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What’s France got to do with it? »

Contemporary memoirs of Australians in France

Authored by: Juliana de Nooy
Publication date: July 2020
While only one book-length memoir recounting the sojourn of an Australian in France was published in the 1990s, well over 40 have been published since 2000, overwhelmingly written by women. Although we might expect a focus on travel, intercultural adjustment and communication in these texts, this is the case only in a minority of accounts. More frequently, France serves as a backdrop to a project of self-renovation in which transplantation to another country is incidental, hence the question ‘What’s France got to do with it?’ The book delves into what France represents in the various narratives, its role in the self-transformation, and the reasons for the seemingly insatiable demand among readers and publishers for these stories. It asks why these memoirs have gained such traction among Australian women at the dawn of the twenty-first century and what is at stake in the fascination with France.

‘Now is the Psychological Moment’ »

Earle Page and the Imagining of Australia

Authored by: Stephen Wilks
Publication date: 2020
Earle Christmas Grafton Page (1880–1961) – surgeon, Country Party leader, treasurer and prime minister – was perhaps the most extraordinary visionary to hold high public office in twentieth-century Australia. Over decades, he made determined efforts to seize ‘the psychological moment’, and thereby realise his vision of a decentralised, regionalised and rationally ordered nation. Page’s unique dreaming of a very different Australia encompassed new states, hydroelectricity, economic planning, cooperative federalism and rural universities. His story casts light on the wider place in history of visions of national development. He was Australia’s most important advocate of developmentalism, the important yet little-studied stream of thought that assumes that governments can lead the nation to realise its economic potential. His audacious synthesis of ideas delineated and stretched the Australian political imagination. Page’s rich career confirms that Australia has long inspired popular ideals of national development, but also suggests that their practical implementation was increasingly challenged during the twentieth century. Effervescent, intelligent and somewhat eccentric, Page was one of Australia’s great optimists. Few Australian leaders who stood for so much have since been so neglected.

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Dictionary of World Biography »

Seventh edition

Authored by: Barry Jones
Publication date: June 2020
Jones, Barry Owen (1932– ). Australian politician, writer and lawyer, born in Geelong. Educated at Melbourne University, he was a public servant, high school teacher, television and radio performer, university lecturer and lawyer before serving as a Labor MP in the Victorian Parliament 1972–77 and the Australian House of Representatives 1977–98. He took a leading role in reviving the Australian film industry, abolishing the death penalty in Australia, and was the first politician to raise public awareness of global warming, the ‘post-industrial’ society, the IT revolution, biotechnology, the rise of ‘the Third Age’ and the need to preserve Antarctica as a wilderness. In the Hawke Government, he was Minister for Science 1983–90, Prices and Consumer Affairs 1987, Small Business 1987–90 and Customs 1988–90. He became a member of the Executive Board of UNESCO, Paris 1991–95 and National President of the Australian Labor Party 1992–2000, 2005–06. He was Deputy Chairman of the Constitutional Convention 1998. His books include Decades of Decision 1860– (1965), Joseph II (1968), Age of Apocalypse (1975), and he edited The Penalty is Death (1968). Sleepers, Wake!: Technology and the Future of Work was published by Oxford University Press in 1982, became a bestseller and has been translated into Chinese, Japanese, Korean, Swedish and braille. The fourth edition was published in 1995. Knowledge Courage Leadership, a collection of speeches and essays, appeared in 2016. He received a DSc for his services to science in 1988 and a DLitt in 1993 for his work on information theory. Elected FTSE (1992), FAHA (1993), FAA (1996) and FASSA (2003), he is the only person to have become a Fellow of four of Australia’s five learned Academies. Awarded an AO in 1993, named as one of Australia’s 100 ‘living national treasures’ in 1997, he was elected a Visiting Fellow Commoner of Trinity College, Cambridge in 1999. His autobiography, A Thinking Reed, was published in 2006 and The Shock of Recognition, about music and literature, in 2016. In 2014 he received an AC for services ‘as a leading intellectual in Australian public life’.

Australian Journal of Biography and History: No. 3, 2020 »

