Many of you will have heard of the recent change plan being implemented by management at ACU that will cut more academic jobs. This is another in a long line of changes and redundancies that will affect many Humanities and Social Sciences scholars there – and in particular the disciplines of History, Philosophy, Politics, and Theology, and the closure of the Centre for Medieval and Early Modern History.
At the heart of this, the decisions of management at ACU are deeply damaging to the international reputation of Australian Universities, further undermine confidence in governance throughout the University sector, and affect many former staff and students of the University of Sydney.
The Australian Academy of the Humanities, along with many other cultural bodies and organisations have weighed in on the matter. As the AAH notes: “We are dismayed to learn of ACU’s decision to gut its disciplines of History, Philosophy, Religious Studies, Pol. Science, and the entirety of Medieval and Early Modern Studies. While we respect the University’s autonomy in research and course provision, the ramifications will not only be felt by our humanities scholars, but incrementally these closures are impacting our national ability to understand and shape society. We are calling on the Government to implement the Accord recommendation for a Tertiary Education Commission, based on the principles of independence and expertise, and mandated to take a national view of how teaching and research programs are advancing Australia’s interests. Our humanists must be supported and valued in the same way we value scientists and technologists. Our Accord Submission: http://bit.ly/44RJsyz”
There have been thousands of job cuts in the academic sector since the pandemic, many of them in the Arts and Social Sciences. Students have begun openly asking why there are fewer options and where the support is for the Arts and Social Sciences. We cannot afford to lose more academic jobs in these areas if we are to sustain the mission and core business of our Universities, teaching and research across all areas.
Much of the history and detail of the cuts at ACU can be found in the four petitions below that you are welcome to review to inform yourselves of the situation. I have also pasted several newspaper articles about the latest round of proposed cuts.
If you would like to you could also contact the VC and/or senate at ACU at email@example.com and firstname.lastname@example.org. All those contacting the University have been told that no feedback to the change plans will be considered unless it is copied to email@example.com. Submissions must be in soon.
We call on ACU and other Unis thinking of implementing change plans first to implement independent reviews of financial records and budgeting particularly at the level of Faculties and above – these are non-profit and public institutions that need to put transparency and accountability first – and the preservation of the Arts and Social Sciences.
Should you have further concerns about the implications of this move for higher education, the Minister for Education can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org, and contact the Minister for Immigration Andrew Giles at email@example.com if you have concerns that there are immigration sponsorship and credibility implications of ‘disestablishing’ staff for whom ACU has secured Visas. If there are any queries about the financial situation at ACU, the Minister for Charities, Andrew Leigh, can be emailed at Andrew.Leigh.MP@aph.gov.au
Finally, we hope that our Faculty and Uni Leaders – many of whom are Fellows of the Australian Academy of Humanities – will join us in protesting these short-sighted cuts to the Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences.
We, the undersigned members of the Discipline of History, our students, and friends of History at the University of Sydney, support the upcoming referendum on the Constitutional recognition of First Nations by establishing an Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Voice.
In 1901, the Australian Constitution was founded on principles that silenced First Nation Australians and excluded them from the Commonwealth. That legacy lives on. The referendum presents a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for Australians to change the constitution to recognise Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples, and to provide a constitutionally protected Voice that gives them a say in the laws that affect them, allowing for real, practical improvements in areas like jobs, health, education, and justice.
The Australian Constitution is a document that its founders knew would be changed—not by politicians through the parliamentary process, but by the will of the people through a referendum. The 2023 Voice referendum is a crucial opportunity for Australians to tell parliamentarians that Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders should not be forgotten or unheard citizens of Australia.
We will vote yes to recognise past injustices, to acknowledge our shared history, to end the exclusion of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people from Australia’s constitution, to listen to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people about matters affecting their communities, and to commit to continuing to work towards outcomes that make a practical difference with concrete results.
The Uluru Statement from the Heart
Our position in support of the Voice stems from the Uluru Statement from the Heart, which was issued after First Nations-led deliberative discussions with constituent communities across the country in 2017. It was the largest and most extensive consultation process in First Nations history, and possibly Australian history, and was designed and coordinated by First Nations people for First Nations people.
