News in the Menzies Centre for Australian Studies
Dr Peter Kilroy wins British Academy Postdoctoral Fellowship
Dr 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. 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.
Eileen Chanin appointed Rydon Fellow
Eileen Chanin, a Sydney-based historian and writer, joins the Menzies Centre for three months from mid-April as a Rydon Fellow. Her most recent book, on Australian civilians caught up in an early episode in the Indonesia-Malaysia Confrontation, Limbang Rebellion: 7 Days in December 1962, was co-published in Australia, Singapore and the United Kingdom. Earlier books include Book Life: The Life and Times of David Scott Mitchell (1836–1907) and Degenerates and Perverts: The 1939 Herald Exhibition of French and British Contemporary Art. Awards for her books include the 2011 Alex Buzo Prize and the 2005 New South Wales Premier’s Literary Awards Australia Australian History Prize. She has a PhD from the University of New South Wales, where she teaches at the College of Fine Arts. At the Menzies Centre Eileen is collaborating with Professor Carl Bridge on a ‘biography’ of Australia House in London to mark its centenary in 2018.
Anzac Turns 100: Commemorating Australia’s First World War
Professor Carl Bridge addressed a seminar of government officials from Australia, the United Kingdom, Canada, South Africa and New Zealand on ‘Considering Commemoration’ organised by the Foreign and Commonwealth Office in their Whitehall building on 10 April.
Australia plans to spend $A300m commemorating a century of Anzac, under the rubric ‘The Spirit Lives’, with, among other things: a travelling exhibition, scholarships and conferences, documentaries, commissioned music and plays, a re-enactment of the first troopships’ departure from Albany, Western Australia, and a scheme for refurbishing and enhancing the nation’s war memorials. This programme is the most ambitious of those planned by the other countries involved in the seminar and reflects the unique centrality of the Anzac tradition in Australian national consciousness.
In tracing the history of Anzac commemoration since 1915, Professor Bridge pointed out the changing demography of grief – since about 1990 most Australians do not have face-to-face memories of parents and grandparents who fought in or lived through the world wars – and consequently wider national and patriotic elements now predominate. This is evident in the Australian War Memorial erected at Hyde Park Corner in London in 2003 where towns, cities and campaigns are named rather than the 102,000 individuals who sacrificed their lives. The ubiquity of place now trumps the singularity of direct experience.
As bellwethers, Professor Bridge cited Prime Minister Paul Keating at the interment of the Australian Unknown Soldier in Canberra in 1993, who said ‘He is one of them. And he is all of us’; and the Australian novelist George Johnston who, as early as 1965, wrote presciently that Anzac had become a ‘myth for all mankind’.
Eureka Henrich appointed 2014 Rydon Fellow
Eureka's interests lie in the history of migration to, from, and within Australia, the display of migration histories in museums, memorials and heritage sites, and the connection between these representations and constructions of personal, communal and national identity.
Sheridan Humphreys becomes Menzies Centre for Australian Studies Administrator
Sheridan will be organising the Centre's seminar series and small events, as well as keeping those interested in the Centre up to date with regular emails.
Dr Simon Sleight interviewed by ABC on how Victorian children in Melbourne fought for their playgrounds
Simon Sleight was recently interviewed by ABC in Sydney about the forgotten history of young people in Melbourne. Red the interview and listen to the podcast on the ABC website .
Professor Carl Bridge speaks to the BBC on the Australian Election
Professor Bridge appeared on two BBC radio programmes on Saturday 7 September, to discuss the result of the Australian election. You can listen to the broadcasts here:
BBC World Service - Newshour (at 7:00 and 27:40)
BBC Radio Four - Saturday PM (at 12.50)
The Overthrow of Australian Prime Minster Julia Gillard
Professor Bridge appeared on Monocle24 Radio's 'Globalist Asia' programme on Wednesday 26 June to comment on Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard's overthrow in her own Australian Labor Party room by rival Kevin Rudd.
