NO 1 - August 2012

Historia - editors' message

The Australian Council of Professional Historians Associations Inc (ACPHA) is the peak body for Professional Historians Associations (PHAs) in Australia.

Welcome to the first edition of ACPHA’s e-bulletin Historia. Historia is distributed to all PHA members so they can find out what Australian historians are doing and share national history issues and events. This e-bulletin has a broader audience as it is also sent to our many friends and colleagues who interact with us in our professional work. Librarians, academics, archivists and publishers are just some of the recipients of Historia. The newsletter will give the wider history community a better insight into our work as professional historians.

At this stage four editions a year of Historia are planned, but this may vary depending on your response. We look forward to contributions but please include your name and email address, and an image if appropriate. All copy is to be sent to  We are especially interested in items of national significance.

Pauline Curby, Virginia Macleod PHA (NSW) & Geoff Speirs PHA (SA)
ACPHA Public Relations sub-committee

President's message


The ‘medium is the message’ Marshall McLuhan once said, and so it is with ACPHA’s new e-bulletin.  Although perhaps in this case it would be better to say ‘the medium makes the message’. Welcome to ACPHA’s first e-bulletin bringing you news and views from professional historians around the nation.  As this e-bulletin hits your computer or your mobile phone or ipad, I reflect that you might be shivering in the southern part of Australia or enjoying the warm dry season of the tropical north and am reminded of what a big country this is but how easy it is to get stuck in our own little corner of it.

Our survey conducted earlier this year indicated that many members value the core functions of ACPHA – administration of our accreditation criteria, scale of fees, code of ethics etc – but they want a bit more action, particularly on the communications front.  This timing couldn’t be better as new technologies give us so many options to connect with historians around Australia.  Many PHAs are establishing Facebook pages and Twitter accounts and your ACPHA delegates have even dipped their toes into the world of Skype.  So get used to it, multi-channelling is here, and we need to get on that horse and ride the heck out of it.

Over the next few weeks ACPHA delegates will be readying themselves for our annual face to face meeting, which this year is happening in Perth at the end of August.  It will be quite an expedition for many of us who don’t get to The West very often.  Matters up for discussion and action in Perth will continue to focus on our public relations strategy (this e-bulletin being an important first step) and plans for implementing or facilitating professional development programs.  We have dedicated sub-committees working on both these strands, and while this year PR has been given greater priority, we believe that by establishing good networking and communication channels professional development ideas and opportunities will be enhanced in the long run.

Please be assured that ACPHA delegates welcome your thoughts and ideas at any time; don’t get stuck in your little corner of the world; put it out there.

Sonia Jennings
President ACPHA

ACPHA AGM 2012 - Perth


Criterion Hotel

With Delegates residing in six states and the Northern Territory, ACPHA’s annual general meeting (AGM) involves much more than compliance with an Associations Incorporation Act. It occupies a day or more during which the hard-working Delegates and Alternates discuss numerous items and issues. Some are routine. Others break new ground for the profession: professional development and the possibility of another national conference will be on the agenda. In addition the production of Circa and public relations will be discussed.

As a national body, ACPHA seeks to engage PHA executives and members. One way it does that is by taking the AGM to the PHAs. If possible, the AGM is timed to coincide with other events. The 2009 PHA conference for Queensland’s 150th was one example of an AGM enabling professional historians to meet and hear from interstate colleagues. Last year’s combined conferences in Adelaide was another.

Travel costs influence the selection of AGM locations. So far, NSW has hosted four AGMs, Victoria three, South Australia three, Tasmania two, Queensland two, and the Northern Territory one. This year it is Western Australia’s turn. The state waited 15 years to host an AGM, and another 15 will pass before it does so again.

So, what is planned for this rare occasion? Securing accommodation was a priority because, with the state’s booming economy, affordable rooms go fast. The PHA, opting for a city stay with character, selected the Criterion Hotel. It is said to have the oldest extant license in Perth. The license, but not the hotel, dates from the 1840s. The hotel is listed on the State Heritage Register and has a pleasant mix of old and modern spaces.

