney is captured by unknown creatures – a dream that starts to seem suspiciously real when Laney goes missing. It reminds Stacey of the stories shared by her Nan, and she realises the importance of listening to these dreams.

Troy eventually reveals that he and Laney had been raiding a house belonging to the Potters, a long-established and racist family of property owners. Stacey’s family comes together to search for Laney after the police offer little support. When Stacey’s dreams continue, she turns to Sam Miller, a young man whose family is locked in a bitter feud with the Thomsons. Sam’s aunt, known as ‘Mad’ May Miller by most people in town, reveals that she has been tormented for decades by the same creatures that abducted Laney. She urges Stacey to listen to her dreams.

Drawing on her inner strength, and that of her family and culture, Stacey tracks down Laney and rescues her from the clutches of the creatures. In the process she makes the dreadful decision to sacrifice Dan Potter – but, in doing so, she and Laney escape with their lives.


Eidsvold is a real place in southeast Queensland. It was settled by Scottish brothers who also owned property in Norway, hence the name (‘Eidsvold’ is derived from the Norwegian ‘Eidsvoll’). The town in Ghost Bird is notable for its division and racism, with several references to the discrimination experienced by the Eidsvold Murri community in both daily life and the historical records (which are colonial in nature).

Another significant location in the novel is the mountain that borders the Potters’ place. The mountain is taboo, but it is the one place Stacey must venture if she is to rescue her sister.

Narrative point of view

Ghost Bird is narrated in the first person from Stacey’s perspective. Throughout the novel, however, Stacey’s dreams are recounted in the first person from Laney’s perspective.

Key characters

Stacey Thomson The protagonist, a studious young Murri woman
Laney Thomson Stacey’s more outgoing and rebellious mirror twin who disappears near the start of the novel
Alana Thomson The twins’ mother, a hard-working nurse
Uncle Joe The twin’s paternal uncle who helps lead the search
Nan Stacey and Laney’s grandmother, whose stories thrilled and educated the girls
Pop Stacey and Laney’s grandfather
Rhiannon Stacey’s cousin, a confident young woman who supports Stacey in her search for Laney
Sam Miller A local boy (and potential love interest) who also supports Stacey despite their longstanding family feud
‘Mad’ May Miller Sam’s aunt, dismissed as ‘crazy’ by the locals, who is actually very wise and helps Stacey reconnect with her beliefs
The Potters A racist family descended from the town’s early settlers; includes brothers Dan and Eric, who threaten and abuse the Eidsvold Murri community

Some key themes

  • Cultural identity
  • Spirituality and law
  • The importance of family and kinship
  • The strength of community
  • Courage and resilience
  • Colonialism and its ongoing effects
    • Dispossession
    • Racism and prejudice
    • Whitewashing of history
  • Love and friendship

Synthesising task/activity

Stacey’s diary

The structure of Ghost Bird lends itself to diary writing as it is sequenced over seven days (‘The Day Of’ and six subsequent days), with an epilogue that takes place ‘A Few Days Later’. The seven days are then split variously into ‘Daylight’, ‘Morning’, ‘Afternoon’, ‘Twilight’, ‘Night’, and ‘Midnight’.

As they read the novel, have students keep notes using a reading record (PDF, 82KB).

After reading, students can demonstrate their initial understanding of the text by writing Stacey’s diary. Working in groups of eight, each person will focus on a different day. They will compose a diary entry from Stacey’s perspective (about one page in length) that reflects on the events of their assigned 24-hour period. Students should aim to capture not only the key events Stacey experiences, but also her tone, thoughts and feelings. This could include her ambivalence towards Eidsvold; her irritations and deep concerns about Laney; her thoughts on her relationship with her mother and other family members; her moral conflict over abandoning Dan; and her blossoming relationship with Sam, which is strongly hinted at the end of the book.

You could also have students compose a video diary to differentiate the task.

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The writer’s craft


Key moments

Use the key events template (PDF, 148KB) to record key events from each chapter, either as students read or after they finish as a revision exercise. Work as a class to:

  • Record the event on the key itself
  • Explain its significance on the attached tag
  • Colour in (or copy onto coloured cards) the events in which tension is highest (you could even use a colour coding system to map peaks and troughs of tension throughout the novel)
Conflict chart

There are many conflicts (and types of conflicts) explored in Ghost Bird. These include:

Intrapersonal conflicts e.g. Stacey’s tug-of-war between reason and belief; her guilt over some of the things she has said and done; facing her fear of the mountain; her moral dilemma about sacrificing Dan
Interpersonal conflicts e.g. various encounters between Stacey and Laney/Bobbie/Cassie; the feud between the Thomsons and the Millers; Stacey’s initial meeting with Sam; Stacey, Sam and Rhi’s encounter with the Potters
Social conflicts e.g. the power imbalance between the police and the Eidsvold Murri community
Cultural conflicts e.g. the treatment of First Nations people by Eidsvold’s white property owners (past and present); the disparity between the ‘black’ and ‘white’ parts of town; Stacey’s initial scepticism regarding the veracity of her dreams

In groups, have students brainstorm as many conflicts from the novel as they can, using some of the above examples as prompts. They should write each conflict on a separate piece of paper or sticky note. Then have all the groups collaborate, compiling their ideas and editing to improve clarity. Don’t discard repeats at this stage!

