Discussion Questions

Discussion ideas for use in the classroom

Aimed at high school level but can be adapted.


1. Define Reconciliation. Discuss why it is an issue in Australia and in what ways can you see the concept of reconciliation explored throughout the text. Find the characters who found reconciliation with someone else and those who didn't. What are the consequences when there is no reconciliation?

2. Read Tess of the d'Urbervilles by Thomas Hardy. How is Gweniver's journey similar to Tess's? What does Jenefer mean when she says her triple great grandfather rewrote Tess of the d'Urbervilles? (P.240)

3. 'Knowing someone's story sure is powerful stuff. It brings so much understanding and empathy.' (p241) Choose a character in the book and show how this statement  became true for them.

4. Both Gweniver and Jenefer undertook personal journeys in the text. Find if these were similar eg 'unsuitable' relationship, a new place... Show how both women find a future, and how they are shaped by their challenging experiences.

5. 'Your story is important too. After reading the text what do you think is Jenefer's story? How does the 'finding out' of her story help her?

6. What is your story?

7. Find perceptions about indigenous people in the text.

Eg Read the train incident again on page s 140-142. Do you think prejudice like this happens often? Have you seen it? Or felt it yourself? How is Jenefer challenged regarding her thoughts about indigenous people? What changed her point of view to make her feel different than her city friends?

8. Write what Caleb might have felt as he started to go out with an Anglo-Australian girl. Write a dialogue about Jenefer between Caleb and his cousin Cloe.

9. Write Caleb's mum's story.

10. Find news clippings about the stolen generation. How do you think stories like this can be told so people can understand? How did Jenefer understand and yet Alicia didn't?

11. Paint or draw Caleb's painting. Would it be true to say this painting is the story of the book? What does each element that Caleb includes mean? This could be an oral assignment.

12. What are all the different kinds of research that Jenefer uses in Zenna Dare. Describe each one. This could be extended to library lessons and to doing research on selected topics.

13. Do some research and design a program for an appearance at a theatre in London in the 19th century.

14. Mapping the journey. In many ways Zenna Dare is a journey for many of the characters. Map Gweniver's journey from Cornwall, where she sang, London, and to South Australia. Describe her journey orally using the map.

15. What might Gweniver had written on the ship as she came to Australia? Write another journal piece that Jenefer never found.

16. Write a piece in Richard Drew's voice. Did he really care for Gweniver? Did she misjudge him? What had he thought when he first heard her sing? And why did he say so little about her when she disappeared? Do you think he found out about the baby?

17. Gweniver's brother Tommy emigrated to America. What could have been his story?

18. Visit a Migration Museum. Do research on another person who came to your state.

19. Find out about migrants to your state. Choose a cultural group eg Germans, Afghans, Cornish, Italians, Khmer etc. When & why did they come? Where did they live and what problems did they have settling here? What benefits have they brought to the state?

20. Interview a person who has migrated or is a refugee. Find out why they came and what difficulties they had here.

21. What is your cultural background? If you think you don't have one, like Jenefer, ask an older person in your family. Do you think it's important to know? Why or why not? If you are a non-indigenous person find out some information about the country your ancestors came from.

22. Find out a fairy tale, myth or legend from the country your ancestors came from. Retell it in your own words.

23. Read all the poems Gweniver chose. Why do you think she chose each one? Find some other poems that you like and share them with the class. Or write one yourself.

24. Gweniver sang ballads and folk songs when she was young. Find another ballad and either illustrate it or perform it to the class.

25. Make a cardboard replica of Gweniver's box.

26. Imagine you have a treasure box. What would you put in it?

27. Imagine you have found a box left by a famous historical figure. What information would there be in the box that most people would know? Do some research for this. And what secret could there be that no one knows?

28. Find an old photo or portrait. Create a character profile for this person. What sort of life did he/she lead Where was he/she born, lived etc. What secret do they have?

29. Find out about the history of Kapunda eg it is the oldest mining town in Australia. See if you can find out some famous people who lived there. Do a presentation to the class.

30. Prepare a tourist brochure for Kapunda or any country town of your choice.

31. Design a new cover for Zenna Dare. Choose symbols and objects from the text to illuminate parts of the story. Explain your choice.

32. The white rose was often a symbol for secrecy. Show how this symbol is used in the text.

33. The white rose can also be a symbol for purity. Thomas Hardy wrote that Tess was a pure woman. Do you think Gweniver was? Give reasons for your answer.

34. Do you think Jenefer should have told everyone Gweniver's secret? Why didn't she?

35. Group or individual activity: prepare a time capsule. Include information about yourselves and any special thing that no one knows. Bury it.

36. Do some research and find the story of one of the operas mentioned in the
text. Re-tell it in your own words. Alternatively choose another opera of
your own choice.

37. Find references to the land in the text, especially Caleb's comments. In
light of these do you agree with the opening quote?

38. How many levels of saying sorry can you find in the text? Eg between
individuals, between families, between people groups, between people and
their God. What do you think saying sorry does?

39. What do you think the text is saying about the power of love? Give
examples of different types of love shown in the text.