Recent Postgraduate Completions

The Department of History is pleased to announce some recent news from our postgraduate community. These are a few completions from the past months. Most theses can now be found at the University of Sydney e-scholarship repository:
PhD Completions:
Elizabeth Miller’s doctoral thesis, “Planting of the Lord: Contemporary Pentecostal and Charismatic Christianity in Australia,” analyses one of the most striking but understudied aspect of modern Australian history: the rise of evangelical religion in the last decades of the twentieth century. Utilising archival research and participant observation, her study demonstrates that megachurches emerged in Australia by allowing members to embrace certain aspects of modernity while shunning others. Examining both the lure and internal tensions that mark Pentecostal approaches to modern life, Miller provides the first scholarly treatment of evangelicalism’s rapid expansion in the recent past. Pointing to her “substantial and original contribution to scholarly knowledge” on this topic, examiners praised Miller’s lucid writing, impressive scope, wide grasp of the secondary literature, and imaginative reconstruction of the texture of evangelical services.
Danielle Thyer was awarded her PhD in May. Her thesis, “Reporting the ‘Unvarnished Truth’: The Origins and Transformation of Undercover Investigation in Nineteenth-Century New York,” traces the beginnings of a novel idea of the press as a vehicle for exposing objective ‘truth.’ Delving into a series of undercover investigations into the marriage market, political corruption, abortion providers, insane asylums and more, Danielle considers the evolution of mass media and journalistic practices, depictions of urban life, and changing gender relations. Examiners praised her thesis as “carefully and thoughtfully composed”; “outstanding” in its organisation of new knowledge of Victorian cultural practices; and written with “uncommon grace and verve.” As one examiner noted in congratulating Danielle, “completing a dissertation of this quality is a significant lifetime accomplishment.”
James Dunk was awarded his PhD in June. The examiners noted that his thesis, ‘The politics of Madness in a Penal Colony: New South Wales, 1788-1856’, was ‘an extremely well written and interesting loose cannon of a thesis’ aiming to ‘question, disrupt and blur established narratives’ of the colonial enterprise. ‘A highly original piece of scholarship’ and ‘a mature piece of historical writing’, it ‘uses madness as a leitmotif to explore the complex overlaps between freedom and coercion, individual rights and governmental and institutional power.’ ‘Dunk has worked across a now large and substantial body of historiography in both the international histories of madness, and also the histories of convict society in Australia (and internationally), and the additional historical strands of law, society and politics run through the body of this work …the historiographical mapping of the topic in this regard is exceptional’.
Justine Greenwood was awarded her PhD in August. Justine’s thesis, Welcome to Australia: Intersections between immigration and tourism in Australia 1945-2015, was described by examiners as “conceptually sophisticated, rich in the variety of secondary sources on which it depends, and admirably disciplined in its intellectual focus and sense of relevance.” Her writing was also commended, with one examiner concluding, “Academic writing is not always a joy to read, but this was a real pleasure” and another examiner, “I consider this one of the best theses that I have read in recent years.” All three examiners enthusiastically recommend its publication as a book for its insight into modern Australia.
Felicity Berry was also awarded her PhD in August. Her thesis, entitled, “Keeping the Home Fires Burning?: British Female Settlers’ Ideas of Home and Belonging in Empire, 1826-1860,” was commended by the examiners as an “original and valuable contribution to Australian colonial history and more broadly, to the field of gender and settler colonial history.” “Beautifully written and a real pleasure to readŠit is outstanding.” “An excellent example of the historian’s capacity to return to well-worked material and bring fresh readings and new insights.” “The sensitivity of the reading, and the sophistication of the interpretation, left me feeling satiated. It was a joy to read.” “Keeping the Home Fires Burning makes an original and substantial contribution to historical scholarship on settler patterns of belonging in nineteenth century Australia.”
Garritt Van Dyk was awarded his PhD in September. Garritt’s thesis was entitled “Commerce, Food, and Identity in Seventeenth-Century England and France.” The examiners declared it ‘a fascinating, myth-busting thesis that offers a rich series of insights and analyses into a suite of familiar associations between cuisine and national identity in the case of modern France and Britain’; ‘a compelling narrative account of the history of English and French understandings of food in the seventeenth and eighteenth century’, highlighting his ‘provocative revisionist analysis of the role food played in the making of national narratives in the same period,’ his ‘wonderful observations … about the differences between English and French political …cultures,’ and ‘the transnational origins of national cultures’. They each stressed its originality and the fact that it is ‘beautifully written, demonstrating an impressive ability to produce fluent, compelling historical writing’, ‘very deserving of publication and will be read with great interest by historians and the wider reading public.’ One of them even commented that it was the “most readable thesis in 20 years of marking.”
MA (Research) Completions:
Catherine Perkins received news of her award of the MA by Research in mid-September. Cathy’s outstanding Masters thesis on the life and work of Australian writer Zora Cross was awarded a high distinction. Both examiners praised the high quality of Cathy’s research and writing: ‘As it stands, this study is an accomplished piece of writing in its own right: often witty, highly intelligent, beautifully crafted, and all delivered with a light touch’. ‘The elegance of the prose, together with the candidate’s obvious enthusiasm for her subject matter and her willingness to inject personal experiences into the narrative, made the thesis a pleasure rather than an obligation to read’.

Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences – 2017 Teaching Fellowships

Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences
2017 Teaching Fellowships

The Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences is pleased to announce that it will fund 10 Teaching Fellowships (TFs) in 2017. The Teaching Fellowship scheme is designed to provide a number of the Faculty’s outstanding postgraduate research students, in the final year of their candidacy, the opportunity to pursue enhanced teaching experiences.
General Conditions
TFs will be held for a period of one year. Students can only hold one TF during their candidature.
The 2017 TFs are available on a competitive basis to full-time or part-time postgraduate research students enrolled through the Faculty who will submit their theses between 1 January 2017 and 31 December 2017. Students who have already submitted their theses, or who plan to submit them in 2016 or in 2018 are not eligible to apply in this TF round.
The period for which a TF is held may include some time in 2017 after a student has submitted his or her thesis and is waiting on examiners’ reports, making final corrections etc. For example, a student who plans to submit his or her thesis in June 2017 is eligible to apply and, if successful, to hold a TF throughout 2017.
The Fellowships are level A step 3 appointments on a part time basis with a 0.2 full-time equivalent (FTE). The term of employment is from 1 February until 15 December 2017. TFs will undertake up to four hours face-to-face teaching per week during the teaching weeks of semesters. The duties included in their teaching should not be limited to tutoring, but should include other teaching and teaching-related activities deemed appropriate (e.g., occasional lectures, curriculum development). These activities may occur outside the standard teaching weeks in semester.
TFs are expected to experience academic benefits, such as mentoring and inclusion in Department and/or School activities, beyond those provided by casual tutoring.
The expected teaching duties and other activities to be undertaken by TFs must be indicated on the application form.
Applicants must use the form provided, and include any relevant supporting material.
To be eligible for consideration for a TF, applicants must submit an application that demonstrates both their own competitiveness and the ability of their Department or School to provide them with enhanced teaching opportunities and appropriate supervision and mentoring.
Applications for 2017 are due by close of business, Tuesday 4 October 2016. No late applications will be considered.
Applications will be ranked within each School at a meeting convened by the School’s representative(s) on the Faculty Postgraduate Research Committee. A sub-committee of the Faculty Postgraduate Research Committee, with one member from each of the five Schools, will meet to determine the overall ranking of the candidates and nominate the 10 recipients for 2017.
Please note, results of the selection process, including the names, Departments and Schools of successful applicants, will be published on Faculty web pages.

Aborginal Heritage Office – Week 9 in History Beyond the Classoom

This week, David Watts joined us again from the Aboriginal Heritage Office, a unique joint initiative by a group of councils across northern Sydney, including North Sydney, Manly, Warringah, Ku-ring-gai, and Pittwater to protect Aboriginal Heritage in these areas (
David, one of the students’ favourite speakers from last year’s class, is the Aboriginal Heritage Manager, and really developed, planned, and founded the Office back in 2000. He continues to play a key role in the preservation of Aboriginal heritage sites, education, and a prize-winning volunteer site monitoring program that empowers community members to take responsibility for our shared heritage and past.
David talked to students about his role in the organisation, the many challenges they faced and continue to face, and his extensive experience in Aboriginal heritage management. He has worked on site surveys and archaeological excavations, conservation management plans and protection works. He has given talks all over the world about Aboriginal site care and managements, as well as cultural tourism advice, and he has developed several Aboriginal Heritage Walks within the northern Sydney region (including some of the walks and resources you can find here:
Like last year, David engaged us all with his honest and realistic approach to public history, and also talked about his own past and the way that shaped his approach to the present, and his responses to continued racism as well. He also shared with us a new publication the AHO has released called “Filling the Void: A History of the Word ‘Guringai’.”
David’s talk helped set the tone for an ensuing discussion on “Decolonizing Methodologies” and especially the struggle over “research” in indigenous communities where there has been a long history of imperial and post-colonial intrusion by researchers. David’s talk, and the readings, helped draw attention to the sensitivities involved in indigenous history and the need to think carefully about our intentions and purposes in doing it (something we need to be mindful with any project, it seems).
But David’s efforts in getting the AHO up and running and maintaining and sustaining it for over sixteen years now, along with his dedicated team of colleagues (who put on almost 200 schools events a year and who monitor thousands of aboriginal heritage sites across northern Sydney), reminded the class that it is not enough to sit around and wait for the “right” thing to happen in heritage management. David, along with other speakers like Judith Dunn, are teaching us the importance of stepping up to make something happen. It is not always easy, but it won’t get done otherwise.