Write headings based on the different types of conflicts on the board OR on butcher’s paper attached to the wall. Students should categorise their sticky notes under these headings, negotiating with each other to determine their placement.

Some conflicts may fit under more than one heading, which will lead to robust discussions about how authors use conflict to develop characters, construct themes, and comment on the world at large. For example, Stacey and Laney’s argument about Western education (p. 15) is both an interpersonal conflict and a cultural conflict; it may be recognisable to other First Nations readers who have grown up under colonial systems that do not recognise (or actively try to erase) their culture.

Finally, in pairs, students will select ONE of the conflicts from the novel and complete the conflict table (PDF, 83KB), developing a deeper understanding of conflict and its narrative functions.

The hero’s journey

Ghost Bird can be plotted against Freytag’s Pyramid, progressing through a series of peaks and troughs towards the climax (in which Stacey rescues Laney from the cave). However, the narrative structure – as well as Stacey’s character arc – is a good example of the hero’s journey. Also known as the monomyth, the hero’s journey is an archetypal narrative that has been replicated in many contemporary narratives. Matthew Winkler’s TED-Ed talk, which outlines the structure of the hero’s journey, is a great introduction for students. This blog would make a good accompaniment, as it articulates both Joseph Campbell’s original explanation and Christopher Vogler’s 2007 revisions.

Have students plot the narrative structure of Ghost Bird against the twelve stages of the hero’s journey, using the think-pair-share routine and coming to consensus as a class. Each stage could be recorded on a separate poster (PDF, 93KB) and displayed in the classroom for future reference.

Students could also draw Stacey’s journey in their notebooks OR use the SmartArt function in Microsoft Word to create a flow chart. Remind students that the stages are not regularly spaced. For example, Stage 6 (Tests, Allies, Enemies) encompasses a significant portion of the novel, whereas Stages 7 to 12 all take place on Day 6. Alternatively, students might use Microsoft PowerPoint or Prezi to create a visual representation of the hero’s journey, with separate slides explaining each stage of Stacey’s quest.

Discuss the ways in which the narrative deviates from the hero’s journey. For example, we might consider Stacey’s mentor to be a combination of both May and Nan, who share their wisdom and encourage Stacey to trust in her dreams and her instincts. Furthermore, Stacey returns to the ordinary world with her reward – her sister Laney – but is traumatised by the elixir: the experience and knowledge of what really happened, and how far she was willing to go.

Students should write a reflection on how the epilogue (‘A Few Days Later’, pp. 268–277) subverts the traditional hero’s return, with Stacey’s obvious trauma undermining the reader’s expectation for a triumphant conclusion. Why might Fuller have decided to end the novel like this? Does it:

  • Create a more nuanced and complex character, who is not so quick to dismiss her harrowing experiences, nor the realisation that saving her sister has come at the cost of another life?
  • Confront the aftermath of conflict, which is so often overlooked in typical ‘happy endings’?
  • Draw attention to the lingering effects of trauma on survivors?
Other aspects of structure

Further topics for classroom discussion include:

  • The function of the prologue in:
    • engaging readers in medias res
    • introducing ideas about spiritual beliefs and intergenerational transmission of culture/knowledge
    • establishing tone using elements of mystery and horror
    • foreshadowing Laney’s abduction
  • The dream sequences as:
    • a method of introducing another perspective into a narrative with an otherwise limited point of view
    • a strategy to increase tension through horrifying fragments of information
    • a comment on Stacey’s increasing reliance on/trust in her beliefs, as well as the importance of her dreams
    • a way to overcome the limitations of a first-person narrative when events take place elsewhere
  • The use of chapter titles to mark the passage of time, structure the narrative, and increase tension.

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Approach to characterisation

Body biographies

A body biography uses an annotated outline of a body to depict key elements of characterisation. Before you begin this activity, remind students that the characters in Ghost Bird experience trauma and should be written about respectfully and sensitively. You should also be mindful of students who have experienced trauma or loss in their own lives.

Start by assigning each student a character from the text so they can complete a characterisation chart (PDF, 87KB). You could print this on A3 paper to allow room for notes. Emphasise the need for textual evidence (quotes) to support students’ work. Questions have been provided to prompt their thinking, while this video may be useful for students requiring further instruction.

Students will then synthesise their analysis into a body biography. Give each student a large sheet of butcher’s paper so they can draw or trace the outline of a body, OR enlarge this template (PDF, 89KB) to an appropriate size. They are to annotate the outline, explaining significant aspects of their assigned character according to the following:

Brain The character’s thoughts and motivations
Face What the character sees and says
Torso The character’s personality, traits and values
Left arm The character’s actions
Right arm The character’s relationships
Legs The character’s growth from beginning (left leg) to end (right leg)

Next, students will decorate the body biography appropriately, choosing colours, symbols, typography, and other design elements to support their interpretation of the character. Students may even ‘dress’ their character or add props.

Students will then present their body biography to introduce their character to the class. Further multimodal aspects can be incorporated by adding music and/or sound effects to each presentation.