The Uluru Statement from the Heart is an invitation to the Australian people from First Nations Australians. It asks Australians to walk together to build a better future by establishing a First Nations Voice to Parliament enshrined in the Constitution, and the establishment of a Makarrata Commission for the purpose of treaty making and truth-telling.
The Statement recognised a consensus among First Nations communities about what kind of constitutional recognition might answer a long history of calls by First Nations peoples for a say in the law and policy that applies to and has so often disadvantaged Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders.
The upcoming referendum on the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Voice to Parliament is a profound moment of importance in history, and asks us to make a crucial decision, to recognise Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people in the Australian Constitution.
Indeed, we support the Voice in the understanding that polling confirms the Voice continues to receive overwhelming Indigenous support. Two polls from 2023 confirm that 80% and 83% of Indigenous people support the Voice.
In doing so, the Discipline of History acknowledges and condemns the long history of past wrongs and injustices committed against First Nations people: the invasion and seizure of land without treaty, compensation, or consent; unlawful conflicts and massacres of innocent people; the separation of families and stolen generations; the denial of basic human rights to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples; and the past and ongoing destruction of First Nations cultures.
We also recognise that these past wrongs and injustices continue into the present day, and that First Nations communities and individuals continue to struggle against overt and systemic racism and structural discrimination, as well as extreme disadvantage.
We acknowledge that a Voice in the Constitution will not be a panacea and will not absolve us from continuing to support First Nations peoples’ self-determination. Nor does a Voice preclude the need for Treaty, or Treaties. We also recognise the concerns of many Indigenous critics of the Voice that it does not go far enough in addressing the many injustices past and present. There is still lots of work to be done even after a referendum is passed. And we abhor all efforts to silence debate and discussion about the Voice, particularly those that are racially-motivated.
But, with the NCCC, we hope that the Voice will be a new starting point: “It will provide a mechanism for First Nations people to give advice to the Federal Parliament, to have appropriate input into laws and policies which affect their communities. It will change the relationship between government and communities and how real and practical change is created and delivered.”
We see the Voice as an important step in a new era that includes Treaty and Truth as well. Despite the extreme disadvantages that First Nations continue to suffer, we recognise that Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander cultures remain strong and are vital repositories of deep knowledge about our shared history, and about how to care for Country and for each other. As settlers living on unceded Aboriginal lands, we are committed to listening closely and doing all we can to support the telling of historical and contemporary truths.
We believe it is vitally important to support a yes vote in the upcoming referendum “to honour and celebrate Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples and their rightful place as the First Peoples of this land.” (NCCC)
We, the undersigned members of the Discipline of History at the University of Sydney thus support the Voice to Parliament to be enshrined in the Australian Constitution and encourage all colleagues and students, and all those who value learning from the past, to do so as well.
* The NCCC has created a webpage intended to be a hub to help you find resources that will assist you in understanding the issues and to make your own decision. As has the University of Sydney. The University of Sydney Faculty of Law has also produced an excellent video explaining the history beyond the Voice, and what it will mean in practical terms. You can also listen to a conversation between Dr. Nick Eckstein and Emeritus Professor Mark McKenna about the history behind the Voice in a new podcast series on “Making Sense of History.” You can find it on Spotify,Transistor, or Amazon Music.
Professor Michael A. McDonnell, Chair, History
Dr. Niro Kandasamy
Dr. Roberto Chauca
Dr. Marco Duranti
Professor Julia Horne
Professor Kirsten McKenzie, Chair in Australian History
Did you know that Heath Ledger once played Ned Kelly on the big screen?? “When the Law tried to Silence him, a Legend was born….”
Our own Dr. James Findlay is running a 3000 level unit seminar on Australian history on Screen, and as part of that unit, he will be screening a film – and facilitating a short discussion about it – every Friday from 11-2 pm in the Law Annex Lecture Theatre 101.
But James has invited any and all interested students to come along to these FREE FILM SCREENINGS, and learn something new about Australian history and film history, more generally! James is super-knowledgeable about Australian film history and is finishing a book on the topic. He has also worked in the industry!