Week 8 – Community Work and Organisations

This week we took a bit of time out to talk to previous students of History Beyond the Classroom and to find out more about the community work that students have already started this year. It reminded me of just why I enjoy teaching this course so much.
We were fortunate to have Sarah Simic and Ryan Cropp join us from last year to talk about their experiences last year, the highs and lows, the challenges and rewards, to give us practical tips on working with organisations, and to reveal some important updates about the work they did.
Ryan Cropp, who is now doing his Honours degree in history, was one of the first students last year to make contact with a group – the Hurlstone Park Wanderers Football Club. And he was one of the first students who posted a blog about his experiences. See Ryan helped inspire many students from last year to get started and see where they landed up.
Ryan spoke about his realisation that history was incredibly fragile, and relied on the often unpaid work of so many dedicated enthusiasts who care about their communities and their clubs. While at first frustrated with how few records there seemed to be about the club, that frustration and search for new records became the most interesting part of the project.
Ryan also spoke of his need to manage expectations – his own and others – about what he could realistically achieve in the course of one semester, but also the (on-going) friendships he made while doing his major project. He helped re-write part of their website, and interviewed one of the older club members and made a great video about the Canterbury Cup played at the Blick Oval in Hurlstone Park from 1949-1963 (see Ryan hopes his work has and will continue to stir up more memories and archives relating to the club.
Sarah Simic also joined us, and talked about her false starts with a community group, followed by her major task – finding the origin dates 27 suburbs for the city of Fairfield. She thought this was going to be easy, but it turned in to a labour of love. She wrote one of the best blogposts of the year. I urge everyone to read the full blog at, but here is an excerpt:
Historians love dates. They are our little comfort pillows; they slip complex situations into simple time frames. Ah, how lovely! How sweet! How romantic!
But I never imagined it would be so hard to find a single date.
I have spent hours wading through newspaper clippings, council records, advertisements, maps. You name it, I’ve looked. And yet, it has taken me hours to find one little piece of information.
I feel like the gods of history have been toying with me. I feel like a mouse being cruelly chucked around by a cat: lulled into a false sense of security, only to be once again snapped up in its deceiving paws.

Sarah urged students this year to be creative and roll with the unconventional nature of the unit, to trust their historical instincts, and to enjoy themselves. Sarah also reminded us of the practical outcome of the work many students did. Though Sarah’s report wasn’t made “public,” Fairfield has used her work to make new banners dating the various suburbs. The fruits of her work can now be seen all over the city of Fairfield. You can view her work at:
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The fruits of Sarah’s labour
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Plan of town made by founder John Brenan in 1838. Present day Smithfield still follows this plan.
Sarah was also able to stay and talk to students informally about their community work and the projects that might emerge. We divided up the students into groups based around the kind of work their organisations did, which included historical societies and historic sites, community and sports groups, libraries and schools, and health and welfare and government groups.
This year, we have twenty-seven students in total, working with twenty-seven different organisations, listed below. Once again, they range in scope and size and purpose, but so far all the students seem keen to get on with their work with them and open-minded about what might emerge. Students also talked about how enthusiastic many of their contacts were in their organisations, and why they got interested and involved with them in the first place.
I have been cheered again by how willing students are to think beyond the classroom and to engage with such a wonderfully diverse group of organisations. And I am very grateful for the support of our community partners in taking on the students. I’m very much looking forward to hearing more about the work students are doing, and the projects that evolve from this.
Community Groups and Centres

Addison Road Community Centre
Auburn Youth Centre
Newtown Neighbourhood Centre
Balmain Association
Friends of Callan Park
Glenwood Community Association
Historical Societies and Historic Sites