This activity can easily be differentiated by assigning one character to small groups of students, who will compose their body biography together, OR by scaling down the template to A3 or A4 size. Other alternatives include using drawing manikins to create three-dimensional body biographies, or using this ‘character autopsy’ template on Canva.

Five questions

In this activity, students will demonstrate their understanding of a particular character from Ghost Bird by responding to another student’s questions.

Students are to write FIVE questions that they would like to ask ONE character from the novel. They will swap their questions with a partner before researching and preparing appropriate answers to the questions they received. Some answers may be found in the text; others may require inferential thinking or conjecture.

Students will then role play as their assigned characters to answer each other’s questions.

Point of view and voice

Readers get a sense of Stacey’s voice as a young Murri woman through both her dialogue and her first-person narration. She is articulate and uses both teenage colloquialisms and Aboriginal English to express herself. This distinct voice contributes to her characterisation.

As a class, create a collage of quotes that represent Stacey’s voice. Also brainstorm some words and short phrases to describe her voice, noting that ‘voice’ encompasses a person’s identity (who is speaking) as well as their nature (how they speak), and that this can change over time. The brainstorm might include:

  • Youthful
  • Desperately concerned
  • Conflicted
  • Colloquial
  • Courageous
  • Murri
  • Loves her family
  • Intelligent

After brainstorming, reduce this list to key descriptors of Stacey’s voice. Write these terms on the whiteboard. Students will work in groups to identify textual evidence of these qualities, writing them on sticky notes and attaching them to the appropriate word/phrase on the board. Alternatively, this can be completed digitally in a shared class document.

Lara Croydon has a YouTube video that introduces commonly-used Aboriginal English terms. Watch the video yourself to ensure that it is appropriate for your school context. Should you choose to share with students, remind them of the diversity of First Nations cultures; some of these terms may be used across multiple language groups while others may not.

Facilitate a class discussion on how the first-person narrative point of view immerses readers in the protagonist’s experiences and fosters empathy. Consider Stacey’s silence in the epilogue, traumatised as she is by her experience in the cave. Students might reflect on this as a development of her character, as well as being symbolic of the broader effects of trauma.

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Eidsvold, as revealed on pp. 125–138, has a history of colonialism and discrimination. Stacey also describes it as a town physically divided (pp. 125–126). It could be considered a microcosm of contemporary Australia: a nation divided by the legacy and ongoing effects of colonialism.

  • Have students locate quotes that exemplify the divisions in Eidsvold, such as the description of the pub (pp. 125–126) or the power dynamics in town (p. 38).
  • Compare the representation of contemporary Eidsvold with historical Eidsvold, as depicted in ‘Day 3, Afternoon’ (pp. 130–132).
  • Contrast the depiction of the town with that of the bush when Stacey visits the reservoir (pp. 88–90); note that it is blighted by the manmade ‘pimple’ at the end of the road (p. 89).
The mountain

The mountain that sits within the Potters’ property is a key setting in the novel. The taboo on this place is strictly enforced by the older generations but never explained to the younger ones; Stacey reflects on this in the final paragraphs on pp. 53 and 98. The reason for the taboo is revealed much later, when Stacey recalls a story about a visiting anthropologist from her great-grandmother’s youth (pp. 215–216). The old people warned the anthropologist not to take rocks from the nearby hills, but he ignored them at his own peril.

  • Consider the ominous descriptions on pp. 170–171 and 259–260, in which the bush – a place where Stacey normally feels at ease – is tainted by both cultural taboo and the stains of violence. This violence is both historical and ongoing, with the Potters attacking Murri teens twice throughout the novel (first Clinton and Tyrone, then Stacey, Sam and Rhi), and with Dan’s assault on Stacey echoing May’s experience decades earlier.
  • Use the think-pair-share routine to explore how the mountain and surrounding property become symbolic of the violence that continues to be enacted against First Nations peoples.

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Use of parallels and contrasts

Cultural knowledge vs Western education

Throughout the book Stacey struggles to reconcile her Western education with the knowledge passed down from her Nan (see her comments on science and culture on pp. 99, 168–169). There is much to learn from the old stories, but Stacey’s faith in them is shaken after Nan’s death, and she eventually turns her back on them altogether (p. 24). Instead she places her faith in science, and her schooling – which offers a tantalising pathway out of her small-minded town – takes precedence over her beliefs. As a result, Stacey struggles to accept the veracity of her dreams about Laney. But logic and reason alone are not enough to help find her twin. Stacey may be sceptical, but she still recognises and respects the wisdom of elders like Pop and May. And unlike the things that she learns at school, their teachings are not readily given away – they have to be earned (pp. 58, 200).

Have students locate quotes from the book that shed light on the nature of education; the role of elders in transmitting knowledge; and the values that drive both Western and First Nations systems of knowledge and learning. They can then write a 250-word response comparing the two systems.

Responses to colonialism

Consider the way that each twin responds to the legacy of colonialism in Eidsvold. Despite facing racism and ignorance at school and in town, Stacey tries to keep her head down so she can finish her studies and leave Eidsvold for good. Laney, on the other hand, is a vocal critic of the entrenched Anglocentrism and actively seeks to resist it, as evidenced by the allusion to the Black Panther Party (p. 15) and her reasons for joining the raid on the Potters’ place (p. 67). These are all complex ideas; refer to the protocols at the start of this unit (Initial Response > Introductory Activities) to ensure that you approach them in a sensitive and safe manner.

