Powerful Stories Network

Dear friends, students and colleagues,

Thank you so much for registering and/or attending one or all of our events in the “Powerful Stories” series on March 14 and March 15. We were amazed at the turn-out and felt so lucky to have such an extraordinary group of presenters and audience-members to make the events memorable – in both powerfully emotional and intellectual ways.  

Quite a few of you asked about keeping in touch and/or follow-up events. In that spirit, we invite you to leave your contact details so we can stay in touch about building on the workshop especially and think together about where we might be able to go from here. We think it is important that people ‘opt-in’ to this, so we created a google form. We invite all participants from within and outside the University to join us, and those who were not able make it in the end but want to stay connected. https://forms.gle/byx9vfcQ19EVYfhy6

On this form, if you like, and have not already done so by email, etc., you can also leave some feedback if you want (entirely optional!). If you don’t want to opt-in to future discussions, you can also just leave feedback and do this anonymously. Just leave the name and email blank.

As a reminder, the full program can be found and downloaded here: https://historymatters.sydney.edu.au/2024/03/powerful-stories-program/

And if you did not get a chance to watch the documentary, there’s a spot on the form to let us know and we will send you a free link to watch it.

Thanks so much,

Niro Kandasamy

Michael McDonnell

Photo: Georginia Sappier-Richardson sharing her story at a TRC community visit. Photo by: Ben Pender-Cudlip. Courtesy: Upstander Project, from the movie Dawnland (https://upstanderproject.org/films/dawnland)

Powerful Stories: Indigenous and Refugee Histories of Dispossession and Displacement 

Workshop – Call for Presentations

March 14-15,  2024, The University of Sydney

Mununjali Yugambeh and South Sea Islander Professor Chelsea Watego lamented that the powerlessness of dispossession comes from stories told about you; about feeling your own account is not worthy of being told (Another Day in the Colony). Indigenous peoples and refugees can sometimes share this sense of powerlessness. But as Watego argues, power can be reclaimed by exercising sovereignty – one’s own sovereignty: “and that is exercised in the stories we tell of ourselves…our power is found within; it is embodied and it is enacted, every day. It is in knowing one’s own power, even – and especially – in those most violent encounters, that we are able to remember how powerful we really are.” Refugee writers have echoed these claims. As Iranian-American writer Dina Nayeri notes, “our stories were drumming with power.” (The Ungrateful Refugee).

We invite proposals from community members, groups and academics about the ways and means by which they have shared and continue to share their stories, reclaimed their own histories, and/or uncovered different kinds of self-representations in their current work or research. Indigenous peoples and refugees share and have shared an experience of exile, of dispossession. How have they narrated and preserved those stories? How does displacement interrupt memory and history-making? How has trauma been represented over time? What kind of work have those stories done, and what do they do now? 

We aim to showcase short papers or presentations (10-15 minutes maximum) that unveil different and varied ways of telling stories in the past and present. We would love to hear from a wide array of presenters about how those stories have been told, for what purposes, and with what results.

We hope that participants will help expand our collective understanding of what constitutes self-representations or self-histories, amid ongoing settler colonial violence, and how we might ethically and collaboratively work toward supporting the telling of those stories.  

This workshop coincides with the visit of Samson Occam Professor N. Bruce Duthu, an enrolled tribal member of the United Houma Nation of Louisiana. He is an internationally acclaimed scholar of Native American law and policy. In addition to authoring American Indians and the Law and Shadow Nations, he has also contributed to Felix S. Cohen’s widely praised Handbook of Federal Indian Law and co-edited “Sovereignty, Indigeneity, and the Law,” a volume of South Atlantic Quarterly that won the 2011 Council of Editors of Learned Journals Award for Best Special Issue. 

Professor Duthu also co-produced the Emmy-Award winning documentary film, Dawnland, which we will screen as part of the program. For decades, child welfare authorities have been removing Native American children from their homes to “save them from being Indian.” In Maine, the first official Truth and Reconciliation Commission in the United States begins a historic investigation. Dawnland goes behind-the-scenes as this historic body grapples with difficult truths, redefines reconciliation, and charts a new course for state and tribal relations. Dawnland aired on Independent Lens on PBS in November 2018 and 2021, reaching more than two million viewers. The film won a national Emmy Award for Outstanding Research in 2018 and made the American Library Association’s list of 2020 Notable Videos for Adults.

