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Researching Australian Education

This guide provides an overview of sources relevant to the history of education in Victoria and Australia.

School Readers

An examination of school curriculum via School Readers offers an excellent starting point for the researcher wishing to gain an  insight into educational standards and the social, political and cultural issues of the time.

From  the 1872 Education Act until 1970 - the Victorian Education primary curriculum focused on texts from Ireland, Britain and in the later part of the 20th Century emerging Australian content.

Colonial school curriculum relied heavily on text-books in the form of readers to establish standards and skills in reading and writing . "The Irish Readers" (1848-1877) designed to provide a non denominational religious education and a focus on literacy  and moral values.

The British Royal Readers were introduced in 1877, replacing the Irish Readers and focused on  English literature, history and deeds of the Empire.

In 1896,  the monthly School Paper was produced by Charles Long  which was distinguished by an increasing Australian content whilst still upholding the moral values and beliefs of the British Empire. This It cost 1 shilling and all children were required to purchase a copy. It was compulosry reading for children until the 1930s, when the Victorian Readers became compulsory and the School Papers supplemented them. In the 1960s the three grades of the School paper were renamed to Meteor, Comet and Orbit. View a visual relationship map of these publications



Edwards, K. (2007). Politics and prescription: an analysis of reading texts in Victorian government primary schools 1872-1970. PhD thesis, Faculty of Education, The University of Melbourne.

Gibbs, D. R. (1987). Victorian school books: a study of the changing social content and use of school books in Victoria, 1848-1948, with particular reference to school readers. PhD thesis, Faculty of Education, University of Melbourne.

Macknight, V. (2005). Imagining the world from the classroom : cultural difference, empire and nationalism in Victorian primary schools in the 1930s and 1950s. Masters Research thesis, Department of History, University of Melbourne.

O'Conor, J. (2009). Botternikes and other lost things : a celebration of Australian illustrated Children's Books. Carlton, Vic. : Miegunyah Press ; State Library of Victoria

Victorian Readers

Victorian Readers, is a series of school readers produced between 1927 and 1930 for school children in Victoria and used (with revisions) until the 1950s.

These sources provide an insight into the teaching of reading in Victoria  and to offer an overview of the values and behaviours that were taught and reinforced in schools.
Other state-based school readers developed during this period include  the Adelaide Readers, the Queensland Readers and the Tasmanian Readers

Further reading :


Featured Readers


Searching the Catalogue and Databases for Readers

Extract from school reader showing Dick and Jane

Search using one of the following methods:


The database AustLit indexes the contents of both editions of the Victorian readers and the Victorian School papers from the late 19th century to the end of 1930 and then across all grades for the single year of 1940.


University of Melbourne catalogue

National Library of Australia - Trove

Catalogue search tips:

  • TITLE: enter the exact title eg: Victorian readers sixth book  or just the beginning of the title Victorian readers - this will give you a range of search results to choose from
  • AUTHOR: enter the surname first eg: Bradford, Clare or Victoria. Education Dept.
  • KEYWORD: enter the keywords in your topic eg: early children's books
  • SUBJECT: click on any of these examples to complete a Subject Heading search in the library catalogue

Search by Subject


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