The Criterion is within walking distance of the State Library, which, as part of its sponsorship of PHA (WA) activities, is providing the Pilbara Room for the AGM. The Library is also providing space for a reception on the evening of 30 August. At that function, ACPHA will meet the PHA’s executive and the representatives of other history bodies with which it has strong alliances. The reception, designed to raise the profile of ACPHA and the PHA, reflects ACPHA’s recently adopted PR initiative.

A sampling of heritage and culture will follow the first morning of the AGM and there will a dinner with PHA (WA) members at the Windsor Hotel that evening. The AGM will continue on the Saturday morning and an informal evening meal will round out the day.

Cathie Clement PHA (WA)

Circa update


Circa: The Journal of Professional Historians was introduced two years ago as a forum for showcasing the work of PHA members in Australia. Its aim is to establish a dialogue between professional historians and to encourage an exchange of ideas and a discussion of the theory and practice of professional history.

Since the launch of the first edition in 2010 and a subsequent edition last year, plans are well underway for the 2012 edition of the journal, which will be published later this year.

Circa aims to publish work that reflects the many styles, themes and formats embraced by professional historians and the refereeing process ensures a high standard of writing and scholarship. As well as showcasing the work of professional historians it celebrates the diversity and richness of professional history.

Initiated by PHA (Vic), Circa‘s standing as a national journal is gaining momentum. Contributions from members in Western Australia and Queensland featured in the first two editions, and it is anticipated that 75 per cent of contributions to this year’s edition will be from members in states other than Victoria.

Produced with the assistance of a voluntary Editorial Board, the journal is professionally designed and heavily illustrated to bring the stories to life.

Generous financial support provided by ACPHA for the printing and distribution of Circa ensures that all accredited professional historians in Australia now receive a copy of the journal. The journal is also distributed to state and territory libraries and a range of archives for public access. In 2012 ACPHA announced the introduction of a prize of $500 to be awarded to the best article published in Circa.

The third edition of Circa promises to be another opportunity to reflect on the wide array of areas in which professional historians are engaged. The diverse range of topics explored includes capital punishment, native title, Melbourne’s trams and resource exploitation in Queensland. In addition a selection of commissioned book reviews will be included.

It is hoped that Circa will continue to flourish and cement its place as a national journal for professional historians.

Past editions are available for sale by contacting

Katherine Sheedy
Circa Editor

Australian Heritage Strategy – ACPHA submission

This submission is made by the Australian Council of Professional Historians Associations (ACPHA), which is the peak body for Professional Historians Associations in Australia. This submission draws on the information and ideas put forward in several of the essays commissioned by the Department of Sustainability, Environment, Water, Population and Communities.

Download a copy of the submission from the ACPHA website

Historians' work online

PHA (SA) Website: SA 175/Celebrating SA

Last year was the 175th anniversary of European settlement in South Australia. As our contribution to commemorating the event, PHA (SA) launched SA 175/Celebrating SA on its website,  Examples of our members’ historical research/publications can be found on this site, which has already become a very useful resource for anyone interested in South Australian history. Thanks to the work of our editors Brian Dickey and Susan Marsden this section of our website is going from strength to strength.

As a practising historian, I refer to it the site regularly – most recently while doing an interpretive project for West Terrace Cemetery. Bridget Jolly’s booklet, Historic South-West Corner, contained some useful information about the Adelaide Mosque on Little Gilbert Street, which supplemented what the Muslims there were able to tell me. You can find it by following the prompts from ‘West Terrace Cemetery’.  I also referred to the site for a project I was working on in Mount Gambier, drawing on Leith MacGillivray’s article on the triumph of pastoralists over firstly, the Aborigines and secondly, small scale farmers in the South-East of South Australia. For those interested, the title of the article is “We Have Found Our Paradise: the South-East Squattocracy, 1840-1870”, and it was first published in the Journal of the Historical Society of SA, no. 17, 1989.

But you should have a look for yourselves. There’s a vast array of published information on the site, readily available and a rich resource for any historical researcher.

