Reference Booklets by Mavis Thorpe Clark

Mostly based on research for her novels, Mavis Thorpe Clark penned five factual booklets about aspects of Australia's history and industry. These booklets - in series such as "Life in Australia" and "Great Australians" - were popular reference materials at the time.

More publishing information

John Batman

Melbourne: Oxford University Press (Great Australians series), 1962.
30 pages; paperback; 20cm; 8 b/w illus. and facsims.

Research for the novel They Came South, appears to have been the pre-cursor for a short biography of John Batman which appears in the series Great Australians. "The manager of Oxford University Press, Frank Eyre, was to tell me that I was the only non-academic author commissioned for this series."

- Trust the Dream (1999) page 43.

John Batman travelled inland with a small group to an area near present-day Keilor where they 'negotiated' with local Aborigines to 'purchase' an area of land that now includes the city of Melbourne. The Aborigines "received an immediate payment of twenty pairs of blankets, thirty tomahawks, one hundred knives, fifty pairs of scissors, thirty looking-glasses, 200 handkerchiefs, 100 pounds of flour and six shirts. This was to be followed by a yearly rental, or tribute, of 100 pairs of blankets, 100 knives, 100 tomahawks, fifty suits of clothing, fifty looking-glasses, fifty pairs of scissors and five tons of flour, to an annual value of 200."

- John Batman (1962) page 17.


London: Oxford University Press (Early Australians series), 1963.
32 pages; paperback; 20cm; b/w illus. by Joy Murray.

A Pack-Tracker

Melbourne: Oxford University Press (Early Australians series), 1968.
32 pages; paperback; 20cm; 10 b/w illus. by Shirley Turner.

A Pack-Tracker grew out of Mavis' research for Blue Above the Trees. Visiting Eastern Victoria during the mid-1960s, Mavis met Lucy Peters, an 80-year-old who had been born and bred in the pioneering days of Gippsland. "She bounded with energy and the joy of living until the day she died, aged 83, and had a mind and energy as strong."

- Trust the Dream (1999) page 189-190.

A Pack-Tracker is the story of Lucy's elder brother's boyhood in the forest. "When he was eleven, Will began his career as a packer. Already there were many other families in the forest hemmed in by the walls of their tiny clearings ... Each man who went into the forest had to hack his own way in ... There were no roads, no railways and no townships - only the silent forest."

- A Pack-Tracker (1968) page 13.

Opal Mining

London: Oxford University Press (Life in Australia series), 1969.
32 pages; paperback; 20cm; 14 b/w illus. by Barbara Taylor.

Written along with Spark of Opal during the late 1960s, this booklet describes the extraction of opal from the earth - in country which is desolate and during the summer months reaches temperatures of 120° in the shade - and the people who live there.

Mavis met Jim Kyle, his wife and his four children during her 1966 visit to Coober Pedy and this family, one of the few permanent residents at the time, are the main characters in Opal Mining. The family live underground in a "dug-out".

"It takes about a week to excavate a medium-sized room, and some dug-outs have only one or two rooms. The Kyles' is probably one of the largest in the town, having nine different apartments. It grew with their family from no particular plan. As another bedroom was needed another room was dug out behind or next-door to the last one."

- Opal Mining (1968) page 20.

Iron Ore Mining

London: Oxford University Press (Life in Australia series), 1971.
32 pages; paperback; 20cm; 11 b/w illus. by Jocelyn Bell.

Travelling to north-west Western Australia in 1969, Mavis gathered background for her novel Iron Mountain and for reference booklet Iron Ore Mining.

"The Pilbara, which lies just north of the Tropic of Capricorn, is very rich in many kinds of minerals containing among others, tin, lead, copper, manganese, and especially iron. It is a remote and harsh country. The rainfall is an unreliable ten inches, and when William Dampier, the English explorer and buccaneer, landed on the coast in 1699, he described it as 'the barrenest spot on the globe'."

- Iron Ore Mining (1971) pages 4-5.

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Cover illustration.

Cover of John Batman, 1962.

Cover illustration.

Cover of A Pack-Tracker, 1968.

Cover illustration.

Cover of Opal Mining, 1969.

Cover illustration.

Cover of Iron Ore Mining, 1971.