Find the programme on Monocle24 Radio. Professor Bridge also wrote an analysis for The FInancial TImes, 'Gillard and the Rise, Fall and Rise Again of Australian Politicians', Comment, 27 June 2013.
Dr Mann's TV appearance on BBC1 show Heir Hunters
Dr Jatinder Mann was interviewed in an episode of the BBC1 show Heir Hunters a year ago and the episode was aired on 27 March 2013 (Series 17, Episode 18). He spoke about British migration to Australia in the post-Second World War period, or as it was more commonly known: ‘The Ten Pound Pom Scheme’.
Australian Bicentennial Scholarships & Fellowships 2013/14
The Australian Bicentennial Scholarships and Fellowships is a one-off award of up to £4,000 to enable UK postgraduate students or academic staff to undertake research/study in Australia for a minimum of 3 months. Also open to Australian postgraduate students/academic staff wishing to come to the UK.
Applications for the 2013/14 award scheme are now open, until 19 April 2013. Further details are available on our ABSF webpages.
Ex-pats voting in Britain could be decisive
Dr Jatinder Mann, a Postdoctoral Research Fellow in the Menzies Centre, said to the Sydney Morning Herald that if the election is tight, the ex-pats votes could be crucial. He also told AAP: ''As we found in the last election it really does come down to a few marginal seats, so UK votes could very well contribute to the final result in certain seats. Every vote will count .''
2013 Spring Term events now online
Our public events for the coming term are now listed here. Further details about individual speakers and seminar topics will follow shortly.
The Menzies Lecture, 2012
‘From Botany Bay to Breathing Planet: reflections on plant diversity and global sustainabilty’, this year’s Menzies Lecture, was delivered by Professor Stephen D. Hopper AC FLS FTSE, Director of the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew, on 13 June in the Safra Lecture Theatre to a large and appreciative audience.
Professor Hopper was previously Director of Kings Park and a Professor of Botany at the University of Western Australia. In an inspiring, wide-ranging and profusely-illustrated exposition, Hopper told the story of the evolution of Australian botany from the First Fleet to the present in global context.
Sir Joseph Banks and his collaborators scoured the world for plants to feed scientific and medical advance in the service of empire. Yet, as Hopper reminded us, these plants already had Aboriginal names and uses, many of which we are only now rediscovering to our potential benefit.
The two great threats to global sustainability today – rapid population growth and accelerated climate change – can be met in part by maintaining and nurturing plant diversity. Today, a fifth of plant species are threatened by deforestation and other land use conflict; fully 85 per cent of land-based carbon is unprotected. We cannot afford to lose these species and forests.
He pointed out that 80 per cent of the world’s food consumption is based on only twelve crops whereas there are 300,000 edible species. A central challenge is to arrest plant species extinction and to widen our consumption base. Yook, a native tuber which is part of the traditional Aboriginal diet, might, for instance, become commercial crops, and can be grown without depleting the environment or using excessive amounts of water.
The study of biodiversity is in its infancy and its development is literally a vital necessity. The world’s 2574 botanic gardens are central to this endeavour as storehouses and exchanges, for example in the Millennium Seed Bank at Kew, which will hold a quarter of the world’s known seed types by 2020. With a will, pollution and depletion can be reversed, and then sustainability and a Breathing Planet achieved. The Thames and many more of the world’s rivers are cleaner now than a century ago; South Korea, in 2009, began its Green New Deal to clean up and better manage its water resources, conserve its forests and provide 960,000 jobs, all at a cost of US$38.1 bn. Global sustainability rests on conserving biodiversity. This, Hopper said, can and must be achieved.
British High Commission in Canberra, Witness Seminar
The Menzies Centre for Australian Studies (Professor Carl Bridge), in partnership with the Institute of Contemporary British History (Dr Michael Kandiah), the Foreign and Commonwealth Office Historians (Professor Patrick Salmon) and the Arts and Humanities Research Council, held a half-day Witness Seminar in the India Office Council Chamber at the FCO on 8 November on the Role and Functions of the British High Commission in Canberra.
