Australian history

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Australia’s Aboriginal welfare problem of the 60s enabled widespread theft from Indigenous artists – including designs for the one dollar note. Reserve Bank of Australia.

‘Dollar Dave’ and the Reserve Bank: a tale of art, theft and human rights

Australia's original $1 note featured artwork taken without permission from Aboriginal artist, David Malangi. He was later given $1000, a medallion and a fishing kit, but archival evidence sheds new light on the affair.
Australia’s beauty is haunted by the unmarked sites of massacres and battles. Ben Quilty, Fairy Bower Rorschach, 2012. Image courtesy of AGNSW, © Ben Quilty.

Breaking the silence: Australia must acknowledge a violent past

Australia has a lesson to learn from Germany when it comes to reconciling with a shameful past. Artists are taking the lead in 'When silence falls', a formidable exhibition.
John Curtin and Ben Chifley were successful in expanding the power of the Commonwealth – and thus that of the prime minister. AAP/Alan Porritt

Lacking a script, individuals drove the evolution of prime ministerial power

Alfred Deakin and his contemporaries invented the Australian prime ministership. But it was not settled as a platform for national leadership until John Curtin and Ben Chifley's time.
View of Port Jackson, Fort Macquarie and part of Sydney Cove, in 1836. Govett, William Romaine/National Library

Charles Darwin’s evolutionary revelation in Australia

Charles Darwin visited Australia 180 years ago, and while here, he had a revelation that helped spark his insight into evolution by natural selection.
Gough Whitlam, pictured here in 2008, looks at the original letter that dismissed him from office in 1975. AAP/Alan Porritt

Archive records shed new light on UK role in Whitlam’s dismissal

Sir John Kerr probably made his own decision to dismiss the Whitlam government much earlier than he acknowledged publicly while alive – but he came to this conclusion in discussion with others.
Circus posters. flickr

Circus and politics: a very Australian mix

Contemporary circus and circus-infused physical theatre are amongst Australia’s most innovative and in-demand cultural exports. It's a performance craft with a proud history behind it.
In our era – like others – outrage and hyperbole seem to be par for the course. jenny downing

Moral panic is sown to make us scaredy-cats – that’s nothing new

In our era of 24-hour news, outrage and hyperbole seem to be par for the course. But as Sr John Madden's 1909 "gravest peril" speech illustrates, overblown moral panic, to fit an agenda, is nothing new.
Martha Rendell was the last woman to be hanged in Western Australia, in 1909. Depicted here as imagined by newspapers in the 1980s. Wikimedia Commons

Iconic murders: fictionalising the life of Martha Rendell

Iconic murderers such as Martha Rendell electrify our imaginations and passions. The turn of the century case demonstrates why fiction can be such an effective vessel for history.
Kate Grenville, with The Secret River, found herself in the middle of a debate at the heart of history. Chris Boland/Flickr

On the frontier: the intriguing dance of history and fiction

'History and fiction journey together and separately into the past; they are a tag team, sometimes taking turns, sometimes working in tandem.' Enjoy the second part of our series, Writing History.
A century after governments wished to erase the convict past, their place in Australian history was being celebrated in programs such as The Colony on SBS. AAP/Hilton Cordell Productions/Simon Cardwell

Stain or badge of honour? Convict heritage inspires mixed feelings

Today, a convict ancestor is a matter of pride. But for past generations, including some convicts themselves, it was a shame that had to be hidden at all costs.
Norfolk Island has always had a strained relationship with mainland Australia – and the repeal of self-governance may intensify that strain. AAP Image/Dean Lewins

Canberra will run Norfolk Island – but not all the locals are happy

Federal parliament has passed legislation that removes Norfolk Island's self-government but strong local views about the tiny island's independence have deep historical roots.
Drape ‘Anzac’ over an argument and, like a magic cloak, the argument is sacrosanct – even though it shouldn’t be. AAP/Alexander Turnbull Library

The past is not sacred: the ‘history wars’ over Anzac

Never has the Anzac tradition been more popular and yet never have its defenders been more chauvinistic, bellicose and intolerant of other viewpoints.
What is obscured in our understanding of returned servicemen’s problems is the private pain of families who bear the brunt of these psychological strains. AAP/Dan Himbrechts

Marked men: anxiety, alienation and the aftermath of war

Australia has continually faced a returned soldier crisis. This is something that marked men returning from all the wars of modern memory – from the Great War to Afghanistan and Iraq.
Labor has long had leaders, such as former prime minister Paul Keating, capable of speaking the language of Anzac. AAP/Alan Porritt

A legend with class: labour and Anzac

There is a complicated story involving the Anzac legend and the left between the 1920s and the 1960s which historians have barely begun to untangle.

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