The Rabbits: An allegory of colonisation

Cover of The Rabbits by John Marsden

Activity: Consider books or stories in which the setting plays an important part.

The Rabbits, written by John Marsden and illustrated by Shaun Tan, is a partly allegorical fable about colonisation, told from the viewpoint of the colonised. A video of the story is available below.


Read the story about the way rabbits have invaded and taken over a country.

  • Explore the importance of “setting” by drawing on students’ previous knowledge. Draw on students’ responses to make a chalkboard statement that ‘The setting is the time and place in which a story occurs’
  • As a class, discuss other books or stories in which the setting plays an important part, e.g. Rosy Dock (Jeannie Baker), My Place (Nadia Wheatley), Idjhil (Helen Bell).
  • Divide the class into small groups and ask each group to list two or three books in which the setting plays an important role. Give each group a prepared chart so that information about stories can be recorded.
  • Conduct a whole class discussion about the importance of Place, relating back to the themes of land, Country, Place & colonisation.

Name of book or story


Importance of place/setting

You and Me, Murrawee River bank Continuity
My Place City Environment & cultural traditions
Angel’s Gate Country town People’s lives
The Fat and Juicy Place Behind the school Special things happen there



Baker, J 1995, The story of Rosy Dock, Random House, NSW.

Bell, H 1996, Idjhil—and the land cried for its lost soul, Cygnet, WA.

Crew, G 1995, Angel’s Gate, Mammoth, Port Melbourne, Vic.

Hashmi, K 1998, You and Me, Murrawee, Viking, Ringwood, Victoria.

Kidd, D 1992, The fat and juicy place, Angus & Robertson, Pymble, NSW.

Marsden, J & Tan, S 1998, The rabbits, Thomas C Lothian, Port Melbourne, Vic.

Wheatley, N & Rawlins, D 1987, My place, Collins Dove, Vic.

Related content

Image from The Rabbits, with Assessment caption

The Rabbits: Part 2

Assessment: As a class, or in groups, develop a mind map about the story The Rabbits, by John Marsden.

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