Meet the Author: Laura Rademaker

16 August 2021

‘ANU Press has a great reputation and an excellent record in Aboriginal history … We want to make history accessible, and ANU Press lets us do this.’

Dr Laura Rademaker is a Postdoctoral Research Associate and the Deputy Director of the Research Centre for Deep History at the School of History, The Australian National University. Laura has co-authored and edited two books with ANU Press, including The Bible in Buffalo Country, which recently won the Chief Minister’s Northern Territory History Book Award. Laura spoke with us about her interest in mission history, the importance of publishing a book that the community wanted, and future projects she is working on.

Congratulations on winning the Chief Minister’s Northern Territory History Book Award. What an achievement! What does it mean to you to win this award?

It was such an honour to receive this award. Most important to me was that the judges ‘got it’, they understood what we were trying to do. The four of us [Laura and her co-authors] worked together, each with quite different disciplinary and cultural skillsets, and I think that is what made all the difference. We really want to make Aboriginal history accessible to communities and the public, and we were trying to work out how best to partner with communities to make this happen. The Uluru Statement, for instance, calls for ‘truth telling’ about history. Part of this, we think, is finding ways for people to have access to the primary sources of those histories.

What led you and your co-editors to research and write this book?

I was invited to join the co-authors on this project because I had a background in mission history and was interested in working with the community. We were a good fit for each other. The project itself grew out of community desire to have better access to its own history and to represent this history to a wider public. We came together as authors with different backgrounds to make this happen.

How much research did you personally need to do for this book?

I drew on archival research that I had done in the past for my PhD, but the real challenge was working with a community that I was only just getting to know. My co-authors were the ones that made this possible. The most important work for me was the checking, consulting and re-drafting of material to make sure that the book was what the community wanted.

What do you need in your writing space to help you stay focused?

Time and rest. I’ve found there’s no point flogging myself to write more, or to keep working when I’m exhausted; the writing will be rubbish. I write best when I’ve carved out dedicated time from my schedule (ideally first thing in the morning), but also when I’ve made sure I take weekends and evenings off. I know this isn’t possible for everyone, but I think it’s important to push back on a culture of constant work.

You have published several titles with us. Why did you and your co-authors choose ANU Press?

ANU Press has a great reputation and an excellent record in Aboriginal history. There’s also the rigour of ANU Press’s editorial processes. Most important to us, however, was that ANU Press is open-access online. We want to make history accessible, and ANU Press let us do this.

What is next for you?

I’m hoping to keep working with communities to write histories of self-determination in the latter decades of the twentieth century. I’m also working on a project about rock art and history. But one of the most exciting things about working with communities is that, being driven by community needs and interests, you never know what might be next. I’m excited about the new histories that are waiting to be told