Geoff Speirs PHA (SA)

PHA (Tas): Find and Connect

Dr Caroline Evans is currently the state-based historian for Find and Connect, a web based project designed to provide information about children's homes, foster care, and child welfare policies of the past to Forgotten Australians and Former Child Migrants. The web address is

Kathryn Evans PHA (Tas)

State Heritage Appointment

It was exciting news for PHA (Tas) when member Dr Dianne Snowden was appointed Chairperson for the Tasmanian Heritage Council. The Heritage Council is a statutory body separate to government responsible for the administration of the Historic Cultural Heritage Act 1995 and the establishment of the Tasmanian Heritage Register.  Its primary task is as a resource management and planning body, focused on heritage conservation issues.  This is the first time that an historian and PHA member has been appointed Chairperson. PHA (Tas) member Dr Nic Haygarth was also appointed as a member on the Council.

Kathryn Evans PHA (Tas)

Dr Dianne Snowden (left) photographed with fellow PHA (Tas) member Dr Marita Bardenhagen whose exhibition on the history of bush nursing in Tasmania is currently on display at Rossarden, an old mining town in central Tasmania.

Utopia Girls - filmaker's comment


Utopia Girls aired on 14 June 2012, almost a year after it was completed.  The ‘hook’ for the transmission date was the 110th anniversary of the passage of the Commonwealth Franchise Act, the legislation that gave Australia's (white) women the historic right to vote and stand for parliament in federal elections.  Though the long wait for broadcast was frustrating – I likened it to being 11 months overdue to have a baby, such was the agonising anticipation – the delivery was smooth and painless. I was overwhelmed by the celebratory nature of the audience reception: Facebook pages came alive (the Australian Electoral Commission, Museums Australia, the Australian Republican Movement all put up their own posts, just to name a few), Twitter ignited a wildfire of 140 characters and the mainstream media cottoned onto the idea with remarkable relish. I did so many radio, television and print interviews that I thought my larynx was going to fail. 

It was all a wonderful confirmation that our public culture was crying out for some meaty history connecting past events to contemporary conditions, and in particular, that audiences wanted to know about these remarkable women and their achievements. In the many reviews and dozens of emails I later received, I’d say the predominant sentiment was ‘why didn’t we know this story before?’ Many older viewers wrote to me to express gratitude that their granddaughters would be able to learn about their shared heritage in such an emotional and informative manner. Indeed, I think it’s in the education sector that Utopia Girls will leave its legacy. For my part, as a professional historian, I felt immensely grateful to the ABC, Screen Australia, Film Victoria and Renegade Films for giving me a wonderful opportunity to share this story on such a broad and eager stage.

Clare Wright PHA (Vic)

History on the Small Screen: The making of Utopia Girls

It’s hard to deny that making history for the screen in the form of documentary film is an attractive prospect for many professional historians. We have a passion for what the past can yield, and most often we really want to share what we discover – stories, ideas and understandings – with others. Television offers the chance to tell stories to a great many people and the art of screen production, which combines writing, visual imagery and dramatisation, can be a highly creative and powerful method. This passion for making the past come alive through the medium of television was clearly evident in PHA (Vic)’s Historically Speaking session in April, jointly held by historian (and now filmmaker) Clare Wright, and producer Lucy McLaren from production company Renegade Films. Clare and Lucy spoke about their new documentary Utopia Girls, which charts the struggle for women’s suffrage in Australia.

Before they discussed the making of the film, Clare and Lucy played a small 10-minute taster of Utopia Girls and from this we got a sense of the narrative style and approach they employed. There’s a mix of on-camera, location-based narration from Clare, along with dramatisation of the stories of key individuals involved in the history. Lucy explained that the history presented a number of dilemmas for production, especially the trap of what I like to describe as ‘period caricature’.

Clare spoke about the long genesis of the film, which ultimately spanned five years, and the hurdles involved in getting the project beyond the page and the multiple treatments and developments, re-writes and renegotiations with the many parties involved. The sometimes frustrating, circuitous experience of getting the idea commissioned and funded is a story in its own right.

Clare also spoke candidly about the process of distillation; the ‘kill your darlings’ moments, as scenes that she’d loved ended up discarded from the final cut. This was, Clare indicated, part of the realisation that film-making is an utterly collaborative experience; the production involves creative and technical skill, which cannot be found in one person. In fact, Clare’s description of the mechanics of production – from filming in freezing mid-winter London streets, to multiple re-takes of a scene filmed at midnight under Princes Bridge – revealed how much hard slog is involved in documentary film production. She also mentioned how privileged she was to have people involved in the film’s production who were highly skilled and creative, and whom she trusted to tell this history in the way she envisioned.

