About us

Blackheath, in the upper Blue Mountains west of Sydney, is where the Blackheath History Forum’s annual series of engaging presentations takes place each winter. An additional series of pub talks, ‘History @ Gardners with Gleebooks’ has been a recent initiative. 

The Blackheath History Forum was co-founded in late 2008 by Babette Smith and Gary Werskey. Neal Blewett was its inaugural chair. Other past chairs have been Gary Werskey (2012-2017), Margo Beasley (2018-2020), and Catherine Bishop (2021-2022).

The Forum is managed by a committee of historians and others interested in history, and it has attracted many of Australia’s leading historians to take part in its annual series of talks. For a complete listing of past speakers and topics go to our past programs.

The Blackheath History Forum has offered its very engaged and knowledgable audiences programs that allow them to understand Australian history in its broadest contexts, with an emphasis on discussing the past in ways that assist with understanding the present. In recent years we have looked at aspects of Indigenous history, environmental history, prime ministerial leadership, prisoners of war, memoir, sport, nuclear weapons and the Australian Security Intelligence Organisation.

The Forum is a member of the History Council of New South Wales and a supporter of the Council’s NSW History Week.

Vere Gordon Childe Memorial Lecture

Each year the forum has invited a distinguished historian to deliver our Vere Gordon Childe Memorial Lecture.  Childe (1892-1957) was one of Australia’s most acclaimed scholars, universally recognised as the founder, between the two world wars, of the discipline of Pre-history.  He believed both in history’s power to throw light on the present and in the importance of historians engaging with the general public on the relevance and meaning of our work for the wider community.  His pioneering books Man Makes Himself and What Happened in History are enduring testimonies to his vision. Childe had a close association with the Blue Mountains and he died in Blackheath.

Childe Memorial Lecturers

2009 David Day on How Labor Governed: Andrew Fisher and the world’s first socialist government

2010 Henry Reynolds on Drawing the Global Colour Line

2011 David Lowe on Percy Spender: Foreign Minister and Diplomat

2012 Judith Brett: The Enigmatic Mr Deakin

2013 Roy MacLeod on Australia in the Nuclear Age: Has the Past a Future?

2014 Alan Atkinson on The Europeans in Australia

2015 Mark McKenna on Biography, History, Australia & C.M.H. Clark

2016 Stuart Macintyre on Post-war Reconstruction in Australia

2017 Humphrey McQueen on Dr Marx, Professor Childe and manure: some rather crude materialism

2018 Judith Brett: The Enigmatic Mr Deakin

2019 John Edwards: Rethinking John Curtin’s Place in Australia’s History

2020 Terry Irving: From the Rising Tide to Govett’s Leap: The Socialist Life of Gordon Childe

2021 Tiffany Shellam: Indigenous Intermediaries and the art of encounter

2022 Meredith Burgmann: Radicals Remembering the Sixties

2023 Frank Bongiorno – Dreamers and Schemers


History Forum Committee

Naomi Parry Duncan
Naomi Parry Duncan is a Member of the Professional Historians Association NSW/ACT and a Board Member of NSW State Archives. She is also a sometime academic, having taught family history at the University of Tasmania and Australian and Aboriginal history in various courses at Western Sydney University and Macquarie. She was the lead author of New South Wales and the Great War (2016), the official NSW publication for the Centenary of Anzac, and was the NSW State-Based Historian for the national Find & Connect web resource and project editor at the Dictionary of Sydney. She also served as senior project officer at the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse. She has written a wide range of histories and heritage studies, including Eskbank House, the ‘Skippy’ set, Northcott Housing Estate, and Lithgow History Avenue. She is writing a biography of Musquito, a Gai-mariagal warrior from Sydney who was executed in Tasmania in 1825, and received the Hazel Rowley Literary Fellowship for this project in 2022.

Anne Coote (Secretary)
Anne Coote is a graduate of Sydney University and the University of New England where she completed a PhD in Australian History. She has taught history in country New South Wales, as well as in the Blue Mountains where she has lived for more than thirty years and is now an Adjunct Associate Lecturer in the School of Humanities at the University of New England. An important focus of her research has been the history of common habits of thought in colonial Australia, and she has published on such subjects as the development of notions of colonial nationhood in New South Wales, popular engagement with natural history, and ideas about the ownership of scientific expertise. A current research project is the history of the Royal Society of New South Wales.

Barrie Dyster 
Barrie Dyster studied English and History at the University of Sydney and History (with English) at the University of Toronto. He was a historian in the School of Economics at the University of New South Wales for several decades. A revised and extended second edition of Australia in the Global Economy: continuity and change, co-authored with David Meredith, came out in 2012. Much of his other published work deals with nineteenth-century Australia. He is a member of the NSW Working Party of the Australian Dictionary of Biography.

Kate O’Neill
Kate O’Neill is a Blue Mountains historian and Chair of the Woodford Academy Management Committee. She is a graduate of Otago University and has postgraduate degrees in Arts Management from UTS, Local and Applied History from UNE and a Master of Museum and Heritage Studies from The University of Sydney.

Richard White
Richard White retired from the University of Sydney in 2013, having taught Australian history and the history of travel and tourism there since 1989. His publications include Inventing Australia, The Oxford Book of Australian Travel Writing, On Holidays: A History of Getting Away in Australia, and Playing in the Bush: recreation and national parks in New South Wales. Current research interests include the history of ‘history tourism’ in Australia, Australian tourism to Britain and a history of the cooee. He was co-editor of the journal History Australia from 2008 to 2013, has been a councillor of the Royal Australian Historical Society, and is a member of several editorial boards. A new edition of his co-edited Symbols of Australia: Imagining a Nation appeared in 2021.

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