You can download and print our 2014 program flyer here.

August 2: Jenny Hocking (Monash University)


Gough Whitlam: His Time is the second and concluding volume of Jenny Hocking’s definitive biography.  It begins with the historic election victory in December 1972 when Whitlam became Australia’s twenty-first prime minister. In barely three years his dramatic reform agenda would transform Australia, but it ended with the entire government’s dismissal by the Governor-General, Sir John Kerr. Hocking’s biography has brought significant new material to light regarding the dismissal.  It has also prompted a reassessment of Whitlam’s life after politics, in particular his term as Australia’s Ambassador to UNESCO, and the strength of his relationship with his wife Margaret Whitlam.  For this is also the story of a remarkable political marriage and an enduring partnership.

JENNY HOCKING is Research Professor and Australian Research Council DORA Fellow in the National Centre for Australian Studies at Monash University.  She is an award-winning biographer and a regular media commentator on Australian politics and political biography.  Jenny has published widely and has appeared on radio, television and film and at numerous Writers’ Festivals.  She is the author of  Lionel Murphy: a Political Biography (Cambridge University Press. 1997, 2000) and Frank Hardy: Politics Literature Life (Lothian Books. 2005).  Gough Whitlam: A Moment in History (MUP 2008, 2009) was the first volume in her two-volume biography of Gough Whitlam and was long-listed in the 2009 Walkley Awards and shortlisted for several literary awards.  The release in 2012 of the second volume, Gough Whitlam: His Time, created intense interest with its remarkable revelations of the identity of the long speculated ‘third man’, High Court justice Sir Anthony Mason, his extensive secret meetings with the Governor-General Sir John Kerr in the months before Kerr’s dismissal of Whitlam, and his role in Kerr’s actions.  Gough Whitlam: His Time has been shortlisted in the Prime Minister’s Literary Awards (Australian History Prize), the National Biography Award, the Queensland Literary Awards and long-listed in the 2013 ‘Nib’ Waverley Awards for Literature.  Jenny was also the Historical Script Consultant on the recent ABC-TV series ‘Whitlam: Power and Passion’ and is Special Advisor to the Whitlam Institute at the University of Western Sydney.


August 9: Bob Howard, Diarmuid Maguire, and Bob O’Neill

AUGUST 1914 – THEN AND NOW (Joint session with the Blackheath Philosophy Forum to be held at the Blackheath Community Centre Hall)

World War I was the pivotal event that shaped the 20th century. Historians and political theorists have debated the circumstances that led to the war ever since. Some point to disturbing parallels with our own time.

BOB HOWARD and DIARMUID MAGUIRE are international relations lecturers at the University of Sydney.  BOB O’NEILL is the former Chichele Professor of the History of War at the University of Oxford and the founding Chair of the Australian Strategic Policy Institute.


August 16: Babette Smith (University of New England)


Following a sample of 250 Irish convicts from her new book The Luck of the Irish, Babette Smith argues that a distinctive Australian working class was established far earlier than usually assumed. They landed at a time when the so-called slave colony was at its height, when the lash and the chain gang were said to rule. As members of the first European minority in Australia, we assume they faced discrimination, poverty, and sectarianism from the start. Yet, Irishmen found unexpected power in the penal colony from where they helped create ‘the Australian way of life’.

BABETTE SMITH is a freelance historian and writer who also holds the position of Adjunct Lecturer to the University of New England.  Her latest book, The Luck of the Irish challenges long-held assumptions that the Irish faced nothing but discrimination, poverty, and sectarianism from the moment they arrived.  Her last book, Australia’s Birthstain,was published in 2008.  It traced Australia’s shame about its convict foundations and the distorted version of history that resulted.  It followed the success of her earlier work, A Cargo of Women: Susannah Watson & the Convicts of the Princess Royal, a 2nd edition of which was also published in 2008.  Babette followed her scholarly work about the women convicts with a fictional version.  First published in the nineties, a new edition of A Cargo of Women, the novel was published in 2009 by Macmillan Australia.  She is also the author of Mothers & Sons which investigates whether feminism had changed the relationship between women and their male children.  A resident of Blackheath, Babette combines writing with her practice as a mediator of disputes in family law, workplace, health, and business matters.


August 30: Joan Beaumont (Australian National University)


World War I is often remembered as futile: a maw into which millions of young men’s lives were poured by incompetent and heartless generals and politicians.  But for many of the men and women who fought the war, and for their communities at home, there were vital national interests at stake.  Moreover, the war generated a passionate debate on the Australian home front about values and principles.  The conscription referenda of 1916 and 1917 raised profound questions about the power of the State to compel individuals to kill, the obligations of citizens to subordinate their needs to the collective good, and the equality of sacrifice in time of war.  Not surprisingly the bitter conscription campaigns left Australia divided for at least a generation.  They continue to shape public policy and attitudes today.

JOAN BEAUMONT is a Professor in the Strategic and Defence Studies Centre at the Australian National University.  She is a Fellow of the Academy of Social Sciences of Australia and of the Australian Institute of International Affairs.  Her research interests encompass Australia in the two world wars, Australian defence and foreign policy, prisoners of war, and the memory and heritage of war.  She is the author of Broken Nation: Australians and the Great War (2013) and Gull Force: Survival and Leadership in Captivity, 1941-1945 (1988).  Joan has also edited: Ministers, Mandarins and Diplomats: The Making of Australian Foreign Policy, 1941-69; Australia’s War, 1939-45; and Australia’s War, 1914-18.  She is currently researching the history and heritage of the Thai–Burma railway and has developed, under commission, a web site on the railway for the Australian Department of Veterans’ Affairs.