Please mark the time in your diaries and come along – and meet other History students. We might even provide some popcorn or snacks…..or bring your own! It starts next week – see the powerpoint below for the full program!
I know it is a busy week and apologies if you are bombarded with emails and canvas notifications.
I just wanted to draw your attention to two BIG events coming up next week, including one involving some fabulous History Lecturers here at USyd, including Dr. Niro Kandasamy and Challis Professor Chris Hilliard.
Booking is essential. Why not come along after the seminar, listen to some fascinating discussion, and have some free drinks and hors d’oeuvres. If you come to the History lecture, please do say hello to myself or any other staff you recognise. Many of us will be there.
Have you got the mid-winter blues? Maybe not given all the sunshine. But, if you are feeling a bit adrift and wondering whether all your hard work in your units of study is worth it, have a quick look over these couple of slides prepared by colleagues in the Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences, one of which shows what percentage of you will be employed etc and your average earnings, compared to Science graduates. See attached powerpoint for full datails, but the real take-aways here are:
95.1% of Humanities grads at ages 25-34yo had a job. (Census 2016).
The average earnings of a Humanities grad 3 yrs after finishing is $70,300, compared to $68,900 for a Science grad (Graduate Outcomes Survey ’19)
67% of chief executives of ASX200 companies, 62% of government senior executives and 66% of federal parliamentarians have degrees in humanities (Academy of Social Services in Australia)
The Bachelor of Arts makes the most company directors. (Deloitte Report on the Value of Humanities 2018, Apollo Australia’s TOP 100 public companies Report)
And, most important of all (IMHO): Humanities graduates have the highest levels of job satisfaction ~ 86%
So, next time your irritating Science friends ask why are you bothering to study History, tell them it is because you want to have more interesting conversations AND be more employable then them, make more money than them, be their boss – and, be happier than them to boot. And maybe as well, tell them it is because you’d love to have hair like Clover Moore in the 1970s. I sure would.
Powerpoint Presentation (with many thanks to Bruce Isaac and the Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences for sharing their data and presentation).
In case anyone is interested, I’m also attaching a link to a “careers” talk we did during the lockdown (so a year or two ago) that focused on some History graduates and what they do now. Many of you might find it interesting, as the speakers also talk about the not-always-straight road they took, and offer some tips as to what to do to land your first job.
We will be producing some more shorter videos about what you can do with a History degree over the coming year and will let you know when they are done. Spoiler alert – the easy answer to this question is ‘just about anything’!
The campus is empty for the mid-semester break and students and colleagues have scattered. Many congratulations to all for finishing the semester and especially to those who might have finished their degree this past semester!
If you are wondering what your Lecturers and Tutors do over the break, they are not usually on ‘holiday’ as often assumed! As soon as the last exams are marked most of us try to get back to the other part of our job – research and writing.
Often this involves heading overseas to the archives, or for conferences, as myself, James Findlay, Kirsten McKenzie and Niro Kandasamy have all done recently (to South Carolina, Paris, and London – you can judge who got the better deal!).
Closer to home, many of us attended the 50th anniversary conference of the Australian Historical Association next week in Melbourne, either to present our own research papers, or listen to others in our fields (you can read a little more about it here: https://theaha.org.au/aha-conference-2023-milestones/). Others are busy writing articles, essays, books, and book reviews.
And of course the teaching part of our job never quite stops as we will also be starting to prepare Canvas sites and outlines and readings for semester two units.
We also get busy writing references for students, and helping them with their future plans. In that regard, we’d like to congratulate recent Honours studentsPatrick Flood (2022), Harry Waugh (2021) and Celeste van Gent (2020) who are all heading to Oxford University in a couple of months to start or resume their postgraduate studies. Celeste and Harry have also both won prestigious Ramsay Centre Postgraduate Scholars Awards (see: https://www.ramsaycentre.org/news-and-media/2023-ramsay-postgraduate-scholars-announced/)
I originally wrote this from a steamy Columbia, South Carolina in late-June. I had just attended and given a paper at a Conference on the American Revolution, and then did some some work in the archives in South Carolina – while trying to keep an eye on what’s happening in Sydney…..
