Articles on Australian history

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George Hamilton, Meeting natives on the Campaspi plains, Victoria, June 1836. National Library of Australia

Noble horses and ‘black monsters’: the politics of colonial compassion

George Hamilton published An Appeal for the Horse in 1866, a defence of animal welfare well ahead of its time. However, his compassion for Aboriginal people was conspicuously lacking.
Paul Uhlmann, Batavia 4th June 1629 (night of my sickness), 2017, oil on canvas (detail, one of three panels). Courtesy of the artist

Picturing the unimaginable: a new look at the wreck of the Batavia

The shipwreck of the Batavia and subsequent murders of 115 men, women and children have inspired many retellings. A new exhibition combines art and science to find new angles on an old tale.
Louis XVI giving final instructions to the Comte de La Perouse in 1785, before La Perouse embarked on his fateful expedition to the Southern Hemisphere. State Library of NSW

The mystery of the La Pérouse expedition survivors: wrecked in Torres Strait?

The French La Pérouse expedition left Botany Bay in 1788, and then vanished, rumoured to be wrecked in the Solomon Islands. But an Indian newspaper article might reveal the fate of its survivors.
Aboriginal dancers from Pinjarra perform at the unveiling of the counter-memorial in Esplanade Park, Fremantle, April 9 1994. Courtesy Bruce Scates

Monumental errors: how Australia can fix its racist colonial statues

A Fremantle monument to three white explorers was revised in 1994 to acknowledge the violence committed against Indigenous owners. As Australia struggles to reconcile its racist past, perhaps this monument shows a way forward.
Judge May Lahey (left) with actor Jean Harlow in 1932. The Cornell Daily Sun (digitally coloured image)

Meet the woman who can lay claim to being Australia’s first female judge

Dame Roma Mitchell is remembered as Australia's first female judge. But Queenslander May Lahey beat her to the punch when she became a judge in Los Angeles in 1928. Her lack of recognition is symptomatic of how Australia remembers expats, particularly women.
Detail from Percy Leason, Thomas Foster, 1934, oil on canvas, 76.0 x 60.8 cm, State Library Victoria, Melbourne. Gift of Mrs Isabelle Leason, 1969 (H32094) © Max Leason

Friday essay: painting ‘The Last Victorian Aborigines’

Anthropologist Percy Leason thought he was painting the extinction of Victoria's Indigenous people in the 1930s. He was wrong, but his portraits, part of a new exhibition at the National Gallery of Victoria, are surprisingly sympathetic.
Delegates to the Australasian Federation Conference, Melbourne, 1890, where being white, male and bearded was standard form. National Library of Australia

How Australia became a nation, and women won the vote

This year is the 120th anniversary of the Australasian Federal Convention through which, with rancour, prejudices and vested interests, the Australian nation was eventually born.
Gone are the days when we were told to suck out a snake’s venom. So what’s the current treatment and how have treatments changed over time? State Library of NSW/Hood

Hissstory: how the science of snake bite treatments has changed

Snake bite treatments have changed remarkably over the past 200 years. But most, if not all, made sense in their historical context.
Was World Vision Australia chief advocate Tim Costello right to say that Australia’s foreign aid spending was at its highest under Menzies, at 0.5% of gross national income? AAP Image/Royal Australian Air Force, CPL Jessica de Rouw

FactCheck: What are the facts on Australia’s foreign aid spending?

We check the facts on how Australia's foreign aid spend has changed over time.

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