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Analysis and Comment (42)

An image of Australian shearers taken on glass plate negative is now preserved in a digital collection. 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. 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. 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. 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. 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. 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. 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. 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. 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. 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? 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. 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. 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. 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. 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. 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. 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…
The role of the Australian Security Intelligence Organisation (ASIO) has long been subject to political debate and controversy. The role of the Australian Security Intelligence Organisation (ASIO) has long been subject to political debate and controversy. AAP/Andrew Brownbill

Persons of Interest revives Cold War politics and the ASIO debate

The screening of the documentary series Persons of Interest on SBS, in which former targets of the Australian Security Intelligence Organisation (ASIO) surveillance examine their files, has prompted some…
Something hidden in manuscript – what could it be? Something hidden in manuscript – what could it be? Les Enluminures

That’s no kangaroo on the manuscript – so what is it?

The discovery of a Portuguese manuscript purporting to include an illustration of a kangaroo has been used to question which European power was first to “discover” Australia. The drawing is included in…
This picture, from a trove of historic Sydney Harbour photos, shows the ferry South Steyne rounding Bennelong Point. This picture, from a trove of historic Sydney Harbour photos, shows the ferry South Steyne rounding Bennelong Point. Graeme Andrews 'Working Harbour' Collection, City of Sydney Archives

Harbour life: tracing early Sydney’s watery history

Never mind the bush and the outback – Sydneysiders were a maritime people from the start. For proof, browse through the Working Harbour collection, 10,000 images of Sydney’s maritime history recently donated…
History in schools is not engaging our students. History in schools is not engaging our students. History class image from www.shutterstock.com

Stop tinkering with school history, and start teaching it

In 2008, historian Dr. Anna Clark conducted a survey of the state of history education in Australian classrooms. The book that resulted from this study — History’s Children — presented a bleak image of…
Beautiful one day … a quarry the next? Beautiful one day … a quarry the next? Underwater Earth / Catlin Seaview Survey - www.catlinseaviewsurvey.com

Great Barrier Reef decision is a U-turn to an inglorious past

Few of us remember that the declaration of the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park and its subsequent World Heritage status was born out a 12-year popular struggle to prevent the most wondrous coral reef in…
Gravestones at Rookwood range from the majestic to the tacky. Gravestones at Rookwood range from the majestic to the tacky. Crouchy69

Peace at last in Sydney’s Rookwood Cemetery

Sydney’s Rookwood Cemetery, the largest necropolis in the southern hemisphere, has had its share of troubles lately. A recent ABC investigation reported on a suite of alleged governance problems, including…
Men, women and children were among the gold diggers who rebelled on this day in 1854. Men, women and children were among the gold diggers who rebelled on this day in 1854. S. T. Gill, 1954

Flashers, femmes and other forgotten figures of the Eureka Stockade

When I was at primary school in the late 1970s, engaging kids in history lessons meant a good dose of role-play. Each year, on today’s date, it was time to re-enact the Eureka Stockade. It was on this…
Unrealistic expectations raised early explorers' hopes beyond all possibility. Unrealistic expectations raised early explorers' hopes beyond all possibility. Larry W. Lo

Australians might speak Dutch if not for strong emotions

How did Australia, the mysterious southern continent that had captured European imaginations since ancient times, slip from the grasp of the Dutch? Four hundred years ago, the Dutch East India Company…
Joan Beaumont’s new book Broken Nation: Australians in the Great War provides a strong insight into both Australia’s role in World War One and life on the home front. Joan Beaumont’s new book Broken Nation: Australians in the Great War provides a strong insight into both Australia’s role in World War One and life on the home front. Australian War Memorial

Book review: Broken Nation – Australians in the Great War

Over the next four years, the centenary of World War One will prompt the publication of a vast number of war-related books. In Australia, it will be hard to keep count of the new books on Gallipoli, with…
Opposition leader Tony Abbott has signalled he’d like to see the history curriculum change. But is it a good idea for government to intervene? Opposition leader Tony Abbott has signalled he’d like to see the history curriculum change. But is it a good idea for government to intervene? AAP Image/AFP Pool, Saeed Khan

Culture wars II: why Abbott should leave the history curriculum alone

In the last week of the campaign, some naggingly familiar comments came out from the Coalition. Then opposition leader Tony Abbott said he wanted to see the national curriculum in history changed because…
Victoria was a world leader in leisure … and that’s how we founded footy. Victoria was a world leader in leisure … and that’s how we founded footy. Australian Football Yarra Park – State Library of Victoria

Australian rules: how a nation fell in love with footy

Finally, the AFL home and away season is beginning. Once again our footy teams will make history. But let us not forget that history made footy. Australia, notes Geoffrey Blainey in his Shorter History…
Prime Minister Julia Gillard answered questions about the AWU affair at a press conference yesterday. Prime Minister Julia Gillard answered questions about the AWU affair at a press conference yesterday. AAP/Alan Porrit

What went wrong with the AWU?