Session One ‘The Whitlam, Fraser & Hawke Years’ was chaired by Professor Bridge and the speakers were Gavin Hewitt CMG, First Secretary 1973-78, Charles Cullimore CMG, Deputy High Commissioner 1982-86, and Dr Peter Collecott CMG, First Secretary (Economic, Commercial, Agriculture) 1982-86.
Session Two ‘The Keating & Howard Years’ was chaired by David Fitton, Acting Head of the Pacific Department, FCO, and speakers were Sir Brian L. Barder KCMG, High Commissioner 1991-1994, Sir Roger J. Carrick KCMG, LVO, High Commissioner 1994-1997, Hon. Sir Alexander Allan, KCB, High Commissioner 1997-1999, Rt Hon the Lord Goodlad KCMG, High Commissioner 1999-2005, and the Rt Hon the Baroness Liddell of Coatdyke, High Commissioner 2005-2009.
Some 50 attended a very lively and wide-ranging afternoon’s discussion all of which was recorded and will be published in due course by the ICBH.
SPEARING THE GOVERNOR
Professor Carl Bridge is featured in a video clip in the Natural History Museum’s current First Fleet Collection exhibition which displays the extraordinarily vivid art produced by the early colonists and convicts. Besides some of the first depictions of kangaroos and kookaburras are two intriguing paintings of the spearing of Governor Arthur Phillip at Manly Cove on the north shore of Sydney Harbour. Each constitutes a visual whodunnit and a piece of compelling ethnography. See the clips on the Natural History Museum website and YouTube.
Australian Bicentennial Scholarships & Fellowships 2012/13
The Australian Bicentennial Scholarships and Fellowships is a one-off award of up to £4,000 to enable UK postgraduate students or academic staff to undertake research/study in Australia for a minimum of 3 months. Also open to Australian postgraduate students/academic staff wishing to come to the UK. Applications for the 2012/13 award scheme are now open, until 5 April 2012. Further details are available on our ABSF webpages.
Professor Carl Bridge speaks to BBC World News
To mark Australia Day, on 26 January 2012, Professor Carl Bridge was interviewed on BBC World News to discuss the importance of the day. He also gave his reaction to the actions of the protesters marking the 40th anniversary of the Aboriginal tent embassy.
Professor Carl Bridge delivers the Keith Cameron Lecture, University College Dublin
The 2012 Rydon Fellow At 4pm on Thursday 8 December 2011, Professor Carl Bridge delivered the annual Keith Cameron Lecture in the Australian Studies Centre, School of History and Archives, University College Dublin. His subject was 'Billy Hughes versus Daniel Mannix, 1916-20: Two Kinds of Australian Patriotism'.
Drawing on his new biography of Hughes and recent research on Mannix he argued that while Prime Minister Hughes may have lost the two military conscription referenda and Archbishop Mannix may have defeated him, Hughes secured majority support for participating in the Great War itself and delivered a series of economically crucial trade deals.
Furthermore, Mannix’s ‘Australian’ nationalism was rather Irish nationalism in disguise and its wide influence had more to do with its chiming with the difficult financial situation of the Australian working class than any sectarian turn. Australians, then, fought the war on their own terms.
The lecture will be submitted for publication in an academic journal in due course.
2012 Rydon Fellowship
T he 2012 Rydon Fellow is Dr Keir Reeves, a cultural historian and heritage practitioner. He comes to the Menzies Centre on leave from his substantive a Senior Monash Research Fellow and Director of the Australia International Tourism Research Unit at the National Centre for Australian Studies, Monash University. Keir is collaborating with a number of UK-based researchers on studies of battlefield pilgrimage, commemoration and visitation. Alongside this research, he is at the Menzies Centre as a Bicentennial Fellow researching overseas representations of Anzac Day, cultural heritage and Australian history, on an Australian Research Council Project with Professor Carl Bridge and Dr Simon Sleight.
by Jaya Savige
Introduced by Dr Ian Henderson, Lecturer with the Menzies Centre.