Proposals of no more than 250 words accompanied by a short CV or website link should be sent in by February 1, 2024. Successful applicants will be notified by February 10, 2024. We have very limited funds for the workshop. Please indicate in your submission if you would like financial assistance to attend the workshop. 

Please send your proposals to Thomas Cafe at tcaf4450@uni.sydney.edu.au

Please contact Niro Kandasamy and/or Michael McDonnell if you have any enquiries at michael.mcdonnell@sydney.edu.au; niro.kandasamy@sydney.edu.au

History Alumni – Stay in Touch

If you did a History major, minor, or a special field for your Education degree, or even just did an elective with us and want to stay in touch, please take a few minutes to fill out this short form. We’d love to stay in contact, and also have your feedback if you have any.

Most of our students lose their Uni email address after leaving – and so we have no way of being in contact with you. So please do leave whatever email addresses work best for you, and any other information you are happy to share.

You don’t have to answer all the questions on the survey. Just the first couple. But if you want to leave us some feedback, we would love to hear it.

We promise we won’t bombard you with messages – but will from time to time send out details of any alumni events, public talks, etc., that might be of interest.

And please be assured we will not share your information with other students, organisations, or groups without your express written consent.
Any questions or concerns, please let me know at Michael.mcdonnell@sydney.edu.au

Many thanks,

Mike M.

Chair, History

Cuts to Arts and Social Sciences at ACU

Dear Colleagues,

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.

Save the Humanities at ACU

Save Early Modern and Medieval Studies

ACU Senate: Don’t Make Staff pay for Overspending

If you would like to you could also contact the VC and/or senate at ACU at senate@acu.edu.au and zlatko.skrbis@acu.edu.au. All those contacting the University have been told that no feedback to the change plans will be considered unless it is copied to change@acu.edu.au. 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 jason.clare.mp@aph.gov.au, and contact the Minister for Immigration Andrew Giles at andrew.giles.mp@aph.gov.au 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. 


Mike McDonnell

History, USyd

Lament for the Australian Catholic University – ABC Religion & Ethicst.co
Australian Catholic University sparks anger over scrapping medieval history and philosophy departmentst.co
Catholic university cuts ‘ability to engage with own heritage’t.co

History and the Voice

Statement in support of the Voice Referendum

Discipline of History at the University of Sydney

The 2023 Voice Referendum

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 established a call for Voice, Treaty and Truth. 

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. 

We encourage all Australians to inform themselves about the steps leading up to the Statement from the Heart and the call for the Voice, listen to Aboriginal and Torres Strait voices, to read The Statement from the Heart, and to accept this invitation from First Nations people. 

Why we support the Voice

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.

Mindful of the importance of this decision, the Discipline of History at the University of Sydney joins with so many others in supporting the Voice, including the National Centre for Cultural Competence (NCCC) the History Council of NSW, the Australian Historical Association, the Australian Academy of the Humanities, and a host of land-based First Nations bodies and peak-service organisations. 

