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News in the Menzies Centre for Australian Studies

Contested Histories and the Politics of Memory

shaghaiHelen Idle attended the 3rd Foundation for Australian Studies in China (FASIC) Conference from 22- 25 October 2015. Hosted by the Australian Studies Centre at East China Normal University, Shanghai. Convened by Professor David Walker, the inaugural BHP Biliton Chair of Australian Studies at Peking University.

Read her account of the trip here.




EASA Conference

Between 30 September and 3 October, Dr Peter Kilroy (the Menzies Centre’s British Academy Postdoctoral Fellow), attended the 13th Biennial European Association for Studies of Australia (EASA) conference in Veszprém, Hungary. Reflecting EASA’s partnership with the University of Pannonia in Veszprém and the bilingual Topos journal, this year’s theme was ‘Australian as Topos: The Transformation of Australian Studies’. This theme brought together a wide selection of papers on the poetics, politics and history of space and place in Australia and Australian/European relations. As well as plenary lectures by Dr Eva Papp (ANU), Dr Anthony Gall (Szent István University), Dr Nathaniel O’Reilly (Texas Christian University), and Dr Inez Baranay (Çanakkale Onsekiz Mart University), panels included ‘Remembering, Forgetting, Reconfiguring’, ‘Visual Representation and the Politics of Space’, ‘Australia and the European Imagination’, ‘Place Australia’, ‘Australianness, Land and Belonging’, ‘National hiStories’, ‘Crime, Guilt, Shame, and Reparation in Fictional Representation’, ‘Contexts, Insides, Outsides’, and ‘Indigenous Cultures, Settler Cultures and Legitimate Belonging’.

This was an invaluable opportunity to sample the wide diversity of Australian Studies scholarship across America, Australia and Europe, but also to consolidate the relationship between the Menzies Centre and the various other Australian Studies institutions across America, Australia and Europe (including Belgium, France, Hungary, Poland, Portugal, Spain and Turkey). Indeed, many conference attendees were familiar faces from last year’s relaunch of the Menzies Centre, as well as the 2014 EASA conference in Prato, Italy (co-hosted by Monash University), and the ASNEL/GASt ‘Postcolonial Justice’ conference in Berlin in the summer of 2014. Attendees also included Dr Nathaniel O’Reilly (Texas Christian University), a Visiting Research Fellow at the Menzies Centre, and Dr Julieanne Lamond (ANU), fresh from her recent Menzies Centre seminar.

Peter’s paper, ‘Dis-placing Australia: Topolitics and Torres Strait Documentary’, was based on his British Academy funded postdoctoral project (Screening the Torres Strait: Remediation and Documentary Film). It focused on the use of maps and the ‘mapping impulse’ (e.g. panoramas, atlases and aerial views) in Torres Strait documentaries, from Frank Hurley’s 1921 portmanteau travelogue, Pearls and Savages, up to today. Peter traced the history of such usage, arguing that, since the late 1980s, Torres Strait documentaries have shifted from representing the Strait as Australia’s passive margin to representing it as the periphery that redefines the centre, most obviously in the legacies of the ‘Mabo’ ruling, which has set a precedent for rethinking, remaking, or remapping the nation as a whole.

Peter’s paper formed part of the ‘Visual Representation and the Politics of Space’ panel, which included papers on the Mad Max franchise, on the relationship between topological philosophy and white Australian art practice, and a comparative art historical study of Australia and the Americas. Peter also chaired the ‘National hiStories’ panel, which included papers on Sarah Wills Howe, John Dunmore Lang, and Gough Whitlam, Cate Blanchett and John Williamson.

Peter will be visiting Berlin in November in order to interview the veteran Australian documentary filmmaker, Frances Calvert, and project activities will continue in London in 2016 with a retrospective of her work.

Cheltenham Literature Festival

'Carl Bridge spoke in a panel on ‘Gallipoli: Australia’s Western Front’ at the Cheltenham Literature Festival on 8 October. Other panellists were Rachel Billington whose new novel, Glory, is set during the campaign, and Peter Hart, from the Imperial War Museum, whose Gallipoli is a seminal history. Carl explained that the roots of the Australian Anzac myth were in the nineteenth century Bush legend and how and why Anzac Day in Australia had moved from marking personal grief at the loss of family members and friends to a celebration of the idealised national character with which all Australians might identify.  This transition was anticipated in Sir Sidney Nolan’s Gallipoli paintings in the 1960s and confirmed by prime minister Paul Keating’s words on the interment of the Australian Unknown Soldier in 1993, ‘He is all of them. And he is one of us’. The last of the Australians who landed at Anzac died in 1997.

