Children of the Black Skirt


This script is part of the Australian Plays Education Resources Collection

A gothic fairytale for young people. Three lost children discover an abandoned orphanage in the bush and learn a history of Australia through the spirits of children who have lived there, from convict times, through to World War Two, the Stolen Generation and beyond.

An evocative play which explores history, reconciliation and the power of storytelling, Children of the Black Skirt has toured widely through schools and is a classroom favourite with teachers and students alike.

  • drama, indigenous themes, political/social
  • 0
  • 26 total
  • 12 female identifying, 14 male identifying
  • history, gender, women, young people
  • 18+
  • adult, teen
  • Currency Press


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Male | 40s | under 3 minutes
Starts on page 26

EXTRACT: You step forward, what's your number? This child is too tall. Why are you so tall? Why is this child so tall? How old are you? Hmmm? Speak up. No you're not. That's ridiculous. you are far too tall for ten. Are you a mutinous child? Do you think that you are above everyone else? Hmmm? Then why are you growing so tall? You must stop, stop it at once. I say, Miss Geaenant, you must cease feeding this child. This child need grow no more 'till I say so. I should keep an eye on this one, Miss Greenant, istry's rebels were all very tall people and this child has an eye of defiance in her.


Female | Child | Unspecified
Starts on page 16

EXTRACT: I was workin’ for Mr and Mrs Reardon. I was the house girl, see? I got let outta the orphanage early, got told by the sisters…”You have the Lord smiling down on your head, Lucy Hart”. I never saw it like that, ’cos that Lord he never would’ve whipped me ’n he never would’ve made me work like I did. Each mornin’ I had to rise early before the sun, make sure the water was boiled, eggs collected, cows were milked, horses brushed, verandahs swept, breakfast cooked, dishes washed, the vegies watered, the dogs fed and the pee pots emptied and scrubbed. That’s all before anyone else even got up. There was sewin’ ’n scrubbin’ ’n dustin’ ’n polishin’ ’n washin’ ’n brushin’ ’n diggin’ ’n ploughin’ ’n rakin’ ’n choppin’ ’n runnin’ round like a chook with its head cut off with every little order Mrs Reardon gave me in a huff, ’til the sun went down. I’d just turned fifteen when that war come. That’s when we started knittin’. It was the year 1914. Mrs Connell who they said was sewin’ uniforms for soldiers back in the Boer War asked Mrs Reardon could she spare me each evenin’. So I was sent up the church hall after a day’s hard, hot work, me eyes nearly fallin’ out of me head. Remember the first time I saw ol’ Mrs Connell…


Male | Teen | Unspecified
Starts on page 28

EXTRACT: Me father is dead. He was blown up by the Germans. Since me father was blown to pieces, me mother couldn’t afford to feed us. Sometimes I would suck on me boot and pretend I was eatin’ bacon. One day me mother dressed us in our Sund’y best and took us to see a fat man in a suit. The fat man said…”How would you two boys like to go on a holiday to Australia?” Yes please, yes please, we said. So me mother packed a suitcase. TOM’S MOTHER weeps while she packs a suitcase. We took the train to the seaside. Me brother cried because me mother was weepin’, so I hit him on the head. He cried louder. There were hundreds of other children with suitcases gettin’ on big boat too. I turned to me mother and said, ‘Oy, aren’t you comin’ on boat? “I’m just goin’ to buy you boys an ice cream”. We waited, but the boat sailed away to Australia. I never saw me mother again. The boat trip over was all right. I was sick and threw up in the sea. The fish would eat me sick. They seemed to like it very much. When we arrived, there was a welcomin’ band with lots of people wavin’ banners. No one was wavin’ ’em at us, though. Then we got on a bus for many hours until we reached the orphanage, but the orphanage hadn’t been built yet. For the first year we had to sleep in tents until we built our dormitory. That’s where I grew up.


Children of the Black Skirt was first developed by Real TV and produced by Queensland Arts Council. it first toured throughout Queensland into regional and metropolitan high schools Children of the Black Skirt has toured widely into schools and theatres across Australia. The play received a Drama Victoria Award for Best Production by a theatre company and featured on the 2005 VCE play list.

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