Maurice Saxby: Aussie children’s literature icon passes away

December 9, 2014 – 7:58 am

Give Them Wings: Vale Dr Maurice Saxby AM 1924 – 2014

The education community mourns the death of one of its most revered and beloved mentors.

Born in 1924, Maurice grew up loving books. As he was to say in 2012, ‘If kids are reading, they are given access to language, and not just language skills, but the thoughts behind what is being expressed in that language. They are meeting other worlds, they are meeting other people, they are looking for a home for themselves, and having great fun while they are doing it.’.

His love of literature and the possibilities it presented, led him to undertake teacher training at the William Balmain Teachers’ College following his discharge from the army after World War II. How fortunate were the primary and secondary students who were taught by Maurice, who continued to champion the teaching of quality literature in all his classrooms. Such was his advocacy for children’s literature that Maurice was the second person to be appointed as a Teacher Librarian in NSW.

After only five years in the classroom, Maurice was appointed as Lecturer in English at Newcastle Teachers College then later to Kuring-gai College of Advanced Education where he established specialist under and post graduate courses in children’s literature. Those of us who were privileged to have been taught by Maurice will always remember his inspiring lectures and his impish sense of humour. He exercised a profound influence on our teaching and the students in whom we have instilled a love of reading, especially Australian literature. Many of those students are now teachers themselves so the inspiration of Maurice continues – a legacy of more than 60 years.

His interests and research have led to many publications, including his multi-volume History of Australian Children’s Literature. His book Give Them Wings impelled many to offer exciting opportunities for children to experience literature.

Maurice championed Australian children’s literature tirelessly on many stages. He was the first National President of the Children’s Book Council of Australia and remained a staunch supporter and life member. He served twice as a juror on the Hans Christian Andersen medal for children’s authors and illustrators. Other awards include the Dromkeen Medal (1983), Lady Cutler Award (1989), Member of the Order of Australia (1995) and Nan Chauncy Award (2002).

In 2005 Maurice was made a Life Member of PETAA for his ‘influence and contribution to the teaching of English in Australia’.

Maurice Saxby’s legacy will live on and remain among the thousands of teachers that he inspired to love and revere children’s literature.

Primary English Teaching Association Australia (PETAA)



maurice saxby


Image credit: Primary English Teaching Association Australia (PETAA)

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