Host a class discussion – which will require sensitive facilitation – comparing the way that Stacey and Laney navigate life in a colonial society. This will be a recognisable dilemma for many First Nations peoples, who operate every day within a society that has undermined – and continues to undermine – their histories and cultures.

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Language and style

Close analysis

Use the prologue on pp. 1–5 to model a close reading and annotation. The opening paragraph describes the symbolic importance of fire beyond the physical chemical process. This provides a useful metaphor for language analysis as well: the meaning derived from a text goes beyond the denotative meaning of the words on the page.

In modelling annotation, note the use of language features such as:

  • the first-person narrative point of view
  • the visual imagery of the fire
  • the comparative syntax to introduce the twins
  • the contrast between long descriptive sentences and shorter declarative sentences
  • the ancient ceratodus, which offers a parallel to First Nations peoples’ continuing connection to place
  • the colonial overtones of a brand like Imperial Leather, and the irony of this scent being associated with Nan and home
  • the use of elision in dialogue (e.g. ‘gonna’, ‘wanna’)
  • the painting metaphor to describe Nan’s sadness (p. 3) as she reflects on loss of language
  • the use of Aboriginal English (e.g. ‘fulla’)
  • the sense of danger established through diction and imperatives in Nan’s stories and prohibitions
  • the repetition of Nan dragging on her cigarette (p. 4) to stretch time and build tension
  • the visceral description of Laney being snatched
  • foreshadowing

Students can answer the following questions to synthesis their understanding of the prologue:

  1. How is tension created in the prologue?
  2. Explain how Fuller’s language creates the voice of a young Murri woman.
  3. How are issues arising from colonisation revealed through language choices?
Symbol posters

Working in groups, students will create a poster that explores an important symbol from the novel. The poster should include a visual representation of the symbol, an explanation of its meaning(s), and key pieces of evidence from the text. Fire, as discussed in the prologue, would be a good example to model for students. Below are some other possibilities for exploration.

NOTE: Some of these symbols may be unsuitable for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students. You may need to provide guidance around selection and adapt the activity as needed; refer to the advice at the beginning of the unit (Initial Response > Introductory Activities) to support your students.

  • The titular ghost bird (Initial Response > Introductory Activities > Pre-reading Activities > Activity 3) inspires fear in almost every person who encounters it. As May explains, however, it is neither bad nor good; it is simply a messenger (p. 257). As well as warning the twins of impending danger (it often appears immediately before the creatures do), the ghost bird is also present when Stacey and Alana finally sense Nan’s presence at the end of the book (pp. 276–277). Its departure from the Thomsons’ house signals the end of Stacey’s ordeal.
    • NOTE: As Fuller explains in this interview, some First Nations peoples may be distressed by the image of a tawny frogmouth. Consider your class context and exclude the visual element from this activity if needed.
  • The necklace could be considered a symbol of cultural ignorance and disrespect towards First Nations peoples. It is set with the same kind of stone that the anthropologist took from the hills decades before the events of the novel (pp. 215–216). Years later, another stone is fashioned into a Western piece of jewellery as a gift for one of the Potter women (pp. 235–236). In both instances, the old people’s warnings fall on deaf ears and the colonists do as they please with disastrous consequences. May is forced to interact with the necklace as part of her abuse, which implicates it in colonial violence as well as land misuse. The stone also represents the items and knowledge that are stolen in the process of invasion and colonisation.The creatures torment all those who fail to return the stone to its rightful place, so as the necklace passes from Troy to Laney, Stacey and finally Dan, so too does their fury.
    • NOTE: The significance of the creatures and the stone are discussed in an episode of The Red Nation podcast (53:49–55:13), in which Dr. Kali Simmons – an Oglala Lakota woman and professor of Native North American Literature and Culture – explores the links between settler colonialism and horror.
  • The creatures themselves are a complex symbol. Fuller indicates that their portrayal in the novel, although somewhat fictionalised, is firmly grounded in her community’s beliefs (p. 278). Their relentless pursuit of the necklace suggests that they represent a form of vengeance against those who ignore cultural taboos or misappropriate the land (p. 237). Dan’s death could be read as a type of retribution, not only for his family’s role in colonising the lands around Eidsvold, but also for their direct crimes against the Eidsvold Murri community, including the assaults on May and Stacey. This reading is related to understandings of the Australian Gothic genre, which will be explored in the Significance section. Another consideration is personal consequence and responsibility, which is an important part of the author’s culture. If Dan had left Stacey alone, he would not have suffered a grisly death; conversely, Stacey may have survived her ordeal, but she has been traumatised by her decision to abandon Dan to his fate.
  • Darkness and light are classic symbols of danger and safety. Stacey and Laney’s escape from the pitch-black cave into the light of day, as well as the use of fire to deter the creatures along the river, are the clearest examples of this. There are plenty of other references to darkness and light throughout the novel.