Blacktown and District Historical Society
La Perouse Museum
Manly, Warringah and Pittwater Historical Society
Blue Mountains Historical Society
Wyong Family History Group
Eryldene Historic House and Garden
St John’s Cemetery Project
Schools, Colleges, and Education
University of the Third Age – U3A (Liverpool)
Wesley College
Kambala Old Girls Union
Libraries, Health and Government
Touching Base
Woollahra Municipal Council (Double Bay Library)
Waverly Library
The David Berry Hospital
Sports and Leisure
Queenscliff Life Saving Club
Canterbury Olympic Ice Rink/Ice Skating Club of NSW
Western Suburbs Rugby League Club Archives
Club VeeDub
Music & Booze Co.
Cooma Little Theatre

Week 7 in History Beyond the Classroom


Dr. Tanya Evans, Macquarie University

In week 7 in History Beyond the Classroom, we got yet another perspective on community engaged pubic history. Fresh from winning a prestigious NSW Premier’s History Award on Friday night, we were lucky to get Tanya Evans. Tanya was also busy this week, since she is current President of the History Council of NSW (, and had a packed schedule of events for History Week (
Tanya, who now teaches at Macquarie University, started her career by doing her Honours in History at Edinburgh University, followed by an MA in Women’s History at the University of London, followed by a PhD, also at London. Though an academic historian, Tanya told us that when she moved to Macquarie from the UK she began to describe herself as a public historian who also happens to specialise in the history of family, motherhood, poverty, and sexuality. For Tanya, the line between academic and public history is too blurred to make a distinction, which arguably should not have to be made at all.
Tanya is passionate about researching ordinary people and places in the past and, more importantly, incorporating ordinary people and places in the process of her research and the construction of historical knowledge. She also loves teaching and producing public history and working in teams. In fact, Tanya helped me think through some of the challenges of teaching this unit because she also teaches a capstone community history unit at Macquarie (which has a requirement that all students complete a community engaged unit of study before they graduate), but one that is focused on collaboration between students, too.
Tanya has also curated an exhibition, writes for general as well as academic readers, politicians and social policy makers and she makes radio and television programs based on her scholarship. Tanya is a regular contributor to the popular show “Who Do You Think You Are?” both here and in the UK. She consciously tries to pitch her work at a variety of audiences because her research is targeted at disrupting people’s assumptions about the history of the family. It questions supposedly ‘authoritative’ or ‘commonsensical’ knowledge about family life in the past.
Her three books so far have been about the history of ‘illegitimacy’, poverty and philanthropy. And, as noted above, as testimony to Tanya’s commitment to community history, her last book, Fractured Families: Life on the Margins in Colonial New South Wales, won the NSW Premier’s History Prize for Community and Regional History ( The book was a history of Australia’s oldest surviving charity, The Benevolent Society, and she wrote this in collaboration with family historians while relying on the support of the charity over several years in order to do so. Tanya was as interested in the lives of the family historians she met while doing research for this, and wanted to track how their own research has changed the way they think and live, too.
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Tanya is dedicated to the democratization of historical knowledge, and her commitment showed in her talk to the class, as well as the essay we read based on her most recent venture: an edited collection called Swimming with the Spit published by New South, which is a community history of the Spit Swimming Club at Balmoral Beach (, and has just hit the newsstands everywhere….( Tanya shared some of the stories she accumulated while interviewing various prominent female swimmers in the club’s history, and discussed how they wanted to shape their own stories. In doing so, Tanya reminded us that though local history is often disparaged, in fact, just about all history is local history in some way, and the real questions revolve around the meaning(s) we make of those stories.
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Finally, Tanya talked a little about her interest in presenting in different media, noting that she wrote drafts of her latest work as blog posts, which allowed for an exchange of ideas and community input. This led nicely into our class discussion of the community work that students are doing, and the major projects they are starting to think about. In the meantime, Tanya is also already starting to write a history of motherhood in Australia from prehistory to the present (!) while continuing to research the different ways in which family history is practiced. We’ll look forward to more innovative approaches, and award-winning research.