September 13:  Alan Atkinson (University of Sydney)


Alan Atkinson’s epic three-volume history attempts to come to terms with how white settlers in Australia formed themselves into local and national communities, and how these communities worked, up to and including the First World War.  One of his great themes is the question of communication, the way we deal with each other, face-to-face and at a distance, and how we imagine each other, our homes and country, as a result.  In his final volume the emergence of mass literacy and what he calls ‘organised intelligence’ become the key shapers of ordinary life. Federation was one result and another was the way Australians experienced the war.

ALAN ATKINSON was born in Sydney and brought up in southern Queensland.  He was an undergraduate at Sydney University and has a PhD from the Australian National University. He also holds a master’s degree in education from the University of Dublin.  He has been employed at the University of New England and more recently as senior tutor at St Paul’s College, Sydney University.  He has also been a Fulbright scholar and a visiting fellow at the Universities of Cambridge, London, and Melbourne, and at the Australian National University.  Aside from his three-volume The Europeans in Australia, Alan has written seven other books, including: Camden: Farm and College Life in Early New South Wales (1988), which helped to introduce new forms of social history to Australia; and The Commonwealth of Speech(2002), an argument about history writing in the twenty-first century and about the links between the national past and present.  He is married to Catherine Pound, with three adult children.


September 27:  Paul Barry (ABC Media Watch)


At the age of 83, Rupert Murdoch has divorced his third wife Wendi Deng and is gearing up for the toughest challenge of his life: to hand his empire on to his children.  But is this the end of the Murdoch dynasty?  Lachlan doesn’t want to succeed him.  James is in disgrace.  And Elisabeth is not a serious contender.  His grip on the group has also been weakened by the British phone hacking scandal.  But Rupert thrives on crisis. He has recently split News Corp in two, doubled his fortune to US$9 billion, and is bouncing around like a man in his prime.  So can he win this one last battle and keep it all in the family?

PAUL BARRY has won numerous awards for his work as a journalist, including two Walkleys and a Logie.  Paul studied Politics, Philosophy and Economics (PPE) at Oxford University.  A journalist with BBC TV for ten years, he came to Australia in 1987 to work for the ABC’s Four Corners, where one of his hardest-hitting reports was on multi-millionaire Alan Bond.  This led to his first bestseller, The Rise and Fall of Alan BondSince then he has produced The Rise and Rise of Kerry Packer, Going for Broke: How Bond got away with it, Rich Kids: How the Murdochs and Packers lost $950 million in One.Tel and Who Wants to be a Billionaire? The James Packer storyHis latest book is Breaking News: Sex, Lies and the Murdoch Succession (Allen & Unwin, 2013).  He is currently the host of ABC1’s Media Watch.


October 11:  Iain McCalman (University of Sydney)


A few months ago Iain McCalman was approached for help by a group of environmentalists and eco-minded tourist businesses from Mission Beach, a resort community located a few hours south of Cairns on the Cassowary Coast.  Their town and region had been torn apart by two successive cyclones, only four year apart.  They asked Iain to help lead a community reclamation project called ‘Turning the Tide’ that involved, among other things, working to rescue a key local building and its surrounds, as well as shaping the contents of an environmental interpretation centre that might attract new tourist publics.

They explained that they wanted also to rebuild their battered region around the story of the popular environmental struggle of the 1970s told in his recent book, The Reef.  This contest had led ultimately to the twin listing during the 1980s of the Great Barrier Reef and the Wet Tropics Rainforest as World Heritage Nature Parks. They hoped this half-forgotten story could become a source of present and future renewal in the aftermath of their twin cyclonic catastrophes, as well as the ominous emerging threats of climate change.

In this paper Iain will briefly outline the story of that 1970s’ environmental campaign and reflect on some of its implications and possibilities for the unfinished business of protecting the reefs and rainforests of Far North Queensland during the present and the future.

IAIN McCALMAN was born in Nyasaland in 1947, schooled in Zimbabwe and attended the  ANU and Monash Universities.  He won the inaugural Vice Chancellor’s Award for teaching at the ANU.   His 2001 book, The Last Alchemist, was translated into twelve languages and many more editions.  His 2009 book, Darwin’s Armada (Penguin, 2009), won three prizes and was the basis of the international TV series, Darwin’s Brave New World.  A Fellow of three Learned Academies and a former President of the Australian Academy of the Humanities, he is a Professor in history at the University of Sydney and co-Director of the new Sydney Environment Institute.  His current book, The Reef – A Passionate History (2013), has now been published in Australia, the USA, and the UK.  He was made an Officer of the Order of Australia in 2007 for services to history and the humanities.


October 25:  Rhys Crawley (Australian National University)


The Gallipoli Campaign of 1915 was the first multinational amphibious assault of modern war. Conceived as an alternate strategy to fighting the Germans on the Western Front, it failed in its objectives of defeating the Ottoman Empire, opening a logistic route to Russia, and shortening the First World War. Since 1915 it has captured the imagination of millions. Despite this, the campaign is still misunderstood and hidden beneath layers of myth. This is especially the case for the August offensive – the last climactic attempt to defeat the Ottoman forces at Gallipoli. In this talk Dr Rhys Crawley will discuss the findings of his latest book,Climax at Gallipoli, with a particular focus on how and why the August offensive failed, and whether it ever stood a chance of succeeding.

RHYS CRAWLEY is an historian at the Strategic and Defence Studies Centre, Australian National University, Canberra. He is the author of Climax at Gallipoli: The Failure of the August Offensive(University of Oklahoma Press, 2014), and is currently writing volume three of the Official History of the Australian Security Intelligence Organisation.

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