Carl Bridge on Malcolm Turnbull's Prime ministerial coup

During the week commencing Monday 14 September 2015, Professor Carl Bridge covered the globe media-wise in commenting in the visual media on Malcolm Turnbull's Prime ministerial coup in Australia. He appeared on ITN News and Al-Jazeera on Monday, then on HuffPost Live (New-York based) and on China's equivalent to Newsnight, CCTV's World Insight on Tuesday. Mindbogglingly, the last has an estimated 500 million viewers. His line was that Turnbull, an ex merchant banker and media-friendly and savvy former leader of the Australian Republican Movement, will make a bid to ameliorate the damage caused by Abbott's hard-line budget and divisive social policies, thus trying to steal the political middle ground from Labor. He will also stress innovation and agility in the economy, where he will change the position rhetorically, though probably not materially, as we move towards next year's general election.

Professor Geoffrey Curgenven Bolton AO

Professor Geoffrey Curgenven Bolton AO, the founding Head of the Menzies Centre, 1982-85 (then called the Australian Studies Centre London), died aged 83 on the 4th of September in Western Australia. Professor Bolton was an eminent historian of Australia, Western Australia, north Queensland, and the British Empire and its legacy. He was also a great institution builder, fashioning not only our Centre, but the first history departments at Murdoch University and Edith Cowan University in Western Australia. He also founded and named the British Australian Studies Association. Those who knew him will remember with fondness his great learning, enthusiasm, gently ironic wit, and ambition for great works of all kinds.

For a moving obituary by Professor Ged Martin, see

Simon Sleight in Australia

MonashThe month of April saw the Centre's Dr Simon Sleight head to Australia on university business. The main objective of the trip was the completion of Children, Childhood and Youth in the British World, a co-edited collection (with Dr Shirleene Robinson, Macquarie University) for Palgrave Macmillan. This project, concluded amidst some very wild weather in Sydney, arose from collaboration facilitated by the award of a Rydon Fellowship in 2013 by the Menzies Centre, and the subsequent presence of Fellowship recipient Dr Robinson at King's. Simon also gave two public talks: a paper at the National Centre for Australian Studies at Monash (‘Juvenile city? Age and the early history of Melbourne’), hosted by Dr Agnieszka Sobocinska, and a lecture to second-year undergraduates in Sydney on ‘Children and childhood in colonial Australia’. As well as fulfilling these commitments, Simon also met with a number of colleagues: Professors Andrew May (Melbourne); Kate Darian-Smith (Melbourne); Christina Twomey (Monash); Keir Reeves (Federation University Australia); Richard White (Sydney) and Graeme Davison (Monash); and Drs Melissa Bellanta (ACU), Shirleene Robinson (Macquarie), Catie Gilchrist (Sydney) and Eureka Henrich (Leicester). Amidst a hectic schedule, a definite highlight was a bushwalking trip to see the Dharawal rock engravings in Sydney's Royal National Park. Simon's next overseas trip will take him in June to Vancouver for the biennial Society for the History of Childhood and Youth conference.

Ian Henderson returns from research leave 

Coffee1 MCAS Director Ian Henderson has returned from a productive research leave, having spent December and January in Australia researching work for his forthcoming edited collection Patrick White Beyond The Grave: New Critical Perspectives (Anthem Press, 2015). He also caught up with a range of Australian Studies researchers while in Australia, though spent much of his time happily locked away at the State Library of Victoria. After co-hosting a number of key MCAS events on his return—notably the Centre’s first ‘Conversations’ event on Financial Sector Reform—he is back and ready to go for our upcoming events associated with the British Museum, the Australia and New Zealand Festival of Arts, and the Origins Festival of First Nations. Many thanks to Simon Sleight for being a tremendous Acting Director while Ian was away. 

Arrival of Jolly Good Fellows

MCAS is currently hosting three fellows in addition to our three-year British Academy Postdoctoral Fellow Dr Peter Kilroy (Screening the Torres Strait). Menzies Fellow Eileen Chanin is researching the social history of Australia House; Menzies Fellow Kent Fedorowich (UWE) is here to work on ‘“Wallabies in the West Country”: Australian Soldiers in the West of England, 1916-20’; and Rydon Fellow Dr Harshan Kumarasingham is here to research  constitutional crises in Australia and elsewhere in the Commonwealth. Harshan will also deliver the 2015 Reese Lecture, marking the 40th anniversary of the Dismissal of the Whitlam government on Wednesday 23 September 2015. 

