"Somewhere in Melbourne a baby has just been born and everyone wants to know whether it's a boy or a girl. The answer will decide how the rest of that baby's life is going to go. The baby may grow up to be brave or nervous or gentle, tall or tough or active. But people will see the nervous woman as a sweet little thing and the nervous man as a coward. They'll see the tall man as handsome and the tall woman as a problem. Just because one of them's a man and the other one's a woman."
Maz's speech to Jan's class.[2]

A Tale of Two Families: The Diary of Jan Packard is a book written by Jenny Pausacker. It is the third book in the My Australian Story series. It was first published in September 2000, and republished in March 2006. The book was re-titled Secrets and Sisterhood in February 2012 with new cover art.

The story follows Jan Packard as she discovers the Women's Liberation movement and the Vietnam War.

Book description

Jan Packard starts a diary because she is bored... and suddenly she finds there is such a lot happening around her. Family, friends and neighbors all seem to be changing and doing things she had never expected. Then quiet Jan decides it's time to become involved herself. It's the 70's."


In 1974, Jan Packard lives in the quiet suburb of Box Hill in Melbourne, Victoria. She lives with her parents, Margaret and Ron, and her younger brother, Pete. Her elder brother, Terry, who was a draft resister, lives away from home, while attending university. The Packards live next door to their friends, the Maxwells, a family consisting of Ted and Val, and their children, Graeme, Karen and Michael. Graeme, unlike Terry, fought in the Vietnam War, but has not been the same since.

Meanwhile, Jan's best friend Fran Briggs returns from a family vacation and promptly develops a crush on Graeme. After fighting with Fran about the Vietnam War, Jan tags along with her mother to an International Women's Day march. There Jan met Maz, a Women's Liberation supporter, who explains the march to her. Later, Jan's mother confides how she got involved in the Women's movement and joined a Consciousness Raising group.

Fran invites herself to the Packards and Maxwells barbecue, where she gets a chance to talk to Graeme. However, Fran becomes disinterested in Graeme and shifts her affections to Mr. Counihan, her and Jan's history teacher. Jan grows closer to Maz, eventually asking her over for dinner. After Jan's English teacher Miss Martin makes fun of Women's Liberationists, Jan invited Maz to speak to her class. Maz's speech was a hit with the class, also changing Miss Martin's opinions on the subject.

Before the second term holiday's, Miss Martin assigns a project about Women's Liberation. Jan partners with John Fraser, since Fran chooses to oppose Women's Liberation. In the meantime, Jan's mother gets a job, causing an upheaval in the Packards lives as Jan goes back to school. After an ill-timed dare, Jan begins a girl's football team, which Fran joins after they make up. The girls "come closer to winning than anyone expected," but still lose. On Jan's birthday, the Packards and Maxwells have a peaceful barbecue.


Main article: List of A Tale of Two Families characters


Main article: Jenny Pausacker

Jenny Pausacker (born November 2, 1948 in Adelaide, South Australia) is an Australian author. She has written over seventy books for children and young adults, including Mr Enigmatic (1999) and Sundogs (2001). A Tale of Two Families is her only book for the My Australian Story series.

A Tale of Two Families "draws on [Pausacker's] experiences in the seventies."[3] She, like Jan, marched in Moratorium demonstration and was involved in Women's Liberation movement.



  • Children's Book Council of Australia Notable Book (2001)[6]
  • Australian Family Therapists’ Award for Children’s Literature (2001) - commended[7]


See also

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