Blackheath, in the upper Blue Mountains west of Sydney, is where the Blackheath History Forum’s annual series of seven engaging presentations takes place each winter.
The Blackheath History Forum was co-founded in late 2008 by Babette Smith and Gary Werskey. Neal Blewett was its inaugural chair. Gary Werskey served as chair from 2012, Margo Beasley from 2018, and Cath Bishop from 2021.
The Forum is managed by a committee of distinguished historians with extensive professional networks, 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
History Forum Committee
Catherine Bishop (Chair)
Catherine Bishop is a historian based in the Blue Mountains. She writes about gender and business, missionaries and global youth citizenship. She is the author of Minding Her Own Business: Colonial Businesswomen in Sydney, Women Mean Business: Colonial Businesswomen in New Zealand and the co-editor of Female Entrepreneurs in the Long Nineteenth Century: A Global Perspective. She currently holds a postdoctoral fellowship at Macquarie Business School.
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.
Hannah Forsyth (Treasurer)
Hannah Forsyth is a historian living in Katoomba, working on the history of capitalism and education. She is currently Senior Lecturer at the Australian Catholic University where she has taught Australian history, Indigenous history, Australian politics and historiography. Hannah’s first book was A History of the Modern Australian University and she often writes on higher education for newspapers like the UK’s Times Higher Education and The Conversation. She is currently working towards a monograph tentatively entitled Virtue Capitalism, on the history of the global professional class in the twentieth century. Hannah is currently President of the Australian and New Zealand History of Education Society and serves as Treasurer of the Blackheath History Forum.
Barrie Dyster studied English and History at the University of Sydney and History (with English) at the University of Toronto. He has been 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.
Susan Lenehan is a former South Australian Government Minister ( Labor) who has a passion for Australian and International History. A keen gardener, Susan is a Committee member of the Leura Garden Garden Festival.
Emily O’Gorman is an environmental historian with interdisciplinary research interests within the environmental humanities. Her research is primarily concerned with contested knowledges within broader cultural framings of authority, expertise, and landscapes. Currently a Senior Lecturer at Macquarie University, she holds PhD from ANU and undertook a postdoctoral candidacy at the University of Wollongong. She is the author of Flood Country: An Environmental History of the Murray-Darling Basin (2012) and Wetlands in a Dry Land: More-than-human Histories of Australia’s Murray-Darling Basin (2021), and co-editor of Climate, Science, and Colonization: Histories from Australia and New Zealand (2014, with James Beattie and Matthew Henry) and Eco-Cultural Networks and the British Empire: New Views on Environmental History (2015, with Beattie and Edward Melillo). She is coordinating the website for the Blackheath History Forum.
Kate O’Neill is a Blue Mountains historian and Chair of the Woodford Academy Management Committee. She is a graduate of Otago University and UTS and recently completed a Postgraduate degree in Local and Applied History at UNE. She is currently studying for a Masters in Museum Heritage at Sydney University after several decades working as a Theatre Technician at the Sydney Opera House. She is coordinating the social media for the Blackheath History Forum.
Naomi Parry is a historian who has lived in Katoomba for 20 years. She holds a PhD from the University of NSW and degrees from the University of Tasmania and Macquarie University. She teaches in the Diploma of Family History at the University of Tasmania (remotely). As an accredited professional historian and social historian, with a special interest in digital history, she has worked on a range of community and public history projects including migration histories and the dictionaryofsydney.org, as well as serving as NSW Historian on the Australian Government-funded project Find & Connect web resource and for the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse. She is a regular speaker for the History Council’s Speaker Connect and has been a background researcher (and talking head) for several seasons of Who Do You Think You Are? She is working on a biography of the NSW warrior Musquito who was hanged in Tasmania in 1825, with the support of the Australia Council for the Arts, Copyright Agency Ltd, and The Australia Institute/Endeavour House.
Kimberley Webber studied History at Sydney University, from which she holds a BA (with First Class Honours) in Modern History, a PhD in Australian History and a Master’s in Public Administration. After many years in senior positions at the Powerhouse Museum, including as Principal Curator, Collections and Access, she has established a private curatorial consultancy. Recent projects include a history of Sydney’s GPO (with Dr Charles Pickett for the Fullerton Hotel), an exhibition brief and catalogue for the Davidson Whaling Station (for National Parks and Wildlife) and preparation of a significance assessment and exhibition brief for Canberra’s first Fire Station.
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, Symbols of Australia and Playing in the Bush: recreation and national parks in New South Wales. He is currently researching history tourism in Australia, which has also led to an exhibition and a number of academic articles. Current research projects 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 and is a member of several editorial boards.