Historians on Australian Politics

Thursday, May 26, 2022 at 05:00 PM



Event contact

Alicia Cerreto




‘Colonial and pandemic politics: What light can Australian political history before 1901 shed on our present?’ Many of the dominant patterns of Australian politics were in place before federation of the Australian colonies in 1901 and the creation of a national polity. These include public disdain for political affairs; a utilitarian attitude toward government; an orderly and bureaucratic electoral system; politics as a game of ‘ins’ and ‘outs’ dominated by white men; the emergence of political parties as central to their competition; and the marginalisation of Indigenous government. What I want to suggest here is that the experience of the pandemic in particular invites us to rethink the influence of these kinds of long-standing patterns as constitutive of what we call ‘Australian politics’. But above all, we need to reimagine the idea of a national politics. The pandemic has disclosed some of the limitations of that perspective. A new political history of Australia has the potential to reveal many more.

Frank Bongiorno is Professor of History at the Australian National University and was Head of the School of History 2018–21. He has recently completed a political history of Australia from earliest time to the present due for release late in 2022. 


‘From Robert Menzies Forgotten People to Morrison's Quiet Australians’ On election night in 2019 Scott Morrison attributed his victory to the Quiet Australians. I will compare this  with Robert Menzies' Forgotten People and John Howard's Battlers as ways of identifying Liberal Party supporters, and reflect on its fate in the light of the 2022 election result.  

Emeritus Professor Judy Brett is a political historian of Australia. She taught politics and political history at La Trobe until her retirement in 2012. She has written extensively on the history of the Liberal Party, including an award-winning biography of Alfred Deakin. Her most recent book is Doing Politics: Writing on Public Life (Text, 2021) and she is currently working on a biography of the feminist activist Beatrice Faust.


‘Teal T-shirts and hi-vis vests: Gender in the 2022 election’ The last few decades have seen a realignment of support for the major parties along gender lines: the gender differences in voter bases have become particularly stark in the Morrison era. In 2019, Morrison successfully recruited blue-collar men; in 2022, the mostly female teal independents in previously safe Liberal seats may yet emerge as a new political force. This paper will analyse the gendered political messaging of the 2022 campaign in historical context.

Michelle Arrow is Professor of Modern History at Macquarie University and the author of The Seventies: The Personal, The Political and the Making of Modern Australia (2019).


Professor Al Thomson of Monash University will host the evening and HCV Executive Officer Alicia Cerreto will facilitate the Q&A.


The seminar is part of an ongoing series, Making Public Histories, that is offered jointly by the Monash University History Program, the History Council of Victoria and the Old Treasury Building. Each seminar aims to explore issues and approaches in making public histories. The seminars are open, free of charge, to anyone interested in the creation and impact of history in contemporary society. Click HERE to learn about other events in the series.

We thank the series sponsors, Monash University Publishingthe Monash University History Program and the Old Treasury Building.


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The History Council of Victoria Incorporated (HCV) is the peak body for history in the Australian state of Victoria. Its vision is to connect Victorians with history and to inspire engagement with the past, their identity and the world today. The HCV champions the work of historians and the value of history. It recognises that history can be written about any place, any person, any period. The HCV advocates why history matters.

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The HCV was formed as an advisory body in 2001 and incorporated in 2003. It comprises representatives from cultural and educational institutions and heritage bodies; history teachers and curriculum advisors; academic and professional historians; and local, Indigenous, community and specialist history organisations.

As the peak body for history, the HCV has both ‘outward-looking’ roles (including advocacy and representation to government and the wider community, consultation, community education, and networking with allied interest groups) and ‘inward-looking’ roles (including member support, information dissemination, and networking between members).



The History Council of Victoria acknowledges the State Library of Victoria and the Public Record Office Victoria for supply of the archival images that appear on this website.

We acknowledge the National Film and Sound Archive for the right to use of the video footage on the home page, titled "Melbourne: Life in Australia (1966)".

Image credits

  • Italian sailors on ship at Port Melbourne 1938, Argus Newspaper Collection of Photographs, State Library of Victoria
  • Chinese procession in Collins near Elizabeth Street 1901, Harvie & Sutcliffe, photographers, State Library of Victoria
  • People’s homes, Aboriginal station Coranderrk 1878, Fred Kruger Photographer, State Library of Victoria
  • Chinese nurses at Children’s Hospital under scholarship 1947, Argus Newspaper Collection of Photographs, State Library of Victoria
  • Ladies physical culture class VRI Melbourne c1931, Public Record Office Victoria VPRS 12903/P0001, 011/02
  • Melbourne Cup, Derby and Oaks Day, Flemington Racecourse 1936, Public Record Office Victoria VPRS 12903/P0001/4802, 372/30
  • Flinders Street viaduct at foot of Market Street with advertisement for McRobertson’s Chocolate on bridge, Public Record Office Victoria VPRS 12800/P0003, ADV 1342