Week 6 in History Beyond the Classroom

Judith Dunn, OAM
Last week our class finally moved beyond the classroom in a literal sense, and journeyed to Parramatta for a field trip. Spurred on by Michaela Cameron, who has helped bring the history of Parramatta alive in her recent work (see:, we travelled west instead of east (as we did last year, see:, and discovered the heart of early European history in Australia.
Our tour guides for the afternoon could not have been better. In addition to Michaela, Judith Dunn, OAM, also offered her services and gave us a tour of the extraordinary site of the Parramatta Female Factory and worked in tandem with Michaela at the St John’s Cemetery to give us a sense of the amazing connectedness of the early history of Parramatta, Sydney, NSW, and beyond.
Judith Dunn with HSTY 3902 Students on-site at the Parramatta Female Factory

Judith has led an exemplary life as a practicing public historian and historian-activist. She is a migrant with a passion for Australian history, and currently holds a Fellowship in Colonial History. She is also Past President and served on the Society Council of Parramatta & District Historical Society for 23 years. Judith continues to develop and guide coach and walking tours (see, for example:
Judith initiated the Historic Graves Committee thirty years ago, is still their convenor and is author of the Parramatta Cemetery Series, a set of five books about all of Parramatta’s cemeteries: ( Her most recent publication, Colonial Ladies, Lovely Lively and Lamentably Loose (, attracted an individual grant from the Heritage Branch of the NSW Department for Planning.
Judith is the recipient of a number of awards including a gold medal in Women of Australia Awards, the Australian Bi-Centenary Medal and NSW State Government Award for Services to History and Heritage and in her capacity as a TAFE Teacher won a NSW Quality Teaching Award and membership of the College of Educators. In 2011 she was awarded an OAM for services to History and Heritage. On top of all that, the indomitable Judith likes to water ski in her spare time…!
While on tour with Judith at the Parramatta Female Factory site, we learned not just about the varied and diverse history of the women who were incarcerated in the oldest dedicated women’s prison in Australia, but also the many challenges in preserving these kinds of extraordinary historic sites and their history. We walked in the imprint of the convict site and learned of the development plans to build 30-storey buildings on top of this heritage site. We also learned of the many alterations to the site over time, and the sometimes serendipitous discoveries of new developments that have been spotted and stopped only by the vigilance of people like Judith who have cared for the site for so long. Judith reminded us that while it might seem hopeless at times, heritage preservation and the stories in the sandstone will only be achieved through individual and collective action.
We then navigated our way through the growing throngs for the nearby Monday night football game (who were using parts of the PFF as a car parking lot) and Michaela Cameron pointed out some of her favourite historic sites along the main street, including Roseneath Cottage on O’Connell St. near the Leagues Club, the George St Tudor Gatehouse on O’Connell and George Streets, Bennett’s Bakery on O’Connell St., and finally St John’s Cemetery. We marveled at the juxtaposition between old and new, and alas, at the lack of interpretive signs at most of these amazing historic sites. While it seems only a matter of time before they will be overrun by new developments, the work of people like Judith and Michaela are helping to ensure that the stories behind the buildings and gravestones are not lost.
Michaela Cameron pointing out Bennett’s Bakery on O’Connell Street

As the sun set, Michaela and Judith kept us enthralled with stories from the tombs, including many woven from Michaela’s own family history in the area. The St John’s Cemetery is the oldest surviving European graveyard in Australia, and is the resting place for no fewer than 63 “First Fleeters.” Thanks to Michaela’s work documenting some of these stories, more and more people will be able to enjoy the interconnected stories of the very early European development of the Parramatta area (, and see:, and ) and the role it played in the early history of Sydney and NSW. We also, I think, came away with a renewed appreciation that all history starts locally, and it is up to us not only to help preserve that history, but also tell it to a broader audience to ensure its importance is not forgotten, and lost.
I should also mention that at least two students from our class last year, Katya Pesce and Michael Rees, worked with organisations involved in saving the built heritage of Parramatta, the Friends of the Parramatta Female Factory ( and the North Parrramatta Residents Action Group (NPRAG). You can read about their experiences here:;; and
To help with these preservation efforts, see, and
And to sign the petition against developing the PFF site:
Tales from the tombstones with Judith Dunn