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Text and meaning

Exploration of themes and ideas


Cut hexagons from sheets of coloured card. Write a key theme in the centre of each hexagon, such as cultural identity, spirituality, courage, colonialism, violence and racism, family and kinship, or love and friendship. Use a different coloured card for each theme. Students will then write brief statements that support the central theme on other hexagons. You could impose a limit of six ideas per theme, but this should not be a firm rule. Students can then locate textual evidence and write the quotes (with their page references) on further hexagons.

Here is an example of how this might look (PDF, 86KB).

Arrange the hexagons on a desk or wall with the key theme in the middle and contributing ideas and quotes radiating outwards. Using hexagons allows for the blending of ideas and evidence across themes, as the shapes can connect to each other in multiple combinations, revealing how themes are interlinked and how textual evidence can be used for multiple purposes.

Socratic circles

Many of the themes in Ghost Bird are complex, especially those that relate to colonialism. Socratic circles can be a useful way of introducing and discussing themes in a measured and thoughtful manner. The State Government of Victoria’s Literacy Teaching Toolkit outlines the process for conducting a Socratic discussion. This may focus solely on the novel OR introduce other documents and texts relating to the legacy of colonialism in Australia (or other issues that are relevant to First Nations peoples and communities).


Assign or allow students to choose ONE theme from the novel. They are to create a scrapbook page that represents this theme in a multimodal fashion.

  • Show the class some creative scrapbooks (Pinterest offers some inspiring examples).
  • Encourage students to use design elements (e.g. colour, composition, imagery, typography), combined with key quotes, to represent their theme. They may add symbols and found objects that contribute to the representation of their theme.
  • The scrapbook page can be created physically OR digitally depending on your/your students’ preferences.

Students will present their finished pages to a small group of peers OR the whole class, explaining how they have understood the theme to justify their design choices and quote selection.

Newspaper report

Ghost Bird draws attention to both historical and contemporary experiences of racism, discrimination and dispossession. While this may prove confronting, it is important to acknowledge that these were (and still are) very real experiences for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples around the country. At the same time, Ghost Bird highlights the strength and resilience of First Nations communities. A good example of this is the way that the Thomson clan, in the face of the police’s indifference, rallies together to support Stacey and Alana and help search for Laney.

Drawing on evidence from the text, students might prepare a newspaper report that turns a critical eye on Eidsvold, exposing the town’s systemic racism and whitewashed history (both are discussed in ‘Day 3, Afternoon’, pp. 125–138).

Moral debate

A provocative activity might be to debate Stacey’s choice to sacrifice Dan to save her sister.

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Meaning in context

Contested histories

The term ‘history wars’ refers to the contested nature of ‘official’ records of Australian history, a dispute that came to a head in the 2000s and continues to this day. Disparities between European and First Nations accounts of settlement/invasion are evident in Ghost Bird, particularly in ‘Day 3, Afternoon’ (pp. 125–138). Stacey’s visit to the Eidsvold Historical Society brings several conflicts to the fore:

  • Segregation and racial division
  • First Nations peoples’ exclusion from, or marginalisation within, the dominant historical records
  • Conflicting perspectives on First Nations dispossession and European settlement
  • The Frontier Wars, guerilla warfare and massacres
  • Terra nullius and myths about European ‘discovery’ of a land occupied by First Nations peoples for tens of thousands of years
  • Slavery and exploitation of First Nations workers

Throughout the novel, Fuller draws attention to the violence enacted against First Nations peoples by white colonists; the damaging effects of the mission system; and ongoing discrimination, dismissal and lack of support from white authorities. Have students collect quotes that demonstrate these issues in both historical and contemporary Australia.

Compare Fuller’s depiction of Eidsvold with depictions found in other texts (e.g. the Aussie Towns, Queensland Places, and North Burnett websites) to evaluate the different ways in which the town’s history is represented.

Students should write a personal reflection on how Ghost Bird presents Australian history and the ongoing effects of colonisation on First Nations peoples. They may consider the perspective that Fuller offers through her choice of protagonist; the setting; Stacey’s experience at the Eidsvold Historical Society; and racist attitudes displayed by the locals and built into the very fabric of the town.


Rachel Perkins’ three-part documentary series, The Australian Wars (2022), explores the Frontier Wars from a First Nations perspective. If time permits, OR as part of an extended comparative unit of work, this series could be studied as an effective complement to Ghost Bird.

First Nations experiences and culture

Listen to Rhianna Patrick’s interview with Fuller for the ABC’s #OzYAY Extra!. Then use the following questions to guide a class discussion:

  1. Why was it important for Fuller to write this novel for her younger nieces, nephews and cousins? (02:20–03:32)
  2. How does Stacey’s experience at the Eidsvold Historical Society mirror Fuller’s own experiences at school? (03:32–05:16)
  3. What does Fuller mean when she says she learned one thing at school and ‘the truth’ at home? (05:28–06:15)
  4. Why is Fuller uncomfortable with her novel being categorised as fantasy or magic realism? (08:03–09:52)
  5. How does Fuller explain the importance of dreams? (09:52–10:56)
  6. Why was it important for Fuller to include her spiritual beliefs in the novel? (10:56–12:56)

This discussion could be extended to consider the postcolonial concept of the subaltern. Historically, Australia’s First Peoples have been ideologically constructed as ‘the other’ and as subordinate to the coloniser. To regain agency, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples have had to negotiate the language and institutions of colonial society. There are echoes of this strategy in Stacey’s drive to succeed at school.