Publication date: April 2020
The articles in this issue of the Australian Journal of Biography and History consider subjects who have lived across and between national and internal Australian boundaries, and the authors have thus been compelled to address the methodological and theoretical problems of mobility. Kate Bagnall addresses the seemingly insurmountable problem of writing about Chinese women who settled in Australia in the second half of the twentieth century. Contrasting with the dearth of information on Chinese women immigrants to colonial New South Wales, Jackie Dickenson’s chapter on Hong Kong–based merchant and trader Melbourne-born Elma Kelly (1895–1974) benefits from an abundance of documentation, both in the realm of the personal and official. In her article on the Corney family in the aftermath of World War I, Alexandra McKinnon considers the record of loss and sorrow preserved in the archives of the Australian War Memorial. Very different methodological questions are explored by Suzanne Robinson in her reflections on writing a biography of the Australian composer Peggy Glanville-Hicks (1912–90). As a feminist biographer, Robinson had to face a most ‘troublesome question’ of whether her subject’s considerable imperfections, which became evident during research, risked undermining her status as a composer, particularly one whose reputation was yet to be fully established. A different form of methodological question is posed by Pat Buckridge in his article on three generations of Macdougall men, each of whom became journalists—Dugald (1833–79), who also excelled in business and politics, Dugald the younger (1872–1947), and James (1903–95). The question Buckridge considers is whether his subjects can ‘usefully be considered as a grouped biographical entity signifying more than the sum of its parts, which is to say more than the three separate lives’. By contrast, Peter Crabb’s article on the colonial goldfields reporter John Augustus Hux (1826–64) relates the story of a single figure who, having made connections in his English homeland that would serve him well in Australia, provided eyewitness accounts of a number of significant goldfields in New South Wales, which were widely read in the colony and thus helped to form popular images of the industry. Finally, in a departure from the theme of mobility characterising the other contributions, Nichola Garvey documents her experiences of working with the Western Australian iron ore magnate Andrew Forrest to research and write his biography. In what was conceived by both the author and the subject as an ‘authorised biography’, Garvey’s article raises some fundamental questions about biographical writing of living persons, including the utility and pitfalls of what she calls ‘expressivist anthropology’, as well as the scope of authorisation in biographical writing.

Australian Journal of Biography and History: No. 2, 2019 »

Publication date: October 2019
The second issue of the Australian Journal of Biography and History is a joint project between the National Centre of Biography at The Australian National University (ANU), and the Canberra and District Historical Society (CDHS). It seeks to recognise, perhaps reiterate, the relationship between the study of biography, as exemplified by the Australian Dictionary of Biography (ADB), and the practice of local and family history and heritage, the mission of the society. Most of the contributors are members of the society, and have been involved in the often painstaking and minute study of aspects of the history of Canberra and its region for many years. In ‘A City and Its People: Canberra in the Australian Dictionary of Biography’, Karen Fox explores Canberra history by discussing some of wide array of people ‘who have lived, worked, loved, and fought in the Canberra district’, and who are represented in the ADB. James McDonald, in his article ‘A Good Sheep Station Ruined’, examines the pastoral origins of the Canberra district, finding that the industry in the region was, before the founding of the capital city, a centre of innovation and enterprise, with stations such as Henry ‘Babe’ Curran’s Ginninderra a national exemplar of the wool industry. In a second article, ‘Migration as an Opportunity for Reinvention’, McDonald discusses the potential of immigration to refashion identities, using the biographies of Alfred and Margaret Rich, early settlers at Gundaroo, who had faced disadvantages in England because of their racial backgrounds. ‘Three Years in the Life of Chief Constable Patrick Kinsela’, by Gillian Kelly, examines the role of the first policeman in the district, who took up his posting at the nascent town of Queanbeyan in 1837, and in many ways exemplified the system of justice in the region until his early death in 1841. Kinsela is an unusual biographical subject as very little is known about his life until he assumed the role, while from then on, his life and times comes into focus by virtue of his reports, reports in the local press and colonial government inquiries. Michael Hall, in his article ‘The Sentinel over Canberra’s Military History’, explores the connections between the Anglican Church of St John the Baptist, now in the Canberra suburb of Reid, and the military, and the war experiences of some of its parishioners. The final two articles of the issue move towards aspects of the modern history of Canberra, the first exploring the life stories of Vince and Viola Kalokerinos who, for many years, ran a milk bar at Curtin, a place that has assumed a prominent place in both the commercial and social history, and indeed has become almost a part of the folklore, of the city. Their story is a reminder of the impact of Greek immigrants on the development of Canberra, and their willingness to work long hours to provide essential services to a population that was made up largely of government employees. Finally, Nick Swain discusses the life and work of one of Canberra’s early photographic entrepreneurs, Les Dwyer, who came to Canberra as a construction labourer in 1924 but, as a consequence of the Depression and workplace injury, converted a hobby into an enterprise. Included also are two essay length review articles, and a series of reviews on recently published Australian biographical works.

Rosalie Gascoigne »

A Catalogue Raisonné

Authored by: Martin Gascoigne
Publication date: September 2019
Rosalie Gascoigne (1917–1999) was a highly regarded Australian artist whose assemblages of found materials embraced landscape, still life, minimalism, arte povera and installations. She was 57 when she had her first exhibition. Behind this late coming-out lay a long and unusual preparation in looking at nature for its aesthetic qualities, collecting found objects, making flower arrangements and practising ikebana. Her art found an appreciative audience from the start. She was a people person, and it pleased her that through her exhibiting career of 25 years, her works were acquired by people of all ages, interests and backgrounds, as well as by the major public institutions on both sides of the Tasman Sea. Watch the live video stream from the launch of Rosalie Gascoigne: A Catalogue Raisonné, held on Tuesday 17 September 2019 at the National Gallery of Australia, Canberra, with Director Nick Mitzevich and author Martin Gascoigne on the NGA's Facebook page. In the media Read the ANU Reporter article: Art in road signs. Read the Canberra Times article: Assembling Rosalie Gascoigne's catalogue.

