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There are thousands of entries of famous, notorious, and almost unknown Australians in the Australian Dictionary of Biography. Sir Donald Bradman and Larry Adler, AAP Image/Universal Music

The art and graft of the Australian Dictionary of Biography

The Australian Dictionary of Biography (ADB) is Australia’s largest and longest-running social sciences and humanities project. Set up in 1957, it has been publishing short accounts of significant and…
Despite what the protesters' sign says, it remains to be seen how regional Australia accepts refugees under the proposed safe haven enterprise visa scheme. AAP/Newzulu/Lesly Lotha

Refuge and morality in Australia, from lost at sea to lost on land

Australia has long had an obsession with migration law and national boundaries. Currently, it appears in the Migration and Maritime Powers Legislation Amendment (Resolving the Asylum Legacy Caseload) Bill…
The breastplate given to ‘U. Robert King of the Big River and Big Leather Tribes’ by an unknown settler at Goonal station. Photo Dragi Markovic, National Museum of Australia

A breastplate reveals the story of an Australian frontier massacre

The flood of coverage of the centenary of Gallipoli and the first world war profoundly shapes the way we think of Australia’s history; but we suppress other violent events in our own country that also…
An image of Australian shearers taken on glass plate negative is now preserved in a digital collection. Powerhouse Museum Collection/Flickr

Historic collections could be lost to ‘digital dinosaurs’

Australian’s museums, galleries and other cultural institutions must adopt more of a digital strategy with their collections if they are to remain relevant with audiences. Only about a quarter of the collections…
Today’s young Australians are the smiling symbols of the embrace of multicultural identity, the nation’s defining moment. Flickr/DIBP Images, Faces of Australia

Modern Australia’s defining moment came long after First Fleet

The culture wars that dominated the narrative during John Howard’s prime ministership have returned with the ascension of his self-described “political love child”, Tony Abbott. While Abbott is sometimes…
Scrapbook, G. Roberts (John Garibaldi), Book 7 Vol. 7a. Museum Victoria, courtesy of State Library of Victoria

Ten kilos of first world war grief at the Melbourne Museum

The Melbourne Museum’s World War I: Love & Sorrow exhibition, which opens this weekend, explores the various experiences of Victorians in the Great War, and the war’s effects on them. Museums have…
When did the name ‘Australia’ first appear on a map? It may be much earlier than historians had previously believed. Phillip Clarke

Putting ‘Australia’ on the map

Matthew Flinders, who died just over 200 years ago, is widely credited with giving this country its name: Australia. Flinders preferred Australia to the more commonly used Terra Australis as he thought…
Nicholas Clements' The Black War sheds new light on the long and bloody war between colonists and Aboriginal people in Tasmania in the early 19th century. Crop of Governor Davey's Proclamation to the Aborigines, Wikimedia Commons

Noted works: The Black War

Nicholas Clements, The Black War: Fear, Sex and Resistance in Tasmania (2014, University of Queensland Press). In the heat of commemoration of Australians’ involvement in the first world war, it’s timely…
A new book on the battle of Fromelles adds to both what we know and how we should be wary of the battle’s popular legend. AAP/Christopher James

Book review: The Lost Legions of Fromelles

Almost exactly 98 years ago, the Fromelles legend goes, the 5th Australian Division was thrown into battle by stupid British generals and slaughtered. Overnight, 5500 men were killed or wounded: supposedly…
The Apology of 2008 demonstrated how symbolic actions have powerful practical consequences for reconciliation. AAP/Julian Smith

Indigenous recognition in our highest law is the right thing to do

Later this year, we expect to see draft recommendations from a parliamentary committee on recognising Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples in the Australian constitution and ensuring there is…
Migrants were necessary for Australia’s national survival – a purpose that was readily understood. Harrison Webster

Australia’s post-war migration was a success, let’s admit it

Most social scientists in Australian universities are left-leaning in their politics and so they highlight the inequalities and oppressions of Australian society. When they came to study migrants in modern…
The key, as so often in sport, is timing. Joe Castro/AAP Image

Aussie Rules rules thanks to the eight-hour working day

Why is AFL the main sport in Victoria and the other southern States while New South Wales and Queensland follow rugby? That’s long been a vexed question, but we may now be closer to an answer. In Melbourne…
There is now a large disparity between the respective responsibilities of the Commonwealth and the states and their relative capacities to fund those responsibilities. AAP/Alan Porritt

Federation frozen in time fails as a model of accountable government

The federal budget reignited debate over federal-state relations with a decision to cut some $80 billion in funding for the state responsibilities of schools and hospitals over the coming years. But how…
Tour De France winner Cadel Evans is arguably Victoria’s best known cyclist – so why does the second smallest state in Australia produce so many champions? AAP/Mal Fairclough

Six reasons Victorians dominate Australian cycling

Victorian cyclists have achieved amazing success on the national and international stage, as I outlined last week. Victorian riders were the first Australians to compete in, win and wear the most prized…
We love you because you’re a Victorian: Simon Gerrans (centre) celebrates after winning the Liege-Bastogne-Liege cycling race in April. EPA/Nicolas Bouvy

Victorians rule Australian cycling, at the Giro d'Italia and beyond

The annual Giro d'Italia bike race starting tomorrow signifies a peak time on the world professional cycling calendar, with the European Spring Classic races just finished, and the rest of the Grand Tours…
Canberra’s 101st birthday has inspired fewer insults than last year’s centenary celebrations, but the national capital still bears an unfair burden of scorn. AAP/Alan Porritt

Canberra is 101 and Australia still hasn’t grown up

When Canberra celebrated another birthday last month it was spared the barrage of criticism that accompanied its centenary celebrations last year. In the lead-up to that big event, gratuitous insults flooded…
The Australian War Memorial recognises wars ranging from Afghanistan right back to pre-Federation conflicts, but not Australia’s first war. Alan Porritt/AAP

On Anzac Day, we remember the Great War but forget our first war

On Anzac Day, Australia remembers its war dead, with one tragic exception. Australia is apparently disinclined to acknowledge the fact or the importance of frontier conflicts. What’s the nexus between…
Nowhere was resistance to white colonisers greater than from Tasmanian Aborigines, but within a generation only a few had survived the Black War. Robert Dowling/National Gallery of Victoria

Tasmania’s Black War: a tragic case of lest we remember?

Tasmania’s Black War (1824-31) was the most intense frontier conflict in Australia’s history. It was a clash between the most culturally and technologically dissimilar humans to have ever come into contact…
Willandra Lakes World Heritage Area in NSW – rich in ancient history. Steve Bourne

Working with Elders and return of First Australians' remains

Evidence of the first people to settle in Australia can be found in the Willandra Lakes World Heritage Area, in western New South Wales, informally referred to as Australia’s Rift Valley. Hundreds of archaeological…
Snowboard halfpipe 2010 gold medalist Torah Bright (centre) won one of a total of nine medals for Australia in our history of the Winter Games. EPA/Valdrin Xhemaj

Better late than never: Australia’s Winter Olympic medallists

It’s no secret that Australia fares much better in Summer Games than the Winter Games: Aussie athletes have won 485 medals in Summer Olympics, while the winter counterpart has yielded a much more modest…

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