In Geographies of Postcolonialism, Joanne Sharp considers how First Nations cultures and ways of knowing become displaced in the dominant culture because – in order to be understood by that culture – they are only ever expressed in the language of the coloniser (and even then they are largely interpreted through a Western ideological lens). This is the same process by which First Nations stories and beliefs have been reduced to myth and legend. As Fuller discusses in her #OzYAY Extra! interview, Ghost Bird attempts to represent her community authentically and specifically addresses the ways in which it has been diminished.

Students could debate the extent to which Ghost Bird represents one voice from the subaltern, given that it uses a Western literary tradition to reach an audience who are – at least in part – non-Indigenous.

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Synthesising tasks/activities

Interview with a character

In pairs, students will script and role play an interview with ONE character from Ghost Bird. Drawing on information from the novel and close character analysis, they will create a dramatic dialogue between their chosen character and the interviewer, who they might imagine as a close friend. Students may choose to interview Stacey, Alana, Uncle Joe, Rhi, Sam, or even May. They should examine their chosen character’s dialogue to emulate their style, tone and cadence. Establish clear guidelines around language use to ensure that the interviews are appropriate and respectful.

Students may choose when their interview takes place; this could be after Laney is reported missing, following the revelation that she was last seen at the Potters’ place, or following her safe return (or another point in the story). You can use this as a way to differentiate the task, as interviews set later in the novel will require students to synthesise more of the narrative into their interview.

Shore Scripts identifies four components in a successful dialogue:

1. Exposition Relating facts without giving away too much information or stating the obvious
2. Subtext The unspoken messages communicated through connotation, implication, or gestural cues
3. Voice A unique and authentic voice that (in this case) draws on the character developed throughout the novel
4. Rehearsal Reading dialogue out loud to evaluate its quality

Students may perform their interviews in class OR record and play them at a later date. Make sure that you preview the scripts beforehand to ensure that the content is appropriate.

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Three-minute theme

Based on the University of Queensland’s Three Minute Thesis (3MT) competition, the three-minute theme task requires students to deliver a carefully crafted summary of ONE theme from Ghost Bird.

Students are allowed a single static slide, which may incorporate text and images, to support their presentation. They should avoid overcrowding their slide, particularly with text. The slide should support their presentation without distracting from their speech.

Students must deliver a speech of no more than three minutes, accompanied by their slide. They should identify their chosen theme and how it is embodied in the novel, incorporating key quotes and textual evidence. The speech should conclude by articulating the theme’s significance. The audience should be left with a clear message about why this theme matters (e.g. in terms of the novel’s genre, its characters, its representation of First Nations voices, or its broader relevance in Australia and/or the world).

Extend the task by having students evaluate/reflect on their and their peers’ presentations.

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Ways of reading the text

Ghost Bird can be read as an example of the Australian Gothic genre.

Australian Gothic originally spoke to anxieties arising from the colonial experience. Told from a white perspective, it explored themes of a vast and treacherous environment; the brutality of the penal system; settlers’ feelings of alienation and displacement; the ‘regression’ of the white person far from the cultural centre of Europe; and the (greatly misunderstood) presence of First Nations peoples. Texts like Picnic at Hanging Rock by Joan Lindsay, Bush Studies by Barbara Baynton, and For the Term of His Natural Life by Marcus Clarke explored the experience of early settlers and convicts. The Australian Gothic has continued in contemporary times with books like Kenneth Cook’s Wake in Fright, Rosalie Ham’s The Dressmaker, and Kate Grenville’s The Secret River.

First Nations writers have responded to this genre by subverting its conventions, representing the coloniser as the terrifying ‘other’ (see Alexis Wright’s Carpentaria and Kim Scott’s Taboo). In Ghost Bird Fuller also engages with the notion of ‘the lost child’, a common trope of Australian Gothic literature. Traditionally, this trope has been used to explore white Australian anxieties through the image of an innocent child lost to a threatening landscape. Jan Kociumbas (2001) similarly alludes to its use in colonial discourse, having focused primarily on young white boys and their families while conveniently overlooking the experiences of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples (p. 51). This is a tradition that Fuller has written back against and turned on its head.

Activity 1

The following articles offer simple introductions to the Australian Gothic genre:

Read through the articles as a class and make notes on:

  • the origins of the genre
  • which colonial anxieties are explored
  • how the landscape is represented

As an extension, the following papers would also be quite accessible for secondary students:

Katrin Althans has explored the Gothic in First Nations texts as part of her dissertation, Darkness Subverted: Aboriginal Gothic in Black Australian Literature and Film, and in a chapter from Belinda Wheeler’s (ed.) Companion to Australian Aboriginal Literature. For a First Nations perspective, see ‘Blood and bone’ by Palawa woman Alice Bellette. This essay first appeared in Griffith Review 76: Acts of Reckoning (also via Informit), and a reading is available on SoundCloud.

