Late eighteenth- and early nineteenth-century Eurocentric perceptions of natural history led to the flora and fauna of the new colony of New South Wales being viewed as deficient and inferior. The swans of the colony were black and eagles white, birds built shell-strewn avenues of sticks to cavort in and parrots walked on the ground. The mammals carried their young in a pouch and there were furred animals that laid eggs.
This 'miscellany of the curious' fuelled the rage for Australian natural history amongst the upper classes of Europe, bringing income and, occasionally, fame to its collectors and documenters. On the ground, in the colony, it contributed to great change for the animals and, in some cases, extinction. In Upside Down World author Penny Olsen documents how our scientific knowledge evolved, using collectors' and naturalists' journals to enhance her stories.