The recent drama about Julia Gillard’s activities on behalf of one faction of the Australian Workers’ Union back in the early 1990s is another chapter in the long story of money in Australian unions. Parliament…
NSW premier Barry O'Farrell needs to reform the law to give Sydney University more responsibility for its colleges. NSW premier Barry O'Farrell needs to reform the law to give Sydney University more responsibility for its colleges. AAP Image/Alan Porritt

Why a solution to the St John’s scandal lies with Barry O’Farrell

Why is the University of Sydney powerless to stop bullying behaviour in what the public sees as “its colleges”? This has been a constant refrain in recent weeks as the controversy surrounding the behaviour…
Australia is not fulfilling its obligations to its veterans. Australia is not fulfilling its obligations to its veterans. Flickr/Another Seb

Roll call: how Australia broke the promise of remembrance

Ten years ago this month, John Howard’s Minister for Veteran Affairs, Danna Vale, launched a searchable internet database known as the World War 2 Nominal Roll. It was intended to be a virtual war memorial…
Survivors of Namibia’s Herero tribe surrendering after a battle with German forces. Survivors of Namibia’s Herero tribe surrendering after a battle with German forces. Ullstein Bilderdienst Berlin/Supplied

Move over Breaker Morant: the forgotten story of Edward Presgrave

More than a century ago, on 26 September 1905, in a remote and isolated part of German Southwest Africa (present day Namibia) a young Australian lay dying amid the sand dunes and salt pans. Lured across…
Australian humanities subjects need to get on board with MOOCs and develop Australian voices in online learning. Australian humanities subjects need to get on board with MOOCs and develop Australian voices in online learning. World image from www.shutterstock.com

Deadset? MOOCs and Australian education in a globalised world

FUTURE OF HIGHER EDUCATION: We continue our series on the rise of online and blended learning and how free online courses are set to transform the higher education sector. Today Ruth Morgan looks at the…
A United States Air Force RF-101 Voodoo aircraft pilot photographs a Russian ship loaded with missiles while the aircraft itself casts a shadow in Port Casilda, Cuba, Nov. 6, 1962. A United States Air Force RF-101 Voodoo aircraft pilot photographs a Russian ship loaded with missiles while the aircraft itself casts a shadow in Port Casilda, Cuba, Nov. 6, 1962. EPA/Defense Imagery

Australia’s untold reaction to the Cuban Missile Crisis

Fifty years ago, the United States and the Soviet Union stood on the brink of nuclear war over Soviet missiles in Cuba. Since then, the Cuban Missile Crisis has been recognised as one of the most definitive…
Former Prime Minister John Howard is misinformed about the Australian history curriculum. Former Prime Minister John Howard is misinformed about the Australian history curriculum. AAP Image/Julian Smith

Howard’s history repeating: curriculum complaints nothing new

There is a great deal of derogatory, evidence-free and ill-informed opinion about how history is taught in Australian schools. But these tired arguments are so often repeated that we can actually put them…
The families of the interned men of the Caminiti clan in Queensland, circa 1940. The families of the interned men of the Caminiti clan in Queensland, circa 1940. Supplied

When ethnicity counts: civilian internment in Australia during WW2

When Fascist Italy declared war on Britain in mid-1940, almost 5,000 Italians living in Australia were imprisoned in internment camps. Few Italian families escaped the human cost of detention as “enemy…
Australia has a long history of engagement with Asia, as Melbourne’s Chinese Museum demonstrates. Australia has a long history of engagement with Asia, as Melbourne’s Chinese Museum demonstrates. Greenstone Girl

Engaging with Asia? We’ve been here before

AUSTRALIA IN THE ASIAN CENTURY – A series examining Australia’s role in the rapidly transforming Asian region. Delivered in partnership with the Australian government. Today, Professor David Walker looks…
Look out! They’re poisonous! Look out! They’re poisonous! AAP

Why don’t we cuddle funnel-webs?

Consider two furry Australian animals: the platypus (Ornithorhynchus anatinus) and the Sydney funnel-web spider (Atrax robustus). Both icons in their own way, both live only in Australia and both were…
Pardoning Breaker Morant should not be a priority for the government. Pardoning Breaker Morant should not be a priority for the government. AAP Image/Australian War Memorial

Pardon me, but Breaker Morant was guilty

Early in the New Year, while most of us were thinking about going to the beach or when it would be okay to consign those unwanted Christmas presents to a charity bin, Commander Jim Unkles of the Royal…
The velocipede created one of several cycling booms in Australia. The velocipede created one of several cycling booms in Australia. Harpers Weekly (Dec 18, 1868)

Bigger than Cadel: Australia’s century-old love affair with cycling

CYCLING IN AUSTRALIA: Forget about the wild scenes of public adulation for Cadel Evans following his Tour de France triumph. Forget about the widespread admiration for champion cyclist Anna Meares following…
The man behind the mask. Ned Kelly’s skeleton can finally be laid to rest. The man behind the mask. Ned Kelly’s skeleton can finally be laid to rest. the euskadi 11

Ned Kelly remains are positively identified … but how was it done?

The remains of iconic bushranger Ned Kelly have been positively identified by forensic scientists more than a century after his hanging in 1880. The identification was made after an exhaustive forensic…

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