This term, Year 7 English students have been studying the Niki Caro film, Whale Rider. Set in New Zealand, the film follows the journey of young Maori girl Pai as she learns about her culture, challenging it along the way. Students have studied the key themes of the text, as well as film techniques used by Caro to convey meaning to viewers. 

Below is an example of the analytical writing students have completed, from Year 7 student Madison Chan. Nice work Madi!


Sam Florence

English KLA Manager


In the film Whale Rider, Niki Caro shows us that culture and tradition can still be upheld even if they change over time. Throughout the film, there are many examples of traditions and culture changing, such as when Pai becomes the chief, despite the community “waiting for the first born… for the boy.” This is until Pai’s twin brother died at birth, leaving no male to take the role of chief and sending Pai’s grandfather, Koro into despair. “No, you acknowledge your granddaughter,” shouts Nanny Flowers to Koro, but there remains “no gladness when [Pai] was born.” Furthermore, when Koro opens the school for the boys to learn, tradition and culture is broken when Pai beats Hemi in a taiaha battle. As Koro approaches the scene, he realises that Pai has “broken the tapu of [their] school… The one place where [their] old ways are upheld.” As he tells Pai that “it’s broken,” a high camera angle looking down on Pai shows that she’s done something bad, and that she’s metaphorically looked down upon by Koro. As such, Whale Rider encourages us to think about our traditions and culture, and that they will and can change over time.

Madison Chan
Madison Chan

Madison Chan

Year 7 Student



Our burgeoning Literature program at McKinnon saw 22 VCE students complete the examination last week. This year, students studied a range of texts including Sylvia Plath poems, short stories by Australia’s own Maxine Beneba-Clarke, a play by Anton Chekhov and perhaps some of America’s finest essay writing by James Baldwin. 


The Literature program has been building over the past few years and will see its largest classes at both Years 11 and 12 in 2023, as well as several elective classes at Years 9 and 10. While students felt the exam to be extremely challenging, there was a positive feeling amongst them after the exam, as they reflected on the class and their collective experience together. One student who began her literature journey in Year 10 Creative writing said that the discussions in class this year “shaped them into better people and made her realise how important literature can be in modern society.” 


The English faculty at McKinnon are so proud of this group of students and wish them the best of luck in the future. 


Shane Papatolicas

Literature Coordinator