Australia is way behind comparable countries on the marriage equality debate, thanks largely to a failure of leadership.
Historically, Australians have been leaders rather than followers on progressing social issues. But more recently, our leaders have trailed behind public opinion.
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 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
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.
Australia’s first memorial to Indigenous service people.
Many of our public commemorations honour people and incidents that brought great harm to others. We need to look at what that says about us, and how we build more inclusive public memorials.
Judge May Lahey (left) with actor Jean Harlow in 1932.
The Cornell Daily Sun (digitally coloured image)
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
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
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.
Ben Hall and Tim Draxl in Only Heaven Knows
Queer life thrived in 1940s Sydney despite policing and prohibition, as a new production of the musical Only Heaven Knows demonstrates. But it was not to last.
A treaty would be an agreement that is rather like that of host and guest, with rights and responsibilities for each party.
Treaties have to be the foundation for constitutional recognition, not the reverse.
‘We cannot talk about building truthful relationships without being honest about the racialised realities of our social world.’
The result of the 1967 referendum may well have made Australia appear less racist, but it did not address the inherently racist nature of the Constitution.
People look out over an ornamental lake from behind a wrought iron fence at the Carlton Gardens.
State Library of Victoria
Melbourne is a product of British colonial planning policies to control public access and movement in Australian cities. This legacy still influences the use of public spaces today.
Australians are deeply attached to the cluster of beliefs and traditions we call the ‘Anzac legend’.
In 1960, historian Ken Inglis wondered if Anzac functioned as a secular religion in Australian society. In 2017, we can confidently answer: yes, it does.
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
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
We check the facts on how Australia's foreign aid spend has changed over time.
The Founding of Australia. By Capt. Arthur Phillip R.N. Sydney Cove, Jan. 26th 1788, Algernon Talmadge R.A, 1937.
State Library of NSW
The marking of our national day has long been fraught, and this year is no exception.
Some Aboriginal people and a number of other Australians see Australia Day as a day of mourning.
Protesting about Australia Day is a smokescreen to obscure the real problems that many Aboriginal Australians face today.
The 1850s gold rush in Victoria brought an influx of prospectors from China, seeking their fortunes.
National Museum of Australia
Historians may not be the media stars they were in the 1980s, but understanding our history remains vital to understanding ourselves.
William Westall’s drawing of the body of an Indigenous man shot at Blue Mud Bay (1803).
National Library of Australia
The English navigator had a habit of fair-mindedness. But did it affect the way he related to local Aboriginal people as he circumnavigated Australia?
Rose and Groote Eylandters Nertichunga, Machana and Nabia, Groote Eylandt, 1941.
Courtesy of SLNSW, Frederick Rose papers, Box 5
The book Red Professor: the Cold War Life of Fred Rose tells of a progressive anthropologist who was stymied by non-Indigenous people in powerful positions. Sadly, it's a narrative that still resonates today.
Clare Wright: one of many women historians carving a role as a public intellectual.
Compared to the male-dominated STEM disciplines and social sciences like philosophy and political science, Australian history has been remarkably feminised. Indeed there may be more women historians here than in the UK or US.