Indeed, perhaps contrary to some pre-conceptions about history on television, Clare said that across the life of the production, there was never a point where she felt compromised as a historian. Instead, the project taught her a great deal about how history can be told, and the vast differences between writing history for the page and making history for the screen. These differences were starkly illustrated in Clare’s description of the ‘edit’ that her writing of the film underwent across the life of its production. At the outset of the project in 2007 she began with a 25 000 word script and on the film’s completion in 2011 the standard post production word-count revealed a final script of just 5000 words!



Film entails many other ‘language tools’ beyond words to be able to tell a story. Producer Lucy McLaren spoke of some of the complexities involved in history documentary making, such as the relative lack of original images and footage, the need for dramatisation, and above all, the need to be able to tell this history in a dramatic, compelling and entertaining way. This meant creating a narrative structure which focused on several key individuals, using their biographies as a prism through which to tell the wider story of the fight for women’s right to the vote in Australia.

Overall, it was an invigorating, engaging and instructive session and one which left many of us with new insights and enthusiasm for ‘doing’ history on the small screen.

Michelle Rayner PHA (Vic)

Remembering Territory families


Northern Territory Library staff
viewing the panels in
Parliament House Darwin
prior to the exhibition launch
at Tennant Creek.

Chief Minister Paul Henderson launched an exhibition on 22 June 2012 honouring long term Territory families.  Fifty Territory families have had their history recorded and preserved as part of the Remembering Territory Families Web page.

The contribution of the Afianos, Fong Lim, Haritos, Liddle, Muir and Williams families are currently being recognised in the Remembering Territory Families touring exhibition. The exhibition can also be viewed online.

An exhibition booklet is available at: Remembering Territory Families publication.

The touring exhibition dates are:

Tennant Creek
6 July – 19 August 2012
Battery Hill Mining Centre -  41 Peko Road, Tennant Creek

Alice Springs
25 August – 7 October 2012
Alice Springs Public Library - 93 Todd St, Alice Springs

13 October – 25 November  2012
Godinymayin Yijard Rivers Arts and Culture Centre, Katherine

1 December 2012 – 3 February 2013
Northern Territory Library, Parliament House, Darwin

Tweet Button

Reflections on Floodlines Exhibition

JOL Image no. API-080-0001-0007. Workers outside the D. L. Brown & Co. building in Short Street Brisbane, hang out clothes damaged during the flood.

‘Will you go through our collection to see what you can find for an exhibition on the 1890s floods in Brisbane?’ was an invitation too tempting to resist. Flooding was in all our minds early in 2011 when the State Library of Queensland was planning its ‘Floodlines’ exhibitions. The exhibition on the 2010-2011 floods which inundated vast swathes of Queensland was planned to be a high tech exposition, using the latest in electronic wizardry to communicate the horrible experiences endured by many people in Queensland’s ‘summer of sadness’.

The nineteenth century exhibition was to explain earlier floods and to remind Queenslanders – particularly Brisbane people’ – that flooding has  been very much a part of life in southern Queensland. But it was always possible that the nineteenth century exhibition could do more than that. For people like me who had grown up in Brisbane, ‘the 1893 flood’ seemed to be help up as a measuring stick against which all other disasters could – or even should – be understood.

‘The 1893 flood’ is, however, something of a shibboleth. There were four floods in 1893 – two big ones and one small one in February and a moderate flood event in June. These followed quickly on a flooding disaster in 1890 and yet another in 1887. It seemed, therefore, important to probe the apparent elision of several events into ‘the 1893 flood’. It was important to try to portray a sense of what Brisbane was actually like after the years of rapid growth in the 1880s boom years, quite similar, in fact, to the boom and growth years immediately preceding the 2011 floods.

Floods are ruinous events: lives are lost, homes and businesses are devastated, jobs disappear – many of those which remained after the 1890s depression was well and truly biting – infrastructure is ruined. Shock is pervasive. It was necessary to develop a picture of what actually happened in the nineteenth century floods, but to do in a way which also personalised experience. The creation of ‘the 1893 flood’ catchphrase seemed to have had a great deal to do with community memory. It would, therefore, be important to try to capture the way in which the community experienced flooding, interpreted it and remembered it. Dealing with future flood events was a hot topic during 2011 when the Commission of Inquiry was hearing evidence and preparing its reports. What happened to the recommendations of inquirers after the nineteenth century floods was also a pertinent theme to pursue.