Jaya Savige, who grew up in Queensland, won awards for his first collection of poetry, latecomers (2006). He subsequently became poetry editor of the Australian Literary Review and is currently a Gates Scholar at the University of Cambridge.
Listen to the reading on the British Museum website
The Menzies Lecture for 2011
At 6 pm on Wednesday 8 June in the Old Anatomy Lecture Theatre the Premier of Western Australia, the Hon. Colin Barnett MLA, delivered this session’s Menzies Lecture to an attentive audience of about a hundred. Mr Barnett’s most timely subject was ‘More than China’s Quarry: Western Australia’.
Image: ‘Mrs Kerry Sanderson, Agent-General for Western Australia, the Hon. Colin Barnett, Premier of Western Australia, Professor Arthur Lucas, chairman of the Menzies Centre Supervisory Board, and Professor Carl Bridge, Head of the Menzies Centre for Australian Studies, before the Menzies Lecture for 2011’
The Lecture was introduced by Professor Arthur Lucas, chairman of the Menzies Centre Supervisory Board, and the vote of thanks was moved by the Principal, Professor Sir Richard Trainor. Mr Barnett began by pointing out that as Australian prime minister in the 1950s and 1960s, Robert Menzies was prescient in seeing Australia’s economic future as tied to Asia and negotiated a path-breaking trade treaty with former enemy Japan as early as 1957.
In a wide-ranging and extremely well-documented lecture, Mr Barnett argued that Western Australia now looked more over the horizon to Asia for its economic future than to any other quarter of the globe. Historically, his state had had three ‘game changing’ moments: the gold rushes of the 1890s, the discovery of the world’s largest iron ore deposits in the Pilbara in the 1960s, and the enormous mineral expansion of the last two decades, with its important finds of natural gas and iron ore, but also oil, alumina, nickel, rutile, diamonds and gold. He cited a number of mid-blowing statistics: 70 per cent of Australia’s exports to China, Australia’s main trading partner, are from Western Australia; 80 per cent of Chinese investment in Australia is in that state; Chinese steel production will require a doubling of Western Australia’s iron ore production in the next decade; there are two billion Asians in Western Australia’s time zone; nearly half of the Commonwealth’s nations are on the Indian Ocean littoral, making this year’s CHOGM in Perth an important showcase meeting; 90 per cent of the world’s mining software is developed in Perth; the liquefied natural gas field at Gorgon, off the Western Australian coast, is Australia’s largest ever (at AUD$43 bn); and there are over AUD$300 bn worth of projects in the investment pipeline over the next five years.
He mentioned the importance of government guarantees for making these projects attractive, of the need to have infrastructure built by the investors which will ultimately benefit the regions, and of the vital necessity of sound state-federal relations in getting the most out of the opportunities offered, not only for Western Australia but for Australia as a whole. We were also told something of Western Australia’s other products: its natural beauty; wheat and wool; rock art heritage; Margaret River’s premium wines (some of which we drank at the post-Lecture reception); and the big science in prospect in the shape of the bid for the Square Kilometre Array radio telescope.
The lecture was laced with anecdotes drawn from the Premier’s own experience, family tales of Menzies, and some shrewd observations about doing business with the Chinese state. All of those who heard Mr Barnett’s lecture went away not only entertained but authoritatively briefed on a key aspect of the global economy.
Makers of the Modern World: The peace conferences 1919-23 and their aftermath
By Carl Bridge
The First World War marked the emergence of the Dominions on the world stage as independent nations, none more so than Australia. The country’s sacrifice at Gallipoli in 1915, and the splendid combat record of Australian troops on the Western Front not only created a national awakening at home, but also put Great Britain in their debt, ensuring them greater influence at the Peace Conferences.