You can use these slides (PDF, 123KB) as a summary for students.

Activity 2

Guide students to investigate the Australian Gothic genre. Set up stations around the classroom where they can explore different examples from literature, film, art, music and so on. Use bingo cards (PDF, 58KB) to help students identify common tropes, including instances where they are subverted. Afterwards, in small groups OR in a whole class discussion, students will pick ONE of the sample texts and explain how it conforms to OR subverts Australian Gothic conventions, using their bingo cards to help justify their reasoning.

Suggested texts include:

Picnic at Hanging Rock (1975) directed by Peter Weir Trailer for the film based on Joan Lindsay’s novel
For the Term of His Natural Life (1983) directed by Rob Stewart Trailer for the TV miniseries based on Marcus Clarke’s novel
‘The Chosen Vessel’ (1896) by Barbara Baynton Short story
The Drover’s Wife (1892) by Henry Lawson
Jasper Jones (2009) by Craig Silvey
  • Novel
  • Trailer for the film (2017) directed by Rachel Perkins
  • Extract from the play (2017) by Kate Mulvany
Requiem for a Beast (2007) by Matt Ottley Graphic novel and accompanying music
‘The Bush Undertaker’ (1892) by Henry Lawson Short story
Savage River (2022)
‘Australian Scenery’ (1896) by Marcus Clarke Extract
Taboo (2017) by Kim Scott Extract
Wake in Fright (1971) directed by Ted Kotcheff Scenes from the film based on Kenneth Cook’s novel
Anguli Ma: A Gothic Tale (2012) by Chi Vu Discussion of Gothic elements in the novella

Further suggestions, including texts by First Nations authors, can be found on p. 33 of Mazza, de Boer and Rhodes’ ‘More than Something Weird: Teaching Australian Gothic in the classroom’. There is also a helpful table of guiding questions on p. 32.

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Comparison with other texts

The following texts offer interesting and valuable points of comparison with Ghost Bird.

  • Dust Echoes is a series of animated shorts that share stories from Central Arnhem Land. Episode 5, ‘Namorrodor’, uses elements of gothic imagery to retell an ancient Yirritja story about a creature that steals children, like the unnamed creatures in Ghost Bird. Refer to the Initial Response section (Introductory Activities > Pre-reading Activities > Activity 3) for more on this series.
  • Where We Begin by Christie Nieman is a YA novel that uses Gothic conventions – including a ruined colonial mansion, haunting, and themes of alienation – to explore the atrocities committed against First Nations peoples by white colonists. This article explores the novel’s Gothic nature.
  • Catching Teller Crow by Ambelin and Ezekiel Kwaymullina is a ghost story/thriller featuring strong Aboriginal female characters, two of whom are the protagonists. With a central mystery driving the plot, spiritual themes, First Nations representation, and issues arising from colonisation, the novel is ripe for comparison with Ghost Bird.
  • Growing Up Aboriginal in Australia, edited by Anita Heiss, offers a wide variety of accounts from Aboriginal people who have grown up (or are still growing up) all over the country. Many of the stories offer useful points of comparison for Stacey’s own experiences growing up in Eidsvold.
  • Stacey and Sam’s friendship (and budding romance) across battle lines could be loosely compared to the family feud at the centre of Romeo and Juliet, albeit with a very different outcome. Footprints in the Sand is a documentary by Minang-Wadjari Noongar filmmaker Glen Stasiuk; it tells the true story of a Martu couple who undertook a relationship in the 1930s in defiance of West Desert Aboriginal law (read more here).
  • Tim Winton’s novella In the Winter Dark (adapted into a film in 1998) is an Australian Gothic text in which its white characters are tormented by a mysterious creature, often read as a manifestation of settler guilt. It offers an interesting point of contrast to the First Nations perspective in Ghost Bird.

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Evaluation of the text

Award ceremony

In 2017 Fuller won the David Unaipon Award for an Emerging Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander Writer with the manuscript that would go on to become Ghost Bird. Since then, the novel has been awarded and shortlisted for numerous other awards, including being named a 2020 CBCA Book of the Year Honour Book (Older Readers).

Ask students to imagine that they are staging a ceremony for the ‘Class Book Awards’. They should write a short judge’s statement of 150 words explaining why Ghost Bird has been deemed a winner. In their statement, they should focus on an aspect of the text that they feel is worthy of recognition, such as its exploration of a key theme; its quality as an example of a particular genre (or genres); or its value in educating non-Indigenous readers about the author’s community and culture.

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Synthesising task

In this interview, Fuller describes Ghost Bird as a ‘Murri mash-up’ that draws on and blends different genres. Students are to write THREE different blurbs for Ghost Bird in three different styles, emphasising plot details, themes, aspects of characterisation and setting, and language and stylistic features that are appropriate to those styles. The blurbs should aim to represent the novel accurately, but in ways that appeal to fans of different genres.