Michaela Cameron talks of her own ancestors and their stories

Week 5 in History Beyond the Classroom

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This week we had a great discussion with Michaela Cameron. Michaela is currently completing a PhD thesis at the University of Sydney that is a “sound-centred history of early seventeenth-century New France.” She studies the contrasting auditory cultures of French Catholic missionaries and Algonquian- and Iroquoian-speaking peoples to better understand the experience of first contact. Essentially, she argues that different ways of sounding and hearing the world was often at the core of cultural conflict. Michaela is an amazing student who is pushing at the boundaries of academic knowledge and ways of knowing.
But a funny thing happened to Michaela along the way to completing her PhD. Unsure of the value of the PhD, and the job market, Michaela took a little time out and qualified as a secondary school English teacher and worked casually in a number of schools for approximately two years. At the time, she even had some training in marketing as well.
Then, she ventured into public history about two years ago and became very involved with the convict history, heritage sites, and community organisations in her own backyard: Parramatta. Starting out by writing reviews of historic sites for Yelp, she created a Sydney history twitter account (, an instagram account for promoting Parramatta history and especially the Female Factory in particular ( and and, and has also done work for the Dictionary of Sydney, including creating a terrific walking tour app of Convict Parramatta
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Michaela is now juggling both the completion of her American history PhD thesis (which she hopes to complete by the end of this year or soon after) with being the project manager of the Parramatta-based public history website The St. John’s Cemetery Project:
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The scope of Michaela’s recent public history efforts is breathtaking, and her development as a public historian has been inspirational. Many students who took this course last year recalled that Michaela’s talk to them was a real turning point in how they thought about history and public history, and what they could do in terms of major projects. This year, I was taken aback by how much more Michaela has been doing in the last twelve months. She again showed many of us what an “outsider” and a trained historian could bring to the public history table, particular if one listens, learns, and collaborates with local experts and the vast knowledge they often bring to the subjects.
Michaela offered practical tips about having clear aims, and knowing what purpose any engagement and its public outcome might serve, including thinking about the audience for any public history project.
Michaela also stressed the need to go multi-modal, and think about bringing in text, visual, and audio material. She also showed us some fabulous examples of using primary sources and social media to “sell history” – and noted that while some organisations are already very good about using social media, it is often something we can help with if we are on top of it. So, too, can we try to draw attention to great resources such as Trove (
Primary sources in particular can entertain as well as inform, but they can also draw attention to some important causes (see for example: and and and and Michaela also notes that we should use a wide range of sources, and look for the ‘gaps’ – the silences, or the history that is not being done, or communicated particularly well.
Finally, Michaela also showed that history students could collaborate with each other to strengthen their efforts, and also help local/community organisations make connections between themselves and others, and with other organisations in particular that might help. Putting a grassroots campaign in touch with the Mitchell library, or the Dictionary of Sydney, for example, can pay dividends. And of course, we can use social media for activist purposes.
Following this stimulating talk, we only had a brief time to discuss the kinds of organisations students were working with, or hoping to work with. Once again, there is a great range of interests and different kinds of organisations, ranging from historical societies and historic sites, museums and libraries, to sports and community clubs, health and welfare groups, and activist/political groups. Some of the students shared experiences and challenges, and with Michaela’s talk as inspiration, began to think about how that work might translate into a public history project.

Week 4 in History Beyond the Classroom

Dr Louise Prowse on “What is Local/Community History?
There could be few people better placed to talk to us about “what is local/community history than our guest this week, Louise Prowse. Louise has not only studied and analysed the growth of local historical societies in the second half of the twentieth century, but in doing so she has spent a great deal of time with all kinds of people who have dedicated their lives to recording, preserving and disseminating the histories of their communities. Her PhD, completed at Sydney University in 2015, was entitled “A Poplar Past? Historical Identity and the Rural Ideal in Australian Country Towns, 1945-2000,” so Louise had plenty to draw from not just in terms of helping us understand the ‘place’ of local history in the lives of many, but also in giving us many practical tips about how to build relationships of trust and respect with those who open their doors to us.
More generally, Louise is an Australian cultural historian who specialises in place identity, tourism, heritage and the intersections between local and national history-making. Louise has taught nineteenth and twentieth century Australian cultural and political history, American political history and the histories of media and of tourism at New York University (Sydney), the University of Sydney and at Charles Sturt University. She has worked on a number of research projects, and has just begun a new job with the Office of Environment and Heritage, with a focus on regional heritage in NSW.
Louise’s talk ranged widely, historicising the role and functions of local historical societies, and thinking about the role of belonging and the custodial role many people feel about the past of their community. She also noted the often unexpected discoveries – sources that she realised no one had really looked at or done anything with. A sense of discovery resonated with one of the readings we had from Louise’s work, entitled “Parallels on the Periphery: The Exploration of Aboriginal History by Local Historical Societies in New South Wales, 1960s-1970s,” in History Australia 12, no. 3 (2015), 55-75. In her research, Louise had found that country town historical societies had a genuine interest in Aboriginal history in the 1960s and 1970s, some years before the historical profession took aboriginal history more seriously, and even while academic historians often disparaged the work of local historical societies.
Discussion ranged across a number of issues, including the relationship between the local and the national, the kinds of sources that might be important, and relationships between local authorities, the community, and the professional historian as well as the “hierarchies” of local knowledge and authority too – important issues that students also noted came out in our readings of Graeme Davison on “Community” and Martha Sears work on “History in Communities.” I think students were amazed not just at the importance of the work done by local historical societies and other community groups, but also the sheer range of historical activities in any one place.
We also talked about the tension inherent in working with local groups and writing analytical history, which again raised questions about who our histories are for, and what are they for? Do we need a sense of personal connection, or a common point of interest to work well together? Where do we feel a sense of belonging? What do we feel connected to? How comfortable would we feel with an “outsider” writing the history of our own communities? Do we need to connect with communities/localities that we study? Can we “own” a history that is not ours? Or is written by someone else? What can we bring to the table as “insiders” and as “outsiders”?
Last year, we heard from Mark McKenna that history should be about confronting myths, rather than reassuring stories. But Frank Bongiorno and Erik Ekland have written in their article “The Problem of Belonging: Contested Country in Australian Local History,” that instead of confronting myths, we should think about excavating the “historical meanings of social memory.” What role do myths play in our historical consciousness?
Building on all of this, and like last year, I think one of the most important questions that arose from the readings and discussion this week is whether we can/should think of our histories as acts of reconciliation?