Australia was represented at Versailles by the Prime Minister, the colourful Billy Hughes, whom Woodrow Wilson called ‘a pestiferous varmint’ after their repeated clashes over Australia’s claims to the Pacific Islands its troops had taken from Germany during the War. Hughes was also the most vociferous (though by no means at all the only) opponent of the racial equality clause put forward by Japan. Indeed, it was fear of Japanese expansion that drove Australia’s territorial demands in the Pacific.
Read a great review from Inside Story. http://inside.org.au/billy-hughes-and-the-end-of-an-empire/
'Well researched and annotated, with a useful chronology setting Hughes’s life in its historical context, Carl Bridge’s 130-page octavo-size hardback biography of Billy Hughes is a lively portrait of, arguably, the most formidable, most amusing, most Australian of our prime ministers.'
- Inside Story
AuthorCarl Bridge was interviewed on ANZAC Day, Monday 25th April, on Good Morning Wales, BBC Radio Wales and on the Roy Noble Programme on 22nd April.
Full details can be found on the publisher's website
A Little History of the Australian Labor Party
by Nick Dyrenfurth &
The Australian Labor Party is one of the oldest labour parties and was the first in the world to form a government. 2011 marks its 120th birthday. This short and lively book tells the story of the ALP’s numerous successes in winning government at all levels and making policy that has transformed lives. The book also shows how the ALP has attracted an extraordinary range of members, parliamentary representatives, leaders, unionists, activists and, indeed, opponents. Whether their audience are Labor voters or not, writers Nick Dyrenfurth and Frank Bongiorno argue that it has been such a central force in Australia throughout the twentieth century that its history should be known.
Full details can be found on the publisher's website
Tim Causer Awarded his Doctorate
On Wednesday 19 January 2011 at a King's College London ceremony at the Barbican Dr Tim Causer graduated PhD. Tim has been as AHRC-funded scholar at the Menzies Centre for Australian Studies for the apst three years, completing a thesis entitled 'Only a place fit for angels and eagles: the Norfolk Island penal settlement, 1825-1855'. Tim is now working as a Research Associate at the Bentham Project at University College London.
The Best Australian Essays 2010
January 2011 ‘I wanted to showcase those subjects which thoughtful and talented writers were absorbed by in this particular year; Indeed (I thought), wouldn’t it be good to show what this country, and its culture, was about in 2010? This is how the editor of the Best Australian Essays 2010, the novelist and short story writer Robert Drewe, explained his purposes in compiling and editing the collection.
The Centre can also claim paternity over another essay in the collection. ‘Patrick White’s London’, by Sydney Morning Herald journalist and White biographer, David Marr, also appears in the volume. Patrick White was the winner of the 1973 Nobel Prize for Literature, the first Australian to be so honoured. In his essay, Marr tells the story of White’s years in London in the 1930s and 1940s, and the important place that the city retained in his life and literary imagination even after his return to Australia in the late 1940s. The text is based on Marr’s 2010 Menzies Lecture, delivered in London in June as part of the Patrick White: Modernist Impact, Critical Futures conference, which was convened by Ian Henderson and Anouk Lang (University of Birmingham) on behalf of the Menzies Centre, in partnership with the Institute of English Studies, University of London, and the Lincoln Britain-Australia Trust. This major international conference was also supported by Australian literature at the University of Sydney and the British Australian Studies Association. Fur further information about Best Australian Essays 2010, see http://www.blackincbooks.com/books/best-australian-essays-2010
Menzies Fellow 2010: Journalism, War, Sport and Biography
