Jane Smith

Jane Smith

 Jane Smith is a QLD author, librarian/archivist and freelance book editor who loves bringing stories of the past to life through fiction and non-fiction for all ages.

Four of Jane’s books have been short- or long-listed for significant literary awards. Most recently, Ship of Death: The Tragedy of the ‘Emigrant’ was shortlisted for the 2021 Frank Broeze Memorial Maritime History Book prize.

Her children’s books have also received critical acclaim, including an ABIA shortlisting for Captain Thunderbolt from her non-fiction ‘Australian Bushrangers’ series; CBCA ‘notable’ status for Shoot-out at the Rock, and a Speech Pathology Australia shortlisting for The Runaway, from her ‘Tommy Bell, Bushranger Boy’ children’s historical fiction series.

As a historical researcher and writer of fiction, non-fiction and narrative non-fiction, Jane enjoys exploring the different techniques demanded by writing for different purposes and audiences. The Killer’s Game is a fascinating read that delves into the true crimes of one of Australia’s most outrageous characters: the bushranger Captain Starlight. Three Times Buried is a historical novel closely based on the true story of a murder in 19th-century Scotland. Jane loves to these historical stories and her process of uncovering them in her sessions with adult audiences. For adults, she also offers workshops on turning research into writing, the publishing process, and how to get the most out of your editor.

Jane is a former school librarian with extensive experience in delivering talks and workshops to groups of children and adults. She has presented in schools, and at festivals, conferences, libraries and museums, and to a range of community groups. She is happy to tailor her presentations to meet the needs of the audience. To young audiences, Jane delivers engaging presentations that include tales of bushrangers, role-playing and readings from her novels. For upper primary students, she uses her stories and games to demonstrate the difference between primary and secondary sources. She can adapt her presentations to focus on history, English or both.

Free teaching notes and activities to accompany her books are available from Jane’s website.

Jane is a 2024 Visiting Fellow with the Harry Gentle Resource Centre (Griffith University), currently engaged in researching Hannah Rigby, the only female convict to stay in Moreton Bay when the penal settlement closed, with a view to writing her biography.

07 janesmith 2019


For children:

A New World (Years 3 to 8)

Through role play, props and readings from ‘Carly Mills, Pioneer Girl’, students will experience the ordeals faced by young emigrants to Australia in the 19th century, and learn how Caroline Chisholm saved them. Participants will discover how the brave actions of some of the remarkable women of our past helped to make the world a better place.

• Adventures with Tommy Bell (Years 1 to 5)

Through readings and role-play from the ‘Tommy Bell, bushranger boy’ series, children will learn the stories from Australia’s bushranging days: the facts and the fiction. Sessions can take from 40 mins to an hour, depending on school requirements. Maximum group size 50 students.

For adults:

• Ship of death: the tragedy of the Emigrant (1 hour)

When 276 British emigrants sailed away from Plymouth on the ship Emigrant in April 1850, seeking a better life in Australia, they could not imagine the ordeal that lay ahead. Typhus broke out and the journey turned into a nightmare. It was followed by months in quarantine at Stradbroke Island, where the immigrants were trapped in limbo, suffering through storms, leaky tents, fire, suicide and the ever-present threat of disease. The Emigrant was the second government-sponsored emigrant ship to sail directly into Moreton Bay. Several of her passengers became influential people – including a high-ranking judge and several mayors – while others’ lives (including Brisbane's pioneering Dr Ballow's) ended in tragedy. This talk reveals the human stories of some key players in the drama – their backgrounds, their suffering, and their fates – and in doing so, brings to life a remarkable journey common to many of Australia’s early settlers.

• Conmen and killers

Jane shares the stories of some of the ‘bad guys’ of Australia’s past. Learn how Jane became a historical researcher and author and how she discovered some amazing stories from our past. Discover some of the outrageous escapades of the little-known bushranger, impostor and murderer who called himself ‘Captain Starlight’. Group size is unlimited and talks can take from 20 mins to 1 hour, depending on the group’s needs.


For children:

• Creating characters (years 5 to 9)

Whether a book contains historical people or fictional characters – or both – a book really captures the interest if its characters are vividly drawn. In this workshop, children will learn how to bring characters to life.

• Bail up! (Years 5 to 7)

Children will discover some of the amazing stories from Australia’s bushranging past. Through games and stories from ‘Tommy Bell’ and ‘The Australian bushrangers’ series, they will learn how to recognise primary and secondary sources and untangle fact from the fiction. Maximum group size 40 students. Students should bring a pencil.

For adults:

• Editing for authors

Editing is an essential part of book creation. Whether you are self-publishing or intending to pitch your work to a traditional publisher, you will need to ensure your manuscript is engaging, accurate and polished. This workshop will teach you about the levels of editing – substantive editing, copyediting and proofreading – and show you how each step fits in the publishing process. You will learn what a professional editor can do for you and how you can prepare your manuscript to minimise the cost of editing. If you intend to self-edit, you will learn tips for avoiding common errors and tools to help you on your way to publication.

• Digging up the past (Adult)

Participants will learn how to conduct historical research, how to know what sources to trust, and how to turn their discoveries into stories. This workshop is suitable for writers of fiction and non-fiction. Duration of 1 ½ to 2 hours, maximum group size 40.


• History writing: should we let the truth get in the way of a good story?
• Inspiring children to read



  • Jane Smith’s visit was very educational and informative. It made students want to learn more about characters in her books and read her books.

    Harlaxton State School - August, 2023

    Harlaxton State School - August, 2023
    Jane Smith
  • This was Jane’s second book week with us and more than met our expectations. We really enjoyed her presentation.

    Toowoomba East State School - October 2020

    Toowoomba East State School - October 2020
    Jane Smith


Speaker type

  • Author
Jane Smith