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Academic Articles

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Blood Doesn't Define Evotypical Families: Eleanor Spence's Stories of Informal and Formal Foster Care in Australia

Dee Michell


Because of their non-normative nature, Australian foster families are not always treated “as families in their own right” according to Riggs, Delfabbro and Augoustinos (2009, p. 792, emphasis in the original). And until recently a variety of sibling bonds—between birth siblings, between biological and foster children, and between foster children in the one foster family—have, as Adam McCormick (2010) and colleagues at CREATE Foundation (2013) and the Australian Catholic University have pointed out (2014), received little attention in research.

Yet the close family bonds between the blood unrelated are a central theme in The Switherby Pilgrims (1967), Jamberoo Road (1969) and The Left Overs (1982) – all written by award-winning and internationally recognised Australian children’s writer, Eleanor Spence (1928-2008). By calling on the contemporary conception of ‘evotypical’ family, in this paper, Dee Michell argues that Spence created evotypical families in these three novels and well in advance of Australian society accepting a diversity of families as the ‘norm’.

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