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

Associate Professor Cindy McCreery

Associate Professor Nicholas Eckstein

Emeritus Professor Mark McKenna

Dr. James Findlay

Dr. Jess Melvin

Dr. Hélène Sirantoine

Associate Professor Frances Clarke

Dr John Gagné

Sophia Werner

Angelina Gu

Annalise Doyle

Marisa Austin

Matthew Sullivan

Kristian Marijanovic

Rose Gilliatt

Anneka Sach

Xavier Uhlmann

Mark Pigot

Alana Lavery

Dr. Kim Kemmis

Emeritus Professor Penny Russell

Alan Atkinson

Roy MacLeod, OAM, PhD, DLitt

Emeritus Professor Ann Curthoys

Richard White

Thomas J Adams

Prof. Emeritus Robert Aldrich

Dr Jane Morlet Hardie

Judith Keene

Jacqui Newling

Jasmine Donnelly

Sophia Semmler

Xavier Watkins

Elizabeth Bowmee

Annaliese McGuirk

HT Chan

Ellis Birrer

Ella Walsh

Krista Church-Young

Imogen Ladmore

Ivan Chen

Youran Xu

Alison Betts

Thomas Cafe

Ella McGrath

Professor Keith Dobney

Melissa Kennedy

Jack Story

Andrew Wilson

Grace Mitchell

Professor James Martin

Luke Norton

Nicole Cipoletti

Dr Deirdre O’Connell

Tahlia Arnold

Luke Cass

Charlotte Feakins

Julien Klettenberg

Angela McLoughlin

Alexa Appel

Peter Brownlee

Skye Dannaher

Dr Darren Smith

Andrew Wilson

Glenda Sluy

Joanna Molloy

Timothy Jackson

Will Shanahan

James H. Collins II

Caitlyn Salter

Professor Monika Bednarek

Jake Davies

Shauna Phillips

Benjamin McGrory

Prof Hugh Harley

Helen Proctor

Lawrence Ashford

Professor Adrian Vickers

Natali Pearson

Clair sole 

Sarah Gleeson-White

Professor Annie Clarke

James Dunk

Dr Mareese Terare

Susan Thomas

Emily Simmons

Leanne Stevenson

Laura Heron

Charlotte Carney

Melissa Hardie

Susan Orlovich

Olivia Karaolis

Ann Elias

Dr. Matthew Sussman

Associate Professor Antonia Rubino

Dr. Paul Riser

Miikskimmiato’si (GERALD MCMASTER) 

Margaret Van Heekeren

Professor Nicole Mockler

Nikki Whipps

Dr Sam Shpall 

Fiona R. Martin

Cathie Burgess

Rosemary Whitecross

Ryan Mouthaan

Olaf Werder

Dr. Yeow-Tong Chia

A/Prof Avril Alba

Peter Adams

Raewyn Connell

Victoria Sweeney

Elizabeth Kwok

Elizabeth Connor

Lachlan Griffiths

Frank Stilwell

Dr. Lynne Swarts

Professor Emerita Suzanne Rutland

Warwick Anderson

Eirini Cox

Dr Isabelle Hesse

Zoe Yiannakis

Dominic Hearne

Huw Griffiths

Georgia Peters

Suzanne Pope

Dr Caitlin Biddolph

Dr. Lucas Thompson

Dr Claire Golledge

Angela Collins

Jen Peden

Amy Griffiths

Susan Heward-Belle 

Maryanne Large

Dr Greta Werner

Kim Bell-Anderson

Meaghan Morris

Ruth Phillips

Camilla Pilgrim

Patrick O’Mara

Shane White

Dr Marama Whyte

Pamela Maddock

Lynette Olson

Brigid Rooney

Dr Yvette Debergue

 Cheryl O’Byrne

Alexandra García

Margaret Cassidy

Minglu Chen

John Mikler

Josiah Hill

Friday Film Feature – for Historians!

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!


Chair, History

AHoS Film program_2023[65].pdf

Big Ideas Events – Aug 9 & 10

Dear History Community,

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.

For complete information, please see here, https://soh-events.sydney.edu.au/calendar/challis-10-08-2023/

But here’s the gist:

Four researchers from the School of Humanities at the University of Sydney will be joined by the ABC’s Big Ideas over 2 nights.*

 Challis Lecture in Philosophy  | 9 August, 5pm, Chau Chak Wing Museum

  • The new sciences of sex and reproduction
    Paul E. Griffiths
    , Challis Professor of Philosophy; Luara Ferracioli, Associate Professor of Philosophy

Rethinking Assimilation and Multiculturalism in Contemporary History 
Chris Hilliard, Challis Professor of History; Niro Kandasamy, Lecturer in History

It’s a pretty big deal with the ABC’s ‘Big Ideas’ radio programme coming on board and the whole thing being chaired by it’s host and presenter – Natasha Mitchell.

You can go to one of them or both of them. Please do feel encouraged to come -and again, please say hello and tell us who you are….!

Mike M.

Chair, History

Job Prospects for History Students

Dear History Students,

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’!


Chair, History