  • Individually or as a class, brainstorm the different genres upon which Ghost Bird draws (e.g. Australian Gothic, thriller, coming-of-age or Bildungsroman, mystery, historical fiction). Your students may have their own suggestions for this list.
  • Have students investigate the conventions of THREE of these genres. This blog post is a good starting point.
  • Have them identify the features of a good blurb, bearing in mind its marketing function. Direct them towards this blog post for more information.
  • Direct students to the school library to find examples of blurbs for books in particular genres.
  • Finally, have them draft and edit three different blurbs for Ghost Bird in the style appropriate to their selected genres.

This task can be extended to incorporate the development of one or more alternate covers for the novel, reflecting the style of the students’ chosen genre(s). Students should consider imagery and design elements (e.g. use of illustrations, colour, typography) that will help reflect the genre(s) that they are exploring. Canva’s book cover creation tool may be useful here.

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Reflecting on awareness of the text’s wider cultural value

Panel discussion

Panel discussions (PDF, 112KB) are a valuable tool for drawing together students’ understandings from their study of texts. The format allows students to present and defend their own arguments in addition to demonstrating their comprehension of the novel. Previous activities have required students to investigate and consider the representation of First Nations histories and cultures in the novel; this activity requires them to reflect on young adult literature, an often under-appreciated genre, as a valuable medium for promoting the principles of reconciliation to teenage audiences.

Although it is a work of fiction, Ghost Bird speaks to the real historical and contemporary challenges that First Nations peoples have faced (and continue to face) as a result of colonisation. In addition, it engages with several dimensions of reconciliation, such as the need for truth-telling and the importance of representing and respecting First Nations experiences and voices. It also provides non-Indigenous readers with insights into specific cultural practices and spiritual beliefs.

In groups of four (give or take), students will script and present a panel discussion on the following topic:

Young adult literature can be a powerful medium for promoting reconciliation in Australia.

Each group will need one moderator to facilitate the discussion, with the remaining group members forming the panel. Students should support their ideas and arguments with clear examples from Ghost Bird, as well as evidence from their contextual research (including other texts by First Nations authors, if they have read them).

Personal reflection

In their notebooks, students should reflect on any personal and intercultural understandings they have gained from studying Ghost Bird.

Prompting questions might include:

  1. What have you learned about First Nations histories and/or cultures that you were not aware of before reading Ghost Bird?
  2. What similarities and differences do you see between Stacey and/or Laney’s experiences and your own (e.g. family, school, culture)?
  3. What do you see as the most important theme in the novel?
  4. What do you admire most about Stacey?
  5. Do you think Stacey took the right course of action to save her sister?
  6. Why is it important to consider cultural views and spiritual beliefs alongside science?

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Rich assessment tasks

Before undertaking the final assessment tasks, you might like to share Fuller’s essay ‘Why Culturally Aware Reviews Matter’ with the class. Here Fuller discusses how reviews of her novel have tended to be culturally insensitive, referring to important stories and spiritual beliefs as myths and legends. This will help students to choose respectful language in their own discussions of the novel.

Rich assessment task 1 (receptive mode)

Theme essay

Students are to write a formal essay in response to one of the following topics:

  1. Ghost Bird explores the importance of family and cultural connections. Discuss.
  2. Demonstrate how Stacey’s character development in Ghost Bird can be read as an example of the hero’s journey.
  3. Discuss how the Australian Gothic genre is employed in Ghost Bird to draw attention to uncomfortable truths.
  4. Ghost Bird reveals the triumph of love and friendship. Discuss.
  5. Analyse how language features are used to create atmosphere in Ghost Bird.

Essays should follow a clear and logical structure, with arguments supported by correctly-cited textual evidence.

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Rich assessment task 2 (productive mode)

True crime podcast

The true crime podcast exploded into popular culture with the publication of Serial in 2014. In pairs, students will script, develop and record a 10-minute podcast based on the events of Ghost Bird.

Students might like to listen to some true crime podcasts for inspiration. The following episodes would be appropriate:

They could also read this article for some tips on writing a podcast script, though students may deviate from the template if they wish (e.g. they do not need to include sponsor messages).

This task requires students to produce a successful and engaging adaptation of Ghost Bird’s narrative, as well as employ the conventions of the true crime podcast. Students should also reflect on the wider social or cultural significance of Laney’s disappearance. For example, there is an implication that the media and police would have been more invested in the case if Laney had been white (pp. 269); students might use this as a springboard to discuss ongoing structural discrimination against First Nations peoples (there are further comments on the police on pp. 38, 50, 172 and 183). Alternatively, students could use their podcast to celebrate the strength of kinship, or communities that come together in times of crisis.

The podcast should include:

  • An introduction (supported by appropriate theme music) that welcomes listeners, introduces the podcast and its hosts, and contextualises and generates intrigue around Laney’s case.
  • The facts of the case, which will form the main body of work. There are different ways to approach this; students may present it like a narrative, supported by sound effects, or take a more investigative journalistic approach with interviews, reports and re-enactments.
  • A conclusion that offers a reflection on the case, plus an outro that brands the podcast and addresses listeners.

Given the episodic nature of podcasts, different pairs may choose to cover different parts of Laney’s case. For example, one episode could focus on Laney’s initial disappearance; another on the revelation that she was at the Potter’s place; a third on the search efforts; and a fourth on the rescue. Other students may take on the role of interview subjects or voice actors in re-enactments, producing a complete true crime series across the whole class.

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