Teacher for Justice »

Lucy Woodcock's Transnational Life

Publication date: August 2019
‘Teacher for Justice is a major contribution to the history of the women’s movement, working‑class activism and Australian political internationalism. But it is more than this. By focusing on the life of Lucy Woodcock – an unrecognised and under-researched figure – this book rewrites the history of twentieth-century Australia from the perspective of an activist who challenged conventions to fight for gender, race and class equality, exploring the complex and multi-layered intersections of these aspects. It explores Woodcock’s personal relationships and the circles she mixed in and the friendships she forged, as well as the conventions she challenged as a single woman in possibly a same-sex relationship. The book makes a key contribution to the history of progressive education and the experience of women teachers. Above all, it charts the life of a transnational figure who made connections globally and, in particular, with refugees and with women in India and the Asian region. It is a detailed, thoroughly researched and richly textured history which places Woodcock within the context of the times in which she lived.’ Joy Damousi, Professor of History, University of Melbourne ‘Meet Lucy Woodcock, a complex, undaunted woman in a tough and changing world. From her role as a public school principal in Depression and wartime, to her union and feminist organising, to her transnational engagements for peace, this clear and thoughtful book brings to life forgotten forms of activism. It’s the gripping story of how Lucy navigated the minefields of gender, class, race and coloniality to change her world.’ Raewyn Connell, Professor Emerita, University of Sydney ‘Just over a century ago, the last of the pupil-teachers, Lucy Woodcock, co-founded the NSW Teachers Federation. So many of the principles and traditions that underpin our union today can be traced back to the lifelong work of Lucy Woodcock. She fought for the industrial rights of teachers deep in the knowledge of the broader social and economic context in which she lived and worked. Too often the role of working-class women whose influence is profound is ignored. This biography installs Lucy Woodcock into her rightful place as pivotal player in the history of twentieth-century Australia.’ Maurie Mulheron, President, NSW Teachers Federation ‘A fascinating history of a fascinating woman: Lucy’s interests were so broad and so modern – equal pay, racism, internationalism, Indigenous rights and anti-war struggles were all part of Lucy’s world. She had a vision beyond nationalism, championed the cause of world peace when peace was being treated as a dirty word and saw women as global citizens. Lucy was one of the heroes of our disgracefully unfinished Equal Pay struggle.’ Hon Dr Meredith Burgmann, anti-racism and peace activist, former President of the NSW Legislative Council

‘True Biographies of Nations?’ »

The Cultural Journeys of Dictionaries of National Biography

Edited by: Karen Fox
Publication date: April 2019
Dictionaries of national biography are a long-established and significant genre of biographical and historical writing, existing in many forms across the globe. This book brings together practitioners from around the English‑speaking world to reflect on national biographical dictionary projects’ recent cultural journeys, and the challenges presented to them by such developments as the transition to a digital environment, a new alertness to the need to represent diversity, and the rise of transnationalism. Exploring their paths forward, the chapters of this book collectively make a powerful argument for the continued value and importance of large‑scale collaborative biographical dictionary research.

Also Innovators »

How one computer salesman contributed to the digital revolution

Publication date: April 2019
‘Thank you for your order, Mr Mainframe Customer. The cost is £5 million and the lead-time for manufacture will be two years. In the meantime you will have to build a special computer centre to our specification. For our part, our project team will help you recruit and train potential programmers and we shall advise on how you might use the system.’ How different from today when the customer will want to see a specific application running before he puts a hand in his/her pocket. Chris Yardley lived the changes as a computer salesman and tells his story of a career living and working in five countries. Warts and all. The ecstasies, the heartbreaks and idiocies of major corporations.  His career was not a planned one. In a growing industry, opportunities presented themselves and Chris believes he grasped every one presented. Having written his story, he has had every chapter verified by at least one person who features in that narrative. His respondents have universally endorsed the facts with comments such as ‘Wow, I’d forgotten most of that’. ‘You have a fantastic memory.’ ‘I never knew before the full facts of what happened.’ ‘How have you remembered all the circumstances?’ ‘It really is a people business.’ This is the only book that has followed a computer sales career over almost 50 years.

A Doctor Across Borders »

Raphael Cilento and public health from empire to the United Nations

Publication date: February 2019
In his day, Raphael Cilento was one of the most prominent and controversial figures in Australian medicine. As a senior medical officer in the Commonwealth and Queensland governments, he was an active participant in public health reform during the inter-war years and is best known for his vocal engagement with public discourse on the relationship between hygiene, race and Australian nationhood. Yet Cilento’s work on tropical hygiene and social welfare ranged beyond Australia, especially when he served as a colonial medical officer in British Malaya and in the Mandated Territory of New Guinea. He also worked with the League of Nations Health Organization in the Pacific Islands and oversaw international social welfare programs for the United Nations. On one level, this professional mobility allowed ideas and practices of public health and government to circulate between colonial spaces of northern Australia, the Pacific Islands and Asia. On another, it meant that Cilento’s Pacific colonialism and colonial experience shaped his understanding of Australian national health and welfare. Rather than attempt a comprehensive biography of Cilento, this book instead uses this border-crossing career as a means to explore several material and discursive facets of Australia’s relationships to the Pacific and the world.