Would the John Oxley Library have the materials to cover this canvas? Oh, yes, it did: there were thousands of items from volumes of photographs to scrappy telegrams to august published reports. Selection was by far the most challenging issue. The Philip Bacon gallery on the fourth floor of the State Library building could accommodate only about 70 individual items.

It is, therefore, an impressionist display. Plans showing the spread of the city in the late 1880s and the types of advertising of new housing estates in flood-prone areas begin the journey into images showing that the 1887 and 1890 floods were, indeed, severe. Then comes a magically-conserved frail plan which showed the extent of the 1893 inundations in the river’s flood plain and the flood plains of suburban creeks and the stories of people whose homes and livelihoods were lost. A J Hockings’s gardening books seem, for a moment, out of place, until one realises that this former mayor of both Brisbane and South Brisbane lost his home and his extensive plant nursery in the 1890 flood. His grand-daughter, Eleanor Bourne, left a hand-written account of her experience in the 1893 flood in her home which stood almost exactly on the site of the State Library. A few of his publications were intended to give an additional dimension to the life and work of the government meteorologist, Clement Wragge ... and so it went on.

Recovery seemed appropriately covered by images of people washing flood damaged clothes, advertisements for fund-raising events and the books of the Central Flood Relief Fund. An advertisement for the sale of the Orleigh Estate and an image showing that not one house remained after February 1893 helped to create an understanding that, sometimes, lessons are learned. Most of the Orleigh Estate is now parkland. Paintings in oils and watercolours, a novel by the marvellous Dr Thomas Pennington Lucas, inventor of Pawpaw Ointment, poems and short stories written in subsequent decades helped to convey a sense of memory going on and on as did three audio excerpts from the great-grandsons of men affected by the floods: HC Stanley, whose Albert railway bridge was destroyed immediately in front of his own home, James Love, who opened his business a short time before the 1890 flood and A J Hockings, the businessman-mayor.

Reports of various inquiries have generated considerable interest among exhibition visitors, particularly the 1899 plan in Colonel Pennycuick’s report which was given life almost a century later in the 1980s as the Wivenhoe Dam. There is also amusement that Brabant and Co took their claim for compensation against the Queensland government to the Privy Council. Their Lordships seemed much more sympathetic than the Queensland courts.

Curating this exhibition was a journey of discovery for an historian with a life-long fascination with the Brisbane in all its travails and wonders.


Reprinted, with permission, from the June 2012 PHA (Qld) e-Bulletin. The State Library of Queensland’s exhibition Floodlines: Your Memory of  Queensland’s Floods runs until 19 August 2012. Floodlines shares contemporary and historical memories of two of Queensland’s devastating floods – summer 2010-11, and 1893. Through items from the State Library’s John Oxley Library, Floodlines: 19th century Brisbane tells stories of survival, loss and recovery.

Helen Gregory PHA (Qld)


Adelaide Writers’ Week

History as the vehicle for truth was a theme running through the 2012 Adelaide Writers’ Week, with several prominent authors talking about how they combine fact and fiction to get to the essence of things.

The conversations, held under the shade trees of the Pioneer Women’s Memorial Gardens and in the neo-Gothic Elder Hall, were gentle and reflective. This was no continuation of the controversy that accompanied the publication of Kate Grenville's The Secret River. She was back though, talking about the latest in her trilogy, Sarah Thornhill, which she described as an illustration of what can happen when people wallpaper over the past. An American novelist, Ron Rash, reminded the audience of William Faulkner’s epigram, ‘the past is not dead, it’s not even past’. He went on to discuss the challenge of not imposing contemporary attitudes, for example those towards violence against women, when creating historical characters.

Javier Cercas, a leading Spanish author, who started life as a journalist, is concerned about the relationship between the past and the present. He writes to remind his readers that historical events, for example the Spanish Civil War, continue to have a presence in Spanish life.

David Marr’s lecture on Patrick White was a tour de force. He spoke about Adelaide’s place in the writer’s life and in particular White’s ambitions as a playwright. Look out for Marr’s essay, a piece filled with historical research, analysis, humour and emotion.

