100 Years of the Baha’i Faith in Australia – some personal reflections

What a year to have a centenary! The Baha’i Faith in Australia is celebrating the development of the Faith in the 100 years since it was first established here in 1920. Those of you who have been following my blog for a while will know that I am a Baha’i. I have been volunteering this year to help with the celebrations and reflections on this centenary. Like many other organisations, ‘flexibility’ and ‘creativity’ have been our key words this year as we have abandoned our plans, then resurrected some in a highly modified form as well as thinking of new ways to mark this centenary.

How the Baha’i Faith Started in Australia

Clara and Hyde Dunn standing in a park in Melbourne.
Clara and Hyde Dunn in Melbourne. Hyde Dunn was always immaculately dressed and invariably wore a bow tie. I like this photo as I think it also shows something about the personality of Clara Dunn.

If you have a look at the Australian Baha’i Centenary website, you can see how the Baha’i Faith started through the efforts of Clara and Hyde Dunn. They were not young nor were they well-off when they arrived in Australia from California on 10th April 1920, yet they had high hopes.

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Australian & NZ Publishers Release New Histories During Covid-19

Australian governments don’t want people to wear masks outside for numerous reasons. However, if you are even slightly unwell and travelling to a testing centre to be tested for the virus you must wear a mask. This is a photo of us on the way to get tested for Covid-19. We live within walking distance from a testing centre but were told to drive there and wear masks. Our test results were negative.

In the upside-down world of the Covid-19 pandemic business have closed or are running with skeleton staff, queues of newly unemployed people have stretched around the block from Centrelink offices and people have stopped spending money. Well-functioning economies require a healthy population. The economy declines if a rampant disease is affecting society.

In times like these many bookshops are struggling and have had to close their physical shops due to the stringent social-distancing regulations introduced. We may be reading more now that we are confined at home, but buying books is the kind of discretionary spending that you would think that people who are worried about their jobs would be cutting out.

Running a business is very difficult under the new regulations and in the current economic climate. I would understand if publishers were pausing the publication of new books so I was delighted when I saw news this morning that Australian publishers are continuing to publish new Australian history books and even sign up new authors!

Now more than ever, authors, bookshops and publishers need to be supported. In this post I highlight some new histories which have been published by Australasian publishers this year that you may want to consider buying. I include New Zealand publishers because I think Australians should support New Zealand as they support us. New Zealanders have made a wonderful contribution to Australian arts and our society generally. Continue reading

Historian and Website Developer

Check out the website I have developed for professional historian, Judith Nissen.

I have been very quiet on this blog over the last year. It may look like this duck is gliding quietly through life, but underneath it all I have been paddling furiously.

Over the last year I have been developing websites. This involves getting under the hood and doing some coding. You see, I am a hybrid creature. I am a writer, but I am also a bit of a geek. I learned programming at school and university while qualifying as an accountant. Early in my working life I scared the men in my audit team by suggesting we use a spreadsheet. This was an avant-garde suggestion in 1986 and one that they could not countenance. Over the years I found myself being the unofficial interface between the IT support team and the struggling users of technology in the various offices where I worked. I enjoy explaining technical concepts in everyday language, but I can also flip and communicate to IT developers so they get the information they need to hear. Continue reading

A Lighter Look at #OzHA2018

2 women with large glasses laughing

Historians worked hard at the conference but also enjoyed themselves. Dr Liz Conor and Professor Ann McGrath shared a laugh in a break on Thursday. Photo via @ANUcass.

I have reported a number of keynote presentations from the annual conference of the Australian Historical Association this week, but my representation of the conference would be lacking if I did not report the humour that popped up throughout the five days in Canberra.

The conference theme, ‘The Scales of HIstory’, lent itself to some light-hearted quips. Of course there were the fishing jokes but I did not hear any music jokes. However, one presenter did some unexpected a capella singing (a rather fancy way of describing how Rosalie sang). Then there was the Canberra weather. We woke up to -4 one morning – surely a joke!

What can be more Australian than an esteemed historian being delayed arriving in Canberra because her bus hit a kangaroo?

Canberra… Australians are good at making mirth at the mention of their capital city. Mark McKenna delivered a fine keynote speech about Canberra and the now not-so-new parliament house. But he was left scratching his head on a number of occasions when the audience laughed at some of his comments. McKenna mentioned the rather surprising fact that the architect of the new parliament house read Patrick White novels to learn more about Australia. Tune laughter and a rather perplexed Mark McKenna. Continue reading

Behind the Scenes at #OzHA2018

Samuel Furphy at the lecturn on the left with 7 people lined up on the right

Conference convenor, Samuel Furphy thanking those who worked behind the scenes to make this such a good conference. Event manager and historian, Dr Karen Downing is third from the right.

This week I have given you some snippets from the fabulous program at this year’s Australian Historical Association conference, known on Twitter as #OzHA2018. But while it is important, it is not just the program that makes a conference enjoyable. There are two other factors in a successful conference – the manner in which it is organised and administered, and the attitude and behaviour of the participants. We had a fabulous conference not only because of the thought-provoking papers, but also because of the attitude and work of the organisers behind the scenes and the particpants.

How Thoughtful! – the organisation of the conference

Everyone that I spoke to at the conference was incredibly impressed with the way that it was organised. I was really impressed that the organisers were using the conference hashtag to promote it on Twitter months before the start of the conference. This ensures that historians on Twitter (#twitterstorians), knew about the conference and what the conference hashtag was. The conference program had a good section on Twitter etiquette, details about the university wifi for us to log into, and the wifi access worked right from the start.

But for many people the first indication they had that this conference took organisation and thoughtfulness to a new level was when they pulled out their name tags. The lanyards were made by women at the ‘Welcome House’ in the Philippines which helps young women who have been caught up in people trafficking for the sex industry. These are sold in Australia by a not-for-profit organistion called The Trading Circle. I have never seen so many photos of conference name tags on Twitter. Conference participants were delighted to be supporting such a worthy cause. How thoughtful. Continue reading