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Seven Little Australians
Cover of the 16th edition, 1912, publisher Ward Lock & Co, illustrations by J. Macfarlane
Author Ethel Turner
Country Australia
Language English
Genre Children's literature
Publisher Ward, Lock and Bowden
Publication date
Media type Print (hard~ & paperback)
Pages 240 pp
ISBN 0-554-31409-6
Followed by The Family at Misrule 

Seven Little Australians is a classic Australian children's literature novel by Ethel Turner, published in 1894. Set mainly in Sydney in the 1880s, it relates the adventures of the seven mischievous Woolcot children, their stern army father Captain Woolcot, and faithful young stepmother Esther.

Turner wrote the novel in 1893 while living at Inglewood in what was then rural Lindfield (now Woodlands, Killara, New South Wales), having moved there from the inner city suburb of Paddington in 1891. The suburban bushland surroundings quickly became important in Turner's stories. On her 21st birthday, Ethel wrote in her diary, 'Seven L. Aust. – sketched it out.' (24 January 1893) In 1994 the novel was the only book by an Australian author to have been continuously in print for 100 years. The book's original handwritten manuscript is held by the State Library of NSW. The full text of the manuscript has been digitized and can be viewed on the Library's website. The original title of the novel, as written by Turner, was 'Seven Pickles'.

It has been extensively adapted for other media, including as a film, two different television mini-series, various stage plays and a stage musical.


The book's protagonists are the seven Woolcot children, from oldest to youngest:

  • Meg (real name Margaret), 16: naive, romantic, eldest (but immature) sister and sometime surrogate mother to the younger children.
  • Pip (real name Philip), 14: eldest brother, handsome, intelligent but badly-behaved.
  • Judy (real name Helen), 13: imaginative and lively, Pip's partner-in-crime, often leads the others into mischief.
  • Nell (real name Elinor), 10: beautiful, slightly wistful child.
  • Bunty (real name John), 6: described as 'fat and very lazy'. Bunty can be selfish and annoying but loves his family.
  • Baby (real name Winifred), 4: the most well-behaved of the lot, was only a baby when her mother died.
  • 'The General' (real name Francis Rupert Burnand), the baby; only natural child of Esther, who is stepmother to the other children.

Follow-up Books

Ethel Turner wrote three more books featuring the Woolcot family.

  • The Family at Misrule tells the story of the family five years on, including new baby girl Esther.
  • Judy and Punch describes Judy's experiences at boarding school, including meeting a boy named Punch while they are both on the train to school.
  • Little Mother Meg describes Meg becoming a mother and raising her own children; and Peter (the General) and Essie (baby Esther) going on an adventure when they explore their neighbours' garden through a hole in the fence.

Film, TV or theatrical adaptations

The book was adapted as a stage play in 1914 by Beaumont Smith.

The first film adaptation of this novel was made in 1939, directed by Arthur Greville Collins. The film was shot in Sydney at the Commonwealth Film Laboratories and around Camden, New South Wales.

This was followed in 1953 by a BBC-television 6-part miniseries.

The book was made into a 10 episode television series in 1973 by the Australian Broadcasting Corporation, which was largely faithful to the book. Differences include the fact that Judy was thin and waiflike in the book, she is more solidly built in the series. Meg's hair was long and dark, but in the book her hair is long and blonde. The series has been released on a 2-disc region 4 DVD set in Australia. Music for the television miniseries was composed by Bruce Smeaton.

A musical theatre adaptation ran in Melbourne and Sydney from 1988. It is now a popular production for local musical societies and high schools to perform.

An acclaimed site-specific stage adaptation by playwright Julia Britton and directed by Robert Chuter, was produced at the National Trust historic property – Rippon Lea from 26 December 1997 – 26 January 1998.

A new play in two acts was written by Anne Scott-Pendlebury. It was directed by C.A Duff, produced by The Wangaratta Players Inc and premiered at the Wangaratta Performing Arts Centre as part of the WPAC Opening Festival and Wangaratta City Golden Jubilee Celebrations. This production also featured musical interludes of Miriam Hyde's music played by local children.


Character 1939 film 1973 television programme
Captain John Woolcot Charles McCallum Leonard Teale
Judy Woolcot Mary McGowan Jennifer Cluff
Esther Woolcot Pat McDonald Elizabeth Alexander
the General Don Tall Christian Robinson
Meg Woolcot Sandra Jaques Barbara Llewellyn
Pip Woolcot Robert Gray Mark Clark
Nell Woolcot Janet Gleeson Anna Hruby
Baby Woolcot Nancy Gleeson Tania Falla
Bunty Woolcot Ron Rousel Mark Shields-Brown
Martha Letty Craydon Ruth Cracknell
Aldith Edna Montgomery Judy McBurney

Chapter List

  1. Chiefly Descriptive
  2. Fowl for Dinner
  3. Virtue Not Always Rewarded
  4. The General Sees Active Service
  5. "Next Monday Morning"
  6. The Sweetness of Sweet Sixteen
  7. "What Say You to Falling in Love?"
  8. A Catapult and a Catastrophe
  9. Consequences
  10. Bunty in the Light of a Hero
  11. The Truant
  12. Swish, Swish!
  13. At Thy Last
  14. Uninvited Guests
  15. The Squatter's Invitation
  16. Three Hundred Miles in the Train
  17. Yarrahappini
  18. Cattle-Drafting at Yarrahappini
  19. The Picnic at Krangi-Bahtoo
  20. A Pale-Blue Hair Ribbon
  21. Little Judy
  22. When the Sun Went Down
  23. And Last
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