An Italian author – who writes first in English – Andrea di Robilant posed an important question for historians. What do we do about mistakes? His subject, the Zen brothers, who were 14th century merchant navigators, created maps of the north Atlantic. The errors they made have been passed through the centuries and become realities, even certain types of truths.

And what about the unknowns? How does the historian or biographer deal with these? In the case of Martin Edmond, who wanted to understand the dark night New Zealand artist Colin McCahon spent lost in Sydney, he did so by retracing what might have been McCahon’s wanderings through eastern Sydney. Here imagination and observation take the place of historical evidence.

That, as Edmond observed, is the power of the writer, to be able to explore the intrigue of places and events that can never be known.

Francesca Beddie, PHA (NSW)

News from the west

The year 2011/12 has been extremely busy for the PHA (WA) Management Committee and for me as President. 

In addition to my usual responsibilities as well as assisting with arrangements for events such as the ACPHA AGM in Perth, I have led a review of our administrative practices to allow for more effective and efficient processes.  This has been driven by the impact an aging demographic and a general lack of interest and/or time from members has had on our Committee.  As a result, we find ourselves having to make a Committee position as attractive as possible; that is, less onerous. 

To provide the framework to enable WA to do this, the Executive has conducted a thorough examination of our Rules.  These will be considered at our August AGM and, together with a guide to roles and responsibilities, will be used to recruit new Committee members.  For, as we are all more than aware, a non-profit association like a PHA can only continue to exist if its members are willing to be involved. 

Kris Bizzaca, President PHA (WA)

Future events

2012 NT History Colloquium

The 2012 History Colloquium will be held on Saturday 10 November 2012 in the theatre of the Museum and Art Gallery of the Northern Territory, Bullocky Point, Darwin.

The Professional Historians Association (NT), the Centre for Environmental History at The Australian National University, Charles Darwin University and the Museum and Art Gallery of the Northern Territory are generously supporting the event.

Staff members and/or postgraduate students from The Australian National University, Charles Darwin University, the Museum and Art Gallery of the Northern Territory and members of the Professional Historians Association (NT) are invited to make presentations of either twenty minutes (with ten additional minutes for questions and discussion) or forty minutes (with twenty additional minutes for questions and discussion) each in any field of History or a related area (such as cultural heritage studies, historical archaeology, history of tourism, history of education, environmental history, legal history, medical/nursing history, history of music or art history). History postgraduate students in the School of Creative Arts and Humanities at Charles Darwin University are strongly encouraged to present papers.

Please email Stephen Farram before 7 SEPTEMBER 2012 with a proposed title and your preference for either a forty or twenty minute presentation. Postgraduate students from The Australian National University should make initial contact with Professor Tom Griffiths in the Research School of Social Sciences.

Tweet Button

Museums Australia National Conference 2012

To be held in the National Wine Centre, Adelaide from 24-28 September, the conference takes as its theme the question: how can museums and galleries contribute to the needs of a world that is awash with information but hungry for meaning?
The format for the conference will be that of a series of parallel lectures and workshops, centring on a different broad topic each day: Collection/Research; Research/Theatre/Performing Arts; Connected World; and Regional, Remote and Community Museums. Integrated into the program will be a number of half-day tours of museums, galleries and craft centres in Adelaide and environs, as well as the usual Welcome ceremony and conference dinner.

Among the keynote speakers are: Ms Jill Austin, Curator of the Chicago History Museum, who set up an award winning exhibition on gay/bisexual perspective of the city’s urban history, Dr Catherine Hughes, an international expert on the use of theatre in museum exhibitions and Mr Roy Clare, Director of the War Memorial Museum in Auckland, who has expertise in managing both museum and archive collections.

For more information about the conference go to

Tweet Button

Member profile - Mary Sheehan


Mary Sheehan

Mary Sheehan is our first historian to be interrogated for the e-bulletin and we were delighted that she agreed to answer our probing questions.  Mary has been a member of PHA (Vic) since its beginnings and was the first president of ACPHA, serving in the role from 1996 until 2004. Her interest and enthusiasm for history, combined with love of a good committee, has made her a highly valued member and great mentor to many young historians.

Why history?  How did you come to history?