For many of your lecturers, the mid-semester break means a constant juggle between teaching and getting some research done, so the winter break is as busy as ever for most of us – and I suspect many of you are turning more to part-time work or care in the break too. Still, I hope everyone manages some kind of ‘holiday’ in the midst of it all.
If you are looking for a good read this weekend, try former Chair and current coordinator of HSTY3903 Professor Kirsten McKenzie’s freshly minted English Historical Review essay entitled: “A Dance of Crown and Parliament: Empire and Reform in the Age of Liverpool.” It is currently on open-access at the following link. Congrats to Kirsten and her co-author, Lisa Ford. It is definitely not everyday that you can get published in the very prestigious English Historical Review – it is one of the top historical journals in the world.
Check out Associate Professor Frances Clarke’s latest blog about her recently published book on Child Soldiers in the American Civil War Era. Frances’ recent book, called Of Age: Boy Soldiers and Military Power in the Civil War Era published by Oxford University Press this year is making waves in the United States. Frances will be back in Australia in second semester and teaching our blockbuster first year unit called HSTY1023: Emerging Giant: The Making of America, which takes you from the origins of the United States through to the Civil War.
You might also be interested in an article written by one of our current Honours students, Marika Mehigan. She recently published a version of her research on Korean comfort women that she did in one of her History Honours seminars on “Writing War.” Marika pitched her idea to the editors of Honi Soit, and they gave her the green light. It is a great example of what we might call an “op-ed” essay – in which we use our historical research to help think through contemporary historical problems. Congrats, Marika – and you can read the article here: https://honisoit.com/2023/05/is-there-a-future-without-sexual-violence-first-we-must-confront-the-past/If any other students are putting your work to interesting uses, please get in touch and let us know about it.
Dr. Sophie Loy-Wilson, senior lecturer in History and a scholar of Chinese Australian history, recently attended a new production from the Sydney Theatre Company called “The Poison of Polygamy” – a play based on what was probably the first Chinese Australian novel, originally written in 1909-1910.
You can also listen to Sophie Loy-Wilson’s recorded talk at Fisher Library Rare Books and Special Collections on the material they hold and “Sydney’s Chinese Ghosts”
If you’re looking for some interesting television watching between World Cup Football games this weekend, have a look at the SBS show, “Who the Bloody Hell are We?” In particular, Series 1, Episode 3 hosted by Adam Liaw, features our own Dr. Sophie Loy-Wilson commenting on some interesting Chinese Australian migrants who have enriched Australian history.
If you are interested in US Affairs, you can also read an article co-written by one of our History HDR students, Ben Ormerod, supervised by Dr. Hélène Sirantoine. The article was published in last week in the journal Cogent Social Sciences and examines the way U.S. Presidents use the optics of the White House to implement public policy. The article is available to read for free on open access here.
Finally, if anyone has some spare time while waiting for a bus this weekend, why not have a listen to me and a colleague, Professor Fitzhugh Brundage at the University of North Carolina talk about a new publication of ours – a collaboratively authored text called A New History of the American South.
We discuss contemporary ideas about southerners in the US, historians’ new ways of looking at the region, the value of looking at history as an ‘outsider,’ and I even manage to make a controversial comment about the election of Donald Trump. I’ll leave it at that. You need to listen to get more: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rBi3lQ5989I
Dr. John O. Ward, who retired in 2003, taught and researched medieval history at the University of Sydney for 36 years. Born in Melbourne, John received his PhD from the University of Toronto Graduate Centre for Medieval Studies in 1972, with a dissertation whose first volume was later published as Classical Rhetoric in the Middle Ages: The Medieval Rhetors and Their Art, 400-1300, with Manuscript Survey to 1500 CE. A prolific and imaginative historian, John also authored, edited, and co-edited several books and dozens of articles on the reception of classical rhetoric in the Middle Ages and Renaissance. These include a volume on Ciceronian rhetoric in its medieval and Renaissance commentary tradition (written and edited with Virginia Cox); a volume on Abelard in the 1130s (with Juanita Ruys); an edition of William of Champeaux’s ‘Commentaries’ on Cicero’s De inventione and the Rhetorica ad Herennium (with Juanita Ruys); and an authoritative article on the De inventione and Ad Herennium for the Catalogus Translationum et Commentariorum Medii Aevi. In sum, John was one of the world’s foremost historians of the rhetorical tradition, alive to its transformations and continuities across Antiquity, the Middle Ages, and Renaissance.
