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Ethel Turner

Author (1870–1958)

About Ethel Turner

Ethel Turner is one of Australia’s most celebrated authors. Woodlands is the house where she wrote the children’s book Seven Little Australians, a classic coming-of-age story of wilful, rebellious siblings under the care of a rigid father.


  • Street address:Woodlands 1 Werona Ave, Killara, 2071
  • Traditional name:Killara is on the lands of the Darramuragal people of the Eora Nation


  • Wheelchair accessible


  • Writing and literature

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Black and white portrait of Ethel Turner sitting on a windowsill looking outside. There are flowers just outside the windowsill and she is wearing a long sleeve top and a long pearl necklace.
Inglewood, now Woodlands circa. 1892. Ethel Turner is on the verandah (right) with sister Lilian (left); their stepfather Charles Cope is below and astride a horse.

Arrival in Sydney

Ethel Turner was born in Balby, Doncaster, Yorkshire in 1870, and migrated to Australia with her mother and sister in 1879. In September 1891, her family moved from inner-city Sydney to the suburb known today as Killara.

Creative solace in Killara

Filled with dreams of becoming a novelist from an early age, Ethel found creative solace in her new surroundings after the bustle of town life. The isolation of Killara, she wrote in her diaries, had an effect 'like adding half a dozen hours or so to days that, since leaving school, had been filled to the very brim'.

She wrote further of her inspiration, 'red, lonely roads running up hill and down dale; silent bushland everywhere, filled with towering gums and wattles and the songs and flittings of birds; sunrises and sunsets uninterrupted by houses. Of course one wrote a book!'

After leaving school, Ethel and her sister Lilian co-founded Parthenon, a sixpenny monthly magazine, to which she contributed children’s and romance stories. It sold 1,500 copies a month and made about 50 pounds a year for its editors.

Seven Little Australians

She began writing Seven Little Australians on her 23rd birthday. It recounts the adventures of the clever, naughty Woolcot children – running amok to the chagrin of their father, Captain Woolcot (a fictionalised version of Ethel’s stepfather).

In its story of an Australian rather than a British family, both the novel, and its sequel, The Family at Misrule, reversed many of the literary conventions of similar British and American children's stories.

The domestic and natural setting of Woodlands offered inspiration. The property, formerly known as Inglewood, had been built in the 1880s for Edward Aleyn Braham, then leased to Charles Cope, Ethel’s stepfather.

Ethel wrote inside the house, both in the drawing room and the bedroom she shared with Rose. She applied the finishing touches while sitting on a low-hanging branch of an apple tree in the garden.

Literary legacy

One of Australia’s few unquestioned children’s classics, Seven Little Australians has sold several million copies in English. It has been translated into at least 13 languages and adapted for film, television and stage. In 2019 the manuscript, held in the State Library of NSW, was placed on the UNESCO Australian Memory of the World Register.

During her life, Ethel Turner wrote more than 30 volumes of fiction, two of verse, a travel book and five collections of short stories.

Her contribution to Australian literature is immeasurable and her legacy continues to this day.

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