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1001 Stories Collection

Finding Australia

1001 findingaustralia
Added on 30th June 2020

Oral tradition Australian folktale

Australasia Animals
1001 , Audio , Text

An oral folktale that explains how birds and animals came to the new country of Australia.


The birds tell the other animals of a wonderful country they have found where there is room for everybody – if only there were some way of getting there. The only creature with a canoe big enough is Whale and Whale is known to be too grumpy to share. The story explains how Starfish got his name and why he hides under rocks, how Whale got his blowhole and why Koala has such strong arms.

Why we chose it

A great story to tell and very popular with school visitors. This was one of the stories chosen by Geraldine McCaughrean for our World Stories project with St Ebbes School in 2016. The stories were represented on fabric hangings made by artist Ally Baker, which can still be found hanging in the museum.

Where it came from

This is a traditional myth which tells how the Thurrawal people first arrived in coastal Australia. According to indigenous Australian legend, the land was bare until ancestor spirits created the world and everything in it. This time is known as the Dreamtime, and its events still echo in the land of Australia today. Their actions describe the origins of the world’s natural phenomena. Animals are often at the heart of these stories.

Where it went next

In 1994 the story was adapted into a picture book, Whale’s Canoe by Joanna Troughton.

Geraldine MacCaughrean retold the story for our 2016 project.

Associated stories

There are countless other Dreamtime myths about ancestor beings and the origins of our modern world. Other Dreamtime stories in the 1001 include Tiddalik, Rainbow Bird and How the Kangaroo Got Her Pouch.

Added on 30th June 2020

Oral tradition Australian folktale

Australasia Animals
1001 , Audio , Text

Story Resources

  • Finding Australia story text PDF (39.539 KB)