The 2018 Australian Historical Association Conference Begins!

Hundreds of historians have gathered in Canberra for the 2018 Australian conference. During this week over 350 papers will be delivered. I am in Canberra attending the conference and will be tweeting and blogging from here all week.

The welcome to country for this conference was delivered by Matilda House, an elder from the Ngambri-Ngunnawal people of the Canberra region. “You can’t change yesterday, but you can sure try and make a difference tomorrow,” she observed.

The President of the Australian Historical Association, Professor Lynette Russell delivered the opening keynote address. She traversed a wide range of issues in a thought-provoking speech.

The Acknowledgement of Country is given by event organisers if a First Nations elder is not present to give a Welcome to Country. Professor Russell noted that the Acknowledgement of Country is too often mumbled and speakers struggle with unfamiliar Aboriginal words. She urged people to make an effort to pronounce Aboriginal words correctly.

Professor Russell urged us to consider that 2000 generations of people have lived on this land. History did not just start with the arrival of Europeans. She observed that the Australian Historical Association conferences are no longer the “pale, stale, male” events that they used to be, but she noted the lack of Aboriginal historians. “Our association currently has 5 Aboriginal historians but if we think in terms of population parity, we should have almost 5 times that number,” she observed. “We need to ask why”.

Head and shoulders of Lynettee Russell at the lectern.

Professor Lynette Russell, President of the Australian Historical Association. Photo via @ANUCass.

Professor Russell turned to the need for more interdisciplinarity in the discipline in Australia. She noted the importance of the ‘digital turn’ in history and the #dhdropin organised by Tim Sherratt earlier in the day. (Tim Sherratt has shared a list of ‘Digital Tools’ he uses or has created which you might want to delve into).

ABC Radio National programs, Earshot and History Listen were praised by Professor Russell. She noted the importance of podcasts and the work of Dr Tamson Peitsch and her History Lab podcast. She called for more podcasts and suggested that there should be a podcast for new history books. Jayne Persian noted on Twitter that there is such a podcast for new books in Australian and New Zealand Studies produced by the New Books Podcast. The shoutouts continued with Professor Russell highlighted the ‘Collecting the West’ website.

Professor Russell noted that historians did not work with other disciplines such as archaeology and anthropology as much as they should. Professional historian Peter Gapps, who was following her talk via Twitter, noted that this may be a problem in the practice of academic historians, but professional historians working outside the academy often work with other disciplines.

Australian history focuses on British colonisation said Professor Russell. She urged historians to consider the last 1000 years of Australian history and to delve into sources from other European languages and evidence from Indigenous Australians such as rock art – an important form of textual evidence. She said that historians must include Aboriginal voices so that Australian history becomes ‘our history’.

The work of Ann McGrath with deep time was highlighted by Professor Russell as important work. She also noted the work of Billy Griffiths. He has just published a new book, Deep Time Dreaming: Uncovering Ancient Australia which I am keen to read.

This is the beauty of the Australian Historical Association conference. I try to attend because it exposes me to themes and concepts that I may not come across in my everyday work. It is an important part of my continuing professional development.

Every year some of the conference participants share the conference online via Twitter and blogging. We provide this service to people who cannot be here so they can follow along. As you can see from this post, participants who follow remotely can interact and enrich the conference tweets by engaging in discussion and pointing out resources that are relevant to points raised.

People sitting in a restaurant

The friendly bunch of #OzHA2018 tweeps had dinner together at the end of the day. Photo via @hpstorian.

Tweeting is also a form of collaborative online note-taking. In a packed talk like the one delivered by Professor Russell, it is easy to miss one or two interesting comments. But when there is a crowd tweeting, there is always someone who fills the gap.

It is wonderful to see how tweeting of the conference has grown from a small number of participants who sent the first tweets from the conference in 2012. The #twitterstorians at each conference are a friendly, supportive bunch of people. After Professor Russell’s speech and the noisy reception which followed, the #twitterstorians had dinner together nearby.

The conference resumes at 9am today. You can follow along via the conference hashtag #OzHA2018 on Twitter. Visit the conference website to download the conference program and abstracts. I will endeavour to blog about today’s sessions first thing tomorrow morning. You can participate too by commenting on this post or tweeting us using the conference hashtag.

Other Conference Blog Posts and Articles

Unless otherwise stated, the following posts are published on this blog.

6 thoughts on “The 2018 Australian Historical Association Conference Begins!

    • Thank you for showing your interest. It is so encouraging for historians to see that other people are following the work they do. Please let us know your thoughts about the discussions we are having. I am planning daily posts so there will be plenty of opportunities to comment again.


    • Great to hear from you Bill! I have been very quiet on the blogging front since November, but as you have seen, I am having my annual blogging eruption that is the Australian Historical Association conference. I am looking forward to hearing your comments about the issues discussed – if you have time.


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