About us

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 and Margo Beasley from 2018. Cath Bishop is deputy chair.

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


History Forum Committee


Margo Beasley (Chair)

Margo Beasley is a consultant historian and writer. Her past research interests include the history of religious and secular belief, the experience of work, housing history, and urban environmental history. She has conducted a range of oral history projects and written commissioned histories, of which the best-known is Wharfies: the History of the Waterside Workers’ Federation of Australia. She has a Masters degree in Applied History from the University of Technology Sydney, and was awarded a PhD from the University of Wollongong in 2005 for her thesis Sarah Dawes and the Coal Lumpers: Absence and Presence on the Sydney waterfront 1900-1917.  She lives in the Blue Mountains.

Catherine Bishop (Deputy Chair)

Catherine Bishop is a historian based in the Blue Mountains. She writes about gender and business, missionaries and global youth citizenship. Her first book is Minding Her Own Business: Colonial Businesswomen in Sydney.

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 (Treasurer)

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.

Kimberley Webber

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 Management Studies. Following many years as a Senior Curator and Director of Social History at the Powerhouse Museum, where she planned and led prize-winning exhibitions, she has moved to the NSW public service, where she is currently Manager of the Responsible Gambling Fund. She travels widely, and reads and writes in social history, and is in her spare time, is studying Art History at the Art Gallery of New South Wales.

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, 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.

Emily O’Gorman

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 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 social media for the Blackheath History Forum.

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