Dr David Dunstan of the National Centre for Australian Studies at Monash University is the Menzies Fellow for 2010. Together with Carl Bridge and Robert Crawford, David edited and contributed to Australians in Britain: the Twentieth Century Experience (Monash ePress, 2009). He is following up with further research into Australian journalists in Britain after 1945. Together with Carl Bridge, David is working on a book of Australian newspaper cartoons from the Second World War. His essay jointly written with Dr Tom Heenan of Monash University ‘Just a Boy From Bowral’ on Sir Donald Bradman will appear in the forthcoming Cambridge Companion to Cricket in 2011. David is chair of the Victorian Working Party of the Australian Dictionary of Biography and a contributor. The ADB is free online at http://adbonline.anu.edu.au/
Dr Ian Henderson on BBC Radio 4 Woman's House
September 2010 On 13 September 2010 Dr Ian Henderson appeared BBC Radio 4 Woman's Hour discussing Joan Lindsay's classic Australian novel 'Picnic at Hanging Rock' (1967) with Professor Elizabeth Schafer (Royal Holloway) and presenter Jane Garvey. Woman's Hour will also include a dramatisation of the novel over the whole week. The novel tells of a party of schoolgirls who go missing in the Australian bush after a picnic on St Valentine's Day 1900. It was adapted as a film in 1975, directed by Peter Weir, famous for its haunting depictions of the Australian landscape. Listen again
Menzies Centre moves to King's Strand Campus
September 2010 The Menzies Centre for Australian Studies has relocated to the Strand Campus at King's. The academic staff offices can be found on Level 6 of the King's Building and the Departmental Office is located in S 8.05, Level 8 of the Strand Building. Download directions to the Menzies Centre.
Menzies research associate wins Serle Award
August 2010 Dr Simon Sleight (pictured), a research associate with the Menzies Centre for Australian Studies, has won a prestigious award for his doctoral thesis on Melbourne’s youth cultures. In his thesis, ‘The Territories of Youth: Young People and Public Space in Melbourne, c. 1870-1901’, Dr Sleight explored young people’s outdoor activities, offering fresh insights on subjects including larrikin gangs, youthful consumerism, street-based play and children’s autonomy. Now the Australian Historical Association has recognised the study by deeming it worthy of the biennial Serle Award for the best postgraduate thesis in Australian history. Judges Professor Stuart Macintyre and Dr Julia Martinez praised the work as an ‘original and sophisticated study of Melbourne's urban history’, continuing that ‘[Dr Sleight’s] elegant prose evokes the people and townscapes from refreshing and subversive perspectives ... His work combines a remarkably lucid use of historical and sociological theory with an impressive diversity of archival sources ranging from cartoons, photographs and paintings to police records citing child offences on the streets and in the parks of Melbourne’. The thesis – currently being re-worked into book format – speaks to modern concerns regarding youthful violence in cities and the ‘islanding’ of children into separate locations where adult surveillance is routine.
Dr Sleight would like to thank his Monash supervisors, Professor Graeme Davison and Dr Christina Twomey, for their expert guidance, and the UK-based Northcote Trust for its generous financial support. Asked to comment further on the accolade, Dr Sleight said ‘I am thrilled – to have scooped this prize is a huge honour. The study of young people’s experiences is a neglected theme in history writing, and I hope this award will open the door to future research projects and encourage others to try to understand societies past and present from the vital perspective of youth.’
Reese Lecture 2010: Broadsheets, Broadcasts & Botany Bay
May 2010 ‘Broadsheets, Broadcasts & Botany Bay: History in the Australian Media’ was the subject of this year’s Trevor Reese Memorial Lecture by Associate Professor Bridget Griffen-Foley, Australia’s leading media historian. The lecture is an annual event of the Menzies Centre for Australian Studies, King’s College London, in association with the Institute of Commonwealth Studies. One of two major public lectures organised annually by the Menzies Centre, it is held in honour of Dr Reese, a distinguished historian of the British Commonwealth and Australia and Reader at the Institute of Commonwealth Studies.