I was lucky to be in the right place at the right time when Monash University offered the first master in public history program in 1988. I loved the sense of immediacy of history and the practical, community-based nature of the course. These factors still motivate my work as a professional historian today, and continue to provide enormous satisfaction.

What was your first history-related job?  What path have you taken since then?

After graduating I was again lucky to be in the right place at the right time in being offered a job in the Victorian Public Service with Heritage Victoria, where I ended up in the position of Senior Historian. I then worked as a consultant historian involved in projects such as heritage and oral history, as well as dabbling in undergraduate and graduate teaching at a variety of places including Monash and Melbourne universities. I am now in a partnership with three other professional historians, called Living Histories, mostly concentrating on commissioned histories. At present I’m working on a history of Melbourne University’s graduate school of business commissioned by the Melbourne School of Business.

What has changed since your first history-related job?

I think the biggest change I’ve noticed since graduating is the decline in the number of history subjects and teachers in university whilst, paradoxically, there has been a growing interest in history in the community – the latter perhaps the result of television programs such as Who do you think you are? and the ABC TV movie Mabo – as well as a continuing interest in family history. These factors have helped increase PHA memberships so that, over the last 17 years since ACPHA was formed, numbers have risen from approximately 300 to the present figure of 470, whilst the number of academic historians nationally has   dropped to about 300.

You were a founding member of the PHA in Victoria in 1991 and of ACPHA in 1996 – what can you tell us about your experience in setting up these organizations?

I feel privileged and enormously proud to have been part of the development of PHA (Vic). I’m also really pleased I was among the group of Monash public history graduates who, with others, provided the impetus for its creation in 1991. At the time we thought it was important to be recognized as professionals if we were to gain work outside academia ‘in the field’. Since then, PHA (Vic) has offered me professional status, support, collegiality and I’ve made some great friends (many of whom date back to the Monash graduate public history course). Besides operating as a highly professional organization, PHA (Vic) has also consistently offered professional development opportunities and helped me to keep abreast of developments in history through seminars, master classes and a very effective professional reading group. I am grateful for the initiative recently adopted by PHA (Vic) in instituting a Professional Development Program. This will help high standards to be maintained among practicing historians in this state, which I think is vital for us as professionals.

I also really enjoyed being a part of ACPHA’s development. In the early 1990s it became apparent that professional history associations across Australia needed to be unified and parity established before history would be recognized in the community as a profession. To that end, and with the support of PHA (Vic), in March 1994 a meeting was held at my home attended by delegates from most states. This meeting proved to be the genesis of ACPHA, which came into existence two years later.

What were the highlights of your experience as an ACPHA delegate (and President)?

There are so many highlights associated with my experience as an ACPHA delegate, commencing in 1994 with that first meeting of interstate delegates and ending in 2006.  Working with and getting to know colleagues across the nation who all had the same aim was very satisfying. The tasks we achieved together in little over a decade were mammoth and happily are now taken for granted as professional standards.

A great achievement was forming accreditation standards, which define what it is to be a professional historian – as far as I know this has not been accomplished anywhere else in the world. Establishing a common logo was also an important achievement, as it symbolizes our national unity as professionals. Other achievements over the decade were the rules and registration we grappled with at the outset, a code of ethics, scale of fees, and negotiating professional insurance, and the bulk of these tasks accomplished in the days when fax was considered cutting-edge technology.

What role does ACPHA play in your career as a professional historian?

ACPHA continues to play a very important role in my career as a professional historian because it sets the standards by which I practice. I think, as the representation of professional historians grows in Australia, the standards set by ACPHA will play an increasingly important role in maintaining high standards for historians, their profession and their associations.

Research or writing?  What do you enjoy more and why?

As with most of my colleagues, I love research. I love the chase for information and knowledge - I liken this to doing a jigsaw puzzle and searching for that missing piece of information which will help complete the picture or story.

I hate facing the blank Word page on my computer screen when I start to write, but I love rewriting, adding and refining a piece of work. I also have to really discipline myself to accept absolute perfection is impossible, and let the piece go. Perhaps the time constraints imposed on our work is a good thing?

What advice do you give to those starting out?