Week 3 in History Beyond the Classroom

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PHA-NSW & ACT Chair, Dr. Mark Dunn on Public History
It was a great pleasure to welcome Mark Dunn as our first guest speaker in History Beyond the Classroom in 2017. Currently the Chair of the Professional Historians Association of NSW (PHA-NSW;, Mark’s career as a professional historian embodies the challenges and opportunities of public history.
After studying history at UNSW, Mark did some volunteer work on an archaeological site in Sydney, which led to a paid job as a historian for a heritage and archaeology firm in Sydney, where he worked until 2010. During that time he was involved in major conservation, archaeology (including digging), oral history, significance and interpretation projects Australia wide. Some of these include doing Oral History for the Cockatoo Island Navy Dockyard, the moving of Prince of Wales Destitute Childrens Asylum Cemetery, The Big Dig in The Rocks and numerous smaller histories. Mark has been a member of the Professional Historians Association since c1997 and is currently the Chair. He has also been a committee member and President of the History Council NSW and is currently Deputy Chair of the NSW Heritage Council. Mark now works as a consultant historian in heritage and research, as well as leading city tours for an American tour company Context Travel. He is also the current CH Currey Fellow at State Library of NSW, and recently completed his PhD at UNSW.
Mark talked to students about the crucial role played by the PHA-NSW, and also the challenges of doing public history, which included negotiating any conflicts of interest, managing expectations, juggling tight budgets and deadlines, and the disappointments resulting from not having control over the final product, sometimes with the result that your work gets buried (sometimes literally).
An unexpected find at the Mick Simmons site at George Street 2013. After excavating and archiving this early colonial pub, the site was completely removed. Recording and archiving such sites before they are completely obliterated is just one of the many kinds of projects Mark Dunn has worked on.
Drawing from his extensive experience, Mark also reflected on why he enjoys being a professional historian, which included the opportunity to work on many and varied history projects, bringing history to a wide range of audiences who often have a real connection with the past that is being presented, and seeing your work on public display, whether it be on television, radio, the side of a building, the wall of a pub, or the web.
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Mark Dunn on site with a crew from the popular television show, Who Do You Think You Are?
Mark also noted his most recent public history project for Sydney Trains Heritage NSW (, the beautifully produced pamphlet called “Running on Time: Clocks and Time-Keeping in the NSW Railways” (you can download a copy at: There is also an accompanying short film featuring interviews with railway workers and heritage experts involved in the project ( Mark revealed that he completed his report in about four weeks of full-time work, giving students something to aspire to….
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Some of the many clocks in the collection of Sydney Trains at Central Station

