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Biography

Nadia Wheatley is an Australian writer, whose work includes picture books, novels, biography and history. In 2014 she was admitted by the University of Sydney to the degree of Doctor of Letters (honoris causa), 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'. 

Nadia's most recent book, Flight (illustrated by Armin Greder), exemplifies her commitment to social justice. A contemporary telling of the legendary journey of the Flight into Egypt, this refugee-story shows that every family is both holy and unique. Flight has been shortlisted for Picture Book of the Year in the 2016 CBCA Awards.

While many of the author's books for children and young adults have been honoured in the annual awards of the Children’s Book Council of Australia, Nadia has also been nominated by IBBY Australia Inc 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.

Her writing for adults includes her biography of the influential Australian essayist, Charmian Clift. 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).

The author’s first book, Five Times Dizzy, has been described as the first multicultural children's book to be published in Australia. Awarded the New South Wales Premier's Special Children's Book Award in 1983 and Highly Commended in the Children's Book Council of Australia (CBCA) Awards, it became a television mini-series that went to air on the new Special Broadcasting Service. It has recently been republished in a special 30th Birthday edition, together with the sequel, Dancing in the Anzac Deli.

Of the author’s picture books, the best known is the classic My Place, produced in collaboration with illustrator, Donna Rawlins. This innovative blend of fiction and history has been read and loved by two generations of Australian children. Nadia was also history consultant and script consultant for the 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.

Nadia Wheatley's fiction for young adults includes the novels The House That Was Eureka (winner of the New South Wales Premier's Children's Book Award in 1985), The Blooding and Vigil, and the short story anthologies, The Night Tolkien Died and Listening to Mondrian.

Over the last decade, Nadia Wheatley has collaborated with artist Ken Searle to produce a set of ground-breaking non-fiction books that exemplify and celebrate Indigenous principles of education — a way of learning that puts the land at the centre of everything.  

This journey began during the period 1998 to 2001, when Nadia and Ken 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, the two consultants 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 used the Papunya Model of Education as her inspiration when she ran an innovative Harmony project with children from Muslim, Catholic and public 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.

With PlaygroundStories from Country and from Inside the Heart (published in 2011) Nadia worked as the researcher and compiler of autobiographical stories by over a hundred Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people. Produced in consultation with renowned Aboriginal historian Dr Jackie Huggins, and including new illustrations by Ken Searle, this anthology gives a fascinating insight into Indigenous childhood and learning, both traditional and contemporary.

 Australians All (Allen & Unwin, 2013) tells the history of what it was like to grow up on our continent from the Ice Age to the present day. Representing the author’s lifelong passion for history, Australians All helps us understand who we are, and how we belong to the land we all share. It also shows us who we might be.

Major awards

2016 Flight, illus Armin Greder

    * Shortlisted, New South Wales Premier's Literary Awards 2016

    * Shortlisted, Picture Book of the Year, CBCA Awards 2016

2014 Australians All, illus Ken Searle,

  • Winner History for Young People, New South Wales Premier's History Awards

2013 Nominated by IBBY Australia Inc for the 2014 Hans Christian Andersen Award for Writing

2012 Playground, illus Ken Searle,

  • Winner Australian Awards for Excellence in Educational Publishing (Primary Student Reference)

2008 Going Bush, illus. Ken Searle

  • Winner Wilderness Society Environment Award for Children's Literature.

2007 Going Bush, illus. Ken Searle,

  • Shortlisted Human Rights and Equal Opportunities Commission Awards
  • Winner, Australian Awards for Excellence in Educational Publishing (Primary Student Reference)

 2002 Awarded six-month residency at Rome Studio (B.R. Whiting Library) by Literature Board, Australia Council

2002 The Life and Myth of Charmian Clift

  • Winner Australian History Prize, New South Wales Premier's History Awards

2002 Papunya School Book of Country and History (written text by Nadia Wheatley; book produced in collaboration with Papunya School)

  • Winner Eve Pownall Award, CBCA Awards
  • Winner History for Young People section of the NSW Premier's History Awards
  • Winner, Australian Awards for Excellence in Educational Publishing

2001 The Life and Myth of Charmian Clift

  • Winner The Age Book of the Year, Non Fiction

1996 Awarded Four Year Senior Fellowship, Literature Board, Australia Council.

1996 Lucy in the Leap Year, script by Nadia Wheatley, produced by Theatre South

  • Winner AWGIE for Best Adaptation,Theatre for Young People

1989 Awarded Two Year Category A Fellowship, Literature Board, Australia Council

1988 My Place, illustrated by Donna Rawlins

  • Winner CBCA Book of the Year for Younger Readers
  • Winner Inaugural Eve Pownall Award for Non-fiction
  • Winner IBBY Australian Honour Book
  • Winner KOALA Award
  • Listed US Library Best Books for Young People, 1988

1986 Five Times Dizzy, script for 12-part television mini-series, written in collaboration with Terry Larsen, Samson Productions/ SBS, 1986.

  • Winner AWGIE for Best Adaptation, Children's Television Drama, 1987

1985 The House That Was Eureka

  • Winner, New South Wales Premier's Children's Book Award

1983 Five Times Dizzy,

  • Winner, New South Wales Premier's Special Children's Book Award, Oxford University Press