Samuel Furphy

Dr Samuel Furphy is a Research Fellow in the National Centre of Biography, School of History, The Australian National University. His scholarly interests include Australian colonial history, British imperial history, Aboriginal history, and biography. Sam’s recent book – Edward M. Curr and the Tide of History – is a biography of a nineteenth century pastoralist, public servant, ethnologist, and Aboriginal administrator, whose written works were influential in the Yorta Yorta native title case. It was shortlisted for the Victorian Community History Awards in 2013.

Sam is a currently a Chief Investigator on the Australian Research Council project “Serving Our Country: A History of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander People in the Defence of Australia.” In 2014 he will commence work on a new project as an ARC Discovery Early Career Research Fellow: “A Due Observance of Justice? Protectors of Aborigines in Britain’s Australasian Colonies, 1837-1857.”

Before joining the National Centre of Biography, Sam worked as a professional historian, writing several commissioned histories including Dimmeys of Richmond (2007) and Australian of the Year Awards: A Fiftieth Anniversary History (2010).


The Seven Dwarfs and the Age of the Mandarins »

Australian Government Administration in the Post-War Reconstruction Era

Edited by: Samuel Furphy
Publication date: July 2015
In the history and folklore of Australia’s Commonwealth Public Service, the idea of the ‘Seven Dwarfs’ has been remarkably persistent. Originally a witty epithet applied to a powerful group of senior public servants, the term has come to represent the professionalisation of Australian government administration during the Second World War and post-war reconstruction era, and into the following two decades of expansion. This was a period when, for the first time, talented university graduates entered the public service, rose to senior levels, and exerted great influence over the affairs of the Commonwealth. With the secure tenure of being permanent heads of departments, they defined the age of the public service mandarin. This book explores the lives and influence of the Seven Dwarfs and their colleagues, bringing together the leading researchers on post-war Australian administration. Featuring four thematic chapters and ten biographical portraits, it offers a fascinating insight into the workings of the Commonwealth Public Service during a critical period in its history.

Edward M. Curr and the Tide of History »

Authored by: Samuel Furphy
Publication date: March 2013
Edward M. Curr (1820–89) was a pastoralist, horse trader, stock inspector, Aboriginal administrator, author and ethnologist. A prominent figure in the history of the Colony of Victoria, he rose to a senior position in the public service and authored several influential books and essays. He is best remembered for his nostalgic memoir, Recollections of Squatting in Victoria (1883), which has become a standard historical source. This book is the first comprehensive biography of Curr and explores both his life and legacy. In particular, it considers his posthumous influence on the Yorta Yorta native title case (1994–2001), when his written account of the Yorta Yorta ancestors played a key role in the failure of the claim. By exploring Curr’s interactions with Aboriginal people—as a pastoralist and Aboriginal administrator—this book advocates a more nuanced, critical, and historically informed interpretation of Curr’s ethnological writings than was evident in the Yorta Yorta case. For more information on Aboriginal History Inc. please visit