Also check out Mark’s blogsite, with Laila Ellmoos, “Scratching Sydney’s Surface” at:
Mark was an engaging speaker, and the students (and I) were clearly amazed at the breadth and depth of his work. There were lots of questions about ethical dilemmas, disappointments, and missed opportunities in the Q&A, and the interest followed over into our discussion after Mark left. We were excited and amazed that public history could be and was being done in such a variety of contexts, and ways. One student was quite taken aback (and pleased to hear) at the fact that you didn’t have to have a PhD to be an “historian.” So, I think it was empowering for us, too.
Many students also made connections between Mark’s talk and work and the readings, too. These included Paul Ashton’s essay on “Public History” in Clark and Ashton, eds., Australian History Now (2013), in which he reflected on his experiences as a public historian and the growth of the field in general (we also noted that Mark Dunn was one of the first graduates of the Applied History degree at UTS that Ashton mentions that he helped establish).
As I noted last year, Ashton concluded by noting his working definition of public history as “the practice of historical work in a wide range of forums and sites which involves the negotiation of different understandings about the nature of the past and its meaning and uses in the present” (179). Such a definition draws on Raphael Samuel’s idea that “history is a social form of knowledge; the work, in any given instance, of a thousand different hands,” and also points forward to Martha Sears’ ecological view of different forms of history-making as “part of a dynamic system where every diverse and distinctive element contributes to the vigour and health of the whole” (Sears, “History in Communities,” in Clark and Ashton, Australian History Now (2013), 212-213).
Mark’s talk and Paul Ashton’s work helped students reflect on the practice of history in the University and classroom, which often (though not always) precludes these kinds of negotiations about different kinds of understandings about the past, and present uses (though students were also quick to point out that there is a growing group of academic historians willing to engage with different public audiences, and indeed, there always has been). Our reading this week about the Enola Gay controversy in the United States in the early 1990s reinforced the dangers of not doing so, but also how difficult it might be to do so. Once again, and with the help of Anna Clark’s great interviews, our discussions invariably shifted to the History Wars in Australia and both the indifference of many to the history wars, but also the more subtle ways in which many non-professional historians understand “contest” in history. Discussion also ranged across questions about whether there is a historical middle ground between commemoration and historical analysis? Could the Enola Gay Exhibition controversy have been avoided?

Week 2 in History Beyond the Classroom

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Week two in History Beyond the Classroom got off to a good start with almost near-perfect attendance and a good introductory session. Such a diverse range of students with a wide array of backgrounds and interests promises much for the semester ahead. We even have a social media expert in our ranks. That bodes well…
After introductions, we talked about some key questions, including “what is history?” and “What, or who, is our history for?” A spirited discussion ensured that we only scratched the surface of these questions, but I think we did a good job of interrogating what we have been doing so far in history units at the University. Key phrases that came up included “analysing,” “interpreting,” “questioning,” and “criticism.” Students noted they have been pushed to think about alternative perspectives, the richness of historiographical debate, the nature and absence of sources, new narratives, multiple narratives, and to define their own narrative, and also to see the contemporary relevance of what they study in the past to the present. Much of what we seem to do at University is to “subvert,” “undermine,” or “question,” what we thought we already knew, even while we still look for some kind of “lessons from the past” or “truth.”
Though EH Carr’s classic essay “What is History” is somewhat dated now, our sense of history at University is not too far off his idea that history is about a conversation between an historian and his/her facts, and between past and present. Some of this discussion pointed us toward the purpose of history, and while that remained an unfinished conversation, at first glance the “professional” historians’ goals seemed quite different from those surveyed in Roy Rosensweig and David Thelen’s landmark study The Presence of the Past, and the individuals and groups Anna Clark spoke with in Private Lives, Public History, both of which compel us to consider about how non-historians think about the past and do history in their everyday lives, and the deeply personal nature of that engagement with the past. Ultimately though, I think N. Scott Momaday’s preface to The Way to Rainy Mountain reminds us that all history is going to be a “turning and re-turning of myth, history, and memoir.” And Momaday’s definition resonates with the American survey respondents who wanted to explore the past to understand “why I am like I am.” While this might jar with politicians’ desire for citizens to understand “why are we like we are” with the “we” somewhat arbitrarily defined sometimes as the “nation,” I think the main task of students in History Beyond the Classroom will be about acknowledging these different approaches and aims, and trying to find some common ground between them.
One student also brought up the musical “Hamilton” as an example of a public history project that is stimulating all kinds of discussion in the US. A link to one great rap from that production can be found here: and more info about the musical can be found here: Some discussion of its reception among historians can be found here: We’ll be talking more about public history next week.
And for those in the class who want to continue the discussion on “what is history?” and “who/what is history for?,” see our new Blackboard Discussion Group on extended conversations and make a contribution.
We finished the seminar with a very brief discussion of just how to get started on a community-engaged project, emphasising that the engagement should come first, with the historical questions arising from it.