A voluble, witty, and much beloved teacher, John was renowned for his engaging classroom analysis of historical sources and he paid equal attention to all his students, weak and strong alike. Over the years, he offered classes on humanism, witchcraft, heresy, gender, the Crusades, feudalism, and other topics. He fostered his students’ research interests and helped them publish their findings, as in the essay collection co-edited with Francesca C. Bussey, Worshipping Women: Misogyny and Mysticism in the Middle Ages (Sydney, 1997), consisting of thesis research undertaken by Honours students in History. He was also famous for his occasional appearances in full medieval regalia, whether as Pope Boniface VIII or the Devil himself.
In addition to his university work, John was an Ashfield Municipal Councillor from 1977-91, and Mayor of Ashfield from 1991-95. At the University of Sydney, he was a charter member of the Centre for Medieval Studies (CMS), later renamed the Medieval and Early Modern Centre (MEMC), the longest-lived research centre in the Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences. Thanks to a quiet benefaction John made in 1997, MEMC will be able to continue supporting student research in this field for many years. An incessant global traveller, a defender of left-wing politics, a lover of steam-trains and opera, and a perennial bibliophile, John was inexhaustibly curious about the world. In the words of his friend and colleague Rod Thomson: “Mover and shaker, protestor and policy-maker in the outside world, within the university John is the unconventional ironist, shrewd and critical observer, the never bitter, but humorous utterer of unpalatable truths. And with this is connected another paradox: the man who can fulminate, in language colourful but predominantly blue, against the baseness of his fellow man, whether in the political or the academic sphere, is also the kindest and least guileful of individuals, incapable of malicious act or motive, and with a deep attachment to his wife Gail and their children.”
Those of us who arrived in Sydney to be welcomed eventually by John and Gail remember their regular kindness and friendship, always buoyed by John’s winking humour, warmth, and intellectual openness. John always signed off his emails with a double exclamation-point in place of a valediction, a habit we honour here by concluding: we will miss him!!
A service was held in Canberra on Tuesday 9 May 2023, and a celebration of John’s life will be held in Sydney in due course.
Cassamarca Senior Lecturer in History Director, Medieval & Early Modern Centre (MEMC)
We also learned recently that thanks to Arta Bayat’s wonderful work for the Maritime Museum of Australia on the James McLeod acquisition concept and proposal, the diary has now been signed off to enter the National Maritime Collection.
In other related news, Darcy Campbell of the 2022 cohort won the prize for the best work in HSTY 3902, and was asked to give a speech at the School of Humanities Awards night, which you can view here.
Tess Dowell who took HBTC in 2019 recently graduated with an MA by research in Archaeology, and told us that she has just secured a full-time job with the Heritage Consultancy firm Everick, based in Annadale. Congrats Tess!
Finally, Darcy and Coordinator Michael McDonnell wrote up a blogpost about their experiences teaching and taking History Beyond the Classroom for Teaching@Sydney.
Congratulations to all our History Prize and Scholarship winners, who were recognised in a special School of Humanities event last Tuesday evening at the Women’s College.
Students from all levels – first, second, third and fourth year, as well as Honours and Postgrad students collected prizes and scholarships – and History probably has more prizes up for grabs than any other discipline in the School.
Fourth-year History Student Darcy Campbell, who won two prizes on the night, gave an excellent and impassioned speech about the importance of History, particularly in regional Australia. You can listen to Darcy’s speech at 45:50 of this link
You can also listen to Michael McDonnell’s defence of History and the Humanities and the excellent qualities of all of our students starting at 32:25 of the same video, followed by the award of all the History prizes.