New Publication by Menzies Fellow Eileen Chanin

 AwakeningEileen Chanin and Steven Miller, Awakening: Four Lives in Art (Wakefield Press, 2015). 

This book is about four women born in Victoria, Australia, between 1867 and 1893 who lived through the changes which swept across life, culture and art during the early twentieth century. Four short biographies trace their parallel lives. From Rome, Dora Ohlfsen established a career as a celebrated sculptor. With Mussolini’s support, she became the only expatriate sculptor in Italy commissioned with a national war memorial. She was also the first to artistically commemorate the Anzacs - by making her Anzac Medal in Rome in 1916. This was a self-funded work made to benefit permanently disabled Anzacs, registered under the British War Charities Act, and issued in Britain and Australia. From Paris, Louise Dyer invigorated music publishing and recording, helping to transform musical culture world-wide. Her label Les Éditions de L’Oiseau-Lyre laid the foundations of the modern early music revival and helped shape the notion of ‘authenticity’ in musical performance. From London, Clarice Zander promoted cultural understanding as a curator and as the publicist for the Royal Academy. She pioneered the modern marketing of art and curated Australia’s first important exhibition of contemporary British art. From New York, Mary Cecil Allen, painter, critic, and educator, working at the centre of modern art, inspired many. She ran the first touring exhibition of contemporary Australian art in theUnited States. Modern women of the arts, they awoke to their full potential and created opportunities for others to do likewise.

Professor Carl Bridge published in The Australian & featured on BBC

Professor Carl Bridge's article Murdoch's Gallipoli letter a preamble to sovereignty on Murdoch's reporting of the Gallipoli offensive to prime minister Andrew Fisher was published in the Commentary section of The Australian on Sunday 20 April. Read the full article. 

He also appeared in the BBC2 programme Gallipoli: When Murdoch Went To War shown on 25 April. Watch the programme on iPlayer (available until 24 May).

CLASH Fellowship success!

SheridaneditThe Menzies Centre is delighted to announce that our very own Sheridan Humphreys has been awarded one of only 12 CLASH Fellowships across the KCL/UCL/SAS partnership at the University of London.

The Collaborative Learning in the Arts, Society and the Humanities (CLASH) programme is funded by the Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC), and the highly competitive fellowships create an opportunity to work on a project with clear public engagement aims in collaboration with a London-based museum, cultural or heritage organisation. Sheridan's partner-organisation is KCL's Cultural Institute.

Her project is 'Writing Indigenous Characters for the Screen'

Currently Undertaking a PhD by Creative Practice, Sheridan is writing a screenplay based on the true stories of the first Australians who came to the UK, 1800-1860. With the support of staff from the Cultural Institute at King’s, Sheridan will run a series of masterclasses for screenwriters (as opposed to novel writers) interested in exploring and developing characters outside their own cultural background. Sheridan’s audience will be screenwriters who are working on or wish to write stories about the Commonwealth/colonial diaspora and forgotten histories. Her workshops will focus on how writers can explore character journeys and dialogue for people who have not been written into what we know as “history”, whose stories are on the margins.

Dr Ian Henderson is new Director of the Menzies Centre

Dr Ian HendersonFrom September 2014, Dr Ian Henderson became the new Director of the Menzies Centre. His tenure will run for three years, to August 2017 and he already has many ambitious plans for the centre, including an MCAS Live symposium in October to relaunch the centre and celebrate the centre's 15 years at King's.

You can read Ian's new Director's Blog  here.

Or follow him on twitter @OzOnStrand


Dr Peter Kilroy wins British Academy Postdoctoral Fellowship

Image of Peter KilroyDr Peter Kilroy has been awarded a prestigious British Academy Postgraduate Fellowship for his project Screening the Torres Strait: Remediation and Documentary Film (1989-) and will be joining the Menzies Centre for Australian Studies and the Department of Film Studies from September 2014. The project will explore the proliferation of documentary films by or about Australia's 'other' Indigenous minority, Torres Strait Islanders, after the Australian bicentenary of 1988. It will focus on these films' politically charged re-use or 'remediation' of archive film and media within the wider context of Indigenous cultural politics and national refashioning. Aimed at readers across Australian Cultural Studies, Australian Indigenous Studies and Postcolonial Film and Media Theory, it will trace the relationship between the rhetorical style of these films and their broader cultural, political and legal contexts, and between their use of archive film and media and the incorporation of both within new media.

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