National Library of Australia

Teachers notes: Ern Malley: telegram

Speaking and Listening

A student:

  • works effectively with others in complex situations that require a formal style and language use, e.g. participates in formal debates, listens critically.
  • considers connections between texts, situations and speakers and listeners when deciding how to respond.
  • uses knowledge of the differences between spoken and written language to prepare, adjust and deliver a speech.
  • uses a range of strategies to present a speech in a formal setting.

In the 1940s Australia was culturally isolated, and knowledge of European avant-garde movements was limited. As a result many Australians were suspicious of modernist art forms.


  • Read poems by both McAuley and Stewart. Compare them to works they made jointly under the nom de plume of Ern Malley. Which works do you prefer and why?
  • The Angry Penguins were part of Australia’s modernist avant-garde movement. What artists and art forms did they include?
  • Research the Surrealist and DADA art movements. List some of the philosophies of these art movements and the impact that they had on literature, art and film.


  • Look at the official Ern Malley web site at
  • Read the rules that McAuley and Stewart used to create the Ern Malley Poems. Choose five unrelated texts and select words from each, reassemble them into verse. Create an identity. Write a biography for your fake identity. Choose an image from a newspaper or magazine for your fake identity. Introduce your nom de plume to the class and read your poems.


  • Debate how successful the hoaxers McAuley and Stewart were in shaming the modernists Angry Penguins in 1943 and now over 60 years later.