Speaking to an audience of about 60 in the Downer Room of Australia House on 27 May, Dr Griffen-Foley, the author of several books on Australian media history (and most recently Changing Stations: The Story of Australian Commercial Radio), emphasised the influential role played by newspapers, radio and television in presenting Australians with stories about their past. In the era before the ‘Tele-don’, there were academics who appeared regularly in the media, just as there were journalists, publicists and popular authors who used the then new media of radio to present Australian history for popular consumption. Some of this work was well-researched and even willing to explore subjects such as settler violence towards Aboriginals that many academic historians tended to avoid or underplay.
Dr Griffen-Foley’s lecture paid particular attention to the contributions on print and on the airwaves of Frank Clune, whose contributions to the research, presentation and popularisation of Australian history have been mainly ignored. At a time when many of the voices heard over the Australian Broadcasting Commission (ABC) bore more than a passing resemblance to those heard on the BBC, the ABC’s managing director complimented Clune that his material did not need ‘a silky Oxford accent’: ‘We want a He-Man’s voice: perhaps you may have it.’
The lecture revealed that the ubiquitous 1970s-80s historical TV mini-series, the more recent presentation of Australian history on television through such reality shows as The Colony and Outback House, and the continuing presentation of high-quality historical documentaries on both Australian radio and television – and particularly the ABC – are part of a much longer tradition.
The lecture will shortly be available in published form. Enquiries to firstname.lastname@example.org
The Queen presented with book by Menzies historians to mark Anglo-Australian centenary
February 2010 On 18 February 2010 in the Australian High Commission, the Australian Minister for Foreign Affairs, Stephen Smith, in the presence of Her Majesty the Queen and the Duke of Edinburgh, launched The High Commissioners: Australia’s Representatives in the United Kingdom, 1910–2010. The Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs, David Miliband, was also present at the function to celebrate 100 years of British-Australian diplomatic relations. The presence of Rolf Harris also created much excitement among the academics in attendance.
The book, edited by Professor Carl Bridge, Dr Frank Bongiorno and a colleague in Australia, Dr David Lee, marks the centenary of the arrival in England of the first Australian High Commissioner to London, Sir George Reid, early in 1910. Reid’s posting began what is today Australia’s oldest diplomatic mission. The High Commissioners was published by the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade and produced in partnership with the Menzies Centre for Australian Studies, King’s College London.
The publication traces the history of the office of Australian High Commissioner in London and illuminates the larger story of Anglo-Australian relations in the twentieth century, the evolution of Australia from British colony to independent nation, and the transition of the United Kingdom from imperial power to European Union member. It is also a collective biography of twenty-two individuals, including former prime ministers and ministers, public servants and professional diplomats, who each faced the challenge of projecting Australia’s image and representing the national interest in one of the world’s most important capitals.
The book brought together 13 authors from Australia, the United Kingdom and Europe who between them covered every phase in the history of British-Australian relations since the early twentieth century. Professor Bridge wrote on the longest-serving High Commissioner, Stanley Melbourne Bruce, a former conservative prime minister who occupied the office from the early 1930s until after the Second World War, while Dr Bongiorno covered John Beasley, his immediate successor, a former government minister and Labor appointee.
The High Commissioners also contains a chapter on the history of the building, written by another Menzies centre historian, Dr Simon Sleight. Australia House, among its many other distinctions, is well known as the interior of Gringotts Wizarding Bank in Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone. Simon also reports in his chapter that in 1925 ‘a large and boisterous group of King’s College undergraduate “raggers” invaded the Australia House Cinema after the Lord Mayor’s Show that year’. A returned soldier, however, bravely defended the building, threw several students to the ground and dispersed them from the stage. According to one member of the High Commission staff, ‘Some of the students got souvenirs ... and none of them is likely to forget Australia in a hurry’. The evening itself was a more orderly affair.
A video clip of the editors’ presentation of the book to the Queen may be found at http://www.royal.gov.uk/MonarchAndCommonwealth/Australia/Australia.aspx