Reconciliation Resource – The Rabbits
The Rabbits, by John Marsden & Shaun Tan (2010), Hachette Australia
Opera Australia’s adaptation of The Rabbits has recently wrapped up a successful summer season at the Sydney Festival. When the curtain fell and tears were dried, we thought again about the wonderful book that made way for the opera.
Like the production, The Rabbits by John Marsden with illustrations by Shaun Tan is popular with teachers and educators because it makes the harrowing realities of colonial history a little more approachable for children, and adults, without shying away from difficult issues.
The Rabbits is a multifaceted ‘picture’ book that may at first come across as a story for young children, but once the reader dives in, they are transported to a fantastical land that mirrors our own in many odd ways. Marsupials live happily off the land, until one day a ship arrives, bringing the Rabbits. Only a few arrive at first, and the Marsupials are curious about their new neighbours. Soon, however, the Rabbits begin to multiply and take the Marsupials’ land, food sources and, most distressingly, their children. Marsden and Tan masterfully tell the story of Australia’s history using iconic, and yet artfully alien, animal characters.
The book can be used with students and children across many ages to explore the history of colonisation in Australia, including The Stolen Generations, as well as themes such as power, belonging, and relationships.
To ensure you aren’t tackling the teaching of The Rabbits book or opera alone, consult with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander staff or community members, and seek out curriculum resources that are aligned to the teaching of the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander histories and cultures.
And remember, teachers and educators play a key role in generating the most effective learning tools, so please keep your ideas flowing to our team!
The Rabbits is available for purchase from all good book shops. Watch Kate Miller-Heidke perform the song 'Where?' from the Opera Australia adaptation of The Rabbits.