Take any small job available, including those such as a history of the local school, sports club or community group, so you can gain experience and get runs on the board. Ask someone if you can work with them to gain practical experience about working as an historian in the field and running a business. Importantly, join your PHA committee and contribute to your profession. Not only will you gain experience and skills in areas you would otherwise not have the opportunity to do, you will also gain a CV item, support in your work, meet colleagues, develop friendships, and perhaps even gain first hand information about that great job that’s about to be advertised.

Public History Prize - PHA (NSW)


Rosa Grahame

Rosa Grahame has been announced as the winner of the PHA NSW’s Public History Prize 2011 for her essay ‘Mountains out of molehills: Black Mountain and the Human Imagination’. Rosa is a fourth year history student at the Australian National University.

The winning essay was selected from a strong field by this year’s judge, Dr Shirley Fitzgerald, professional historian and former historian for the City of Sydney Council.

Dr Fitzgerald praised Ms Grahame’s essay for employing a wide range of sources to examine ‘changing understandings of the relationships between citizens and their landscapes, using the case study of Black Mountain, Canberra’. Commenting that the essay clearly articulated the history of ‘changing perceptions of “value” and of “wilderness”, in a legal sense as well as in the understanding of the wider community’, Dr Fitzgerald noted that in raising the question of ‘an inherent racism in equating “wilderness” with the concept of terra nullius’, Ms Grahame points the way towards further enquiry.

Ms Grahame’s winning essay was part of a course called Researching and Writing History, one of two pre-requisite courses for History Honours at the Australian National University. Researching and Writing History focuses on methodology and includes field trips to research institutions such as the National Library of Australia, the National Archives and the War Memorial.

The Public History Prize was presented at the PHA NSW’s ‘History in July’ on Monday 2 July 2012.  This annual industry networking social event, held at History House in Macquarie Street, Sydney was addressed by the Hon Michael Kirby AC CMG.

Pauline Curby PHA (NSW)

Vale Peter Tyler 1934 – 2012

Many of us have been shocked and saddened by the sudden death of PHA NSW member and former President, Dr Peter Tyler, who died on Saturday 5 May 2012 after suffering a heart attack.

A relative late-comer to the history profession, Peter had a long and varied career encompassing roles in local government and the private sector, including adult education, health care and the construction industry. He joined the PHA shortly after completing his PhD in history at the University of New England in 2000. In this second phase of his career, it seemed that Peter was rarely ‘unemployed’ and he achieved more than most could hope to accomplish in an entire working lifetime, let alone one that began later in life.

Specialising in medical, scientific and administrative history, he published a number of books including: No Charge No Undressing, a commemorative history of Community Health and Tuberculosis Australia (2003), Humble and Obedient Servants: The Administration of New South Wales, 1901–1960 (2006) and State Records NSW 1788–2011, launched last year. In 2008-9 he achieved the distinction of being the inaugural Merewether Scholar at the Mitchell Library, researching the development of the Royal Society of New South Wales.

Peter was an energetic and committed member of PHA (NSW), serving on the management committee from 2003–9, as Vice-President (2005–6), President (2006–8) and Treasurer (2008–9). Among his many achievements were a number of innovative reforms and initiatives, including the now-renowned annual ‘History in July’ networking function and the President’s Newsletter.

Peter was also instrumental in organising the ‘Islands of History’ Conference, held on Norfolk Island in July 2010 to commemorate the 25th anniversary of the PHA (NSW). The first of its kind initiated by a Professional Historians’ Association, this highly successful conference attracted professional historians and academics from every Australian state, New Zealand, New Caledonia and London and was a testament to Peter’s passionate commitment to raising the profile and status of public history and professional historians, and to establishing links between the profession, academe and the wider community. Peter’s influence also set a new (and perhaps unequalled) benchmark of catering at PHA functions!

Apart from his involvement with PHA (NSW), Peter was also a past President of the NSW Society of the History of Medicine and a long-term, active member of the Australian and New Zealand Society of the History of Medicine, the Royal Australian Historical Society, National Trust, the History Council of New South Wales, and Honorary Historian of the Royal Society of New South Wales. A friend and inspiration to many, he will be greatly missed.

Rosemary Kerr PHA (NSW)


Peter Tyler 17 March 1934 – 5 May 2012

© Australian Council of Professional Historians Associations 2012