This chapter outlines the course taken in the writing of this history of the family; first, coming to grips with the concept of family, and second, defining the scope and methods of the study. The appeal of ‘commonsense’ definitions of the family is closely associated with a belief in biological determinism. The family is ‘natural’, and so are the roles of its various members. An integral aspect of the making of the Australian family was the reconstruction of language, or meaning frames. Between the mid-nineteenth century and the present day, some concepts—such as the distinction between ladies and women—lost their significance. New concepts—such as the homosexual, large and small families, nuclear families, broken families, one-parent families—were invented. Other concepts—such as the housewife—became more widely used. Still other concepts—such as delinquency and motherhood—were redefined. The family is political and private. Each family is different, yet constructed within the structural and sociopolitical constraints of time and place.