Jill Roe Prize – Previous Winners

Jill Roe Prize 2023

Harrison Croft, “‘Are You Happy Now?’: Gauging Streams and Building Postwar Victoria from the Periphery”

The judges commend the author on this fascinating article revealing the historical significance of little-known rural Victorian water gauge readers and their utilisation of remarks columns to the Melbourne Commission on water to campaign for better labour conditions. The rich archival detail reveals compelling stories of these workers, many of them young women exercising what little agency they had, and their unique contribution to rural labour relations in mid-20th century Victoria. This is an extremely well-researched, carefully written, thoughtful and original contribution to labour history, gender history and environmental history with a particular focus on periphery/centre relations and dynamics that Jill Roe would delight in.

Judges: Tanya Evans (MQ), Leigh Straw (ND), Jon Piccini (ACU)

Jill Roe Prize 2022

Catherine Gay, ‘‘All the perils of the ocean’: Girls’ emotions on voyages to Australia, 1851-1884′  

The judges were impressed by this paper that presents a study of journals and diaries written by girls and young women migrating to Australia in the second half of the nineteenth century, focusing on the ways that they negotiated the emotional experiences of migration. The article develops the concept of diary writing as a form of cultural negotiation and applies it in a gendered analysis of how migrant girls navigated and managed their emotions in transit. It is based on a wide yet coherent array of original historical sources, that are handled deftly and read critically. The judges note that the study, while not making a wholly new theoretical innovation in the field, certainly does advance the historiography of both colonial migration and of childhood, in centring the experiences of girls and young women, and makes a compelling argument to expand our understanding of their experiences through a close reading of their personal diaries. They found the article generally well written and structured. 

Judges: Rohan Howitt (ANU), Margaret Hutchison (ACU), Victoria Haskins (Newcastle)  

Jill Roe Prize 2021

Jessica Urwin, ‘”The old colonial power can stand proxy”: The Royal Commission into British Nuclear Tests in Australia and the politics of the 1980s’

This beautifully crafted essay is an important contribution to knowledge about race and politics in late-twentieth-century Australia. It makes a wide-ranging contribution to debates around the enduring repercussions of colonialism, illuminating the deep and unexpected impacts of white authority. The essay investigates the underlying political circumstances that propelled the Hawke federal government to call for a Royal Commission into the British nuclear tests in Australia. The author critically and closely examines relevant primary sources to provide a comprehensive and convincing account of the political motives behind the timing of the Labor government’s call for a Royal Commission and the (narrow) composition of the Commission’s terms of reference. The tests themselves, the commission, the subsequent historiography and popular understandings are historically and politically contextualized with skill and sophistication. The findings that the potential of the Commission to shed light on the long-term consequences of colonization and, consequently, to contribute to wider debates on Aboriginal land rights, was stymied due to the political motivations of the Labor Party, remain pertinent today. This is a beautifully written, engaging, well-structured essay that provides evidence of how individuals and political parties use Royal Commissions to further their own political ends, and how historians, journalists and consequently the public uncritically accept the popular, nationalistic narrative if it doesn’t challenge the status quo with regard to Indigenous rights. We congratulate the author on a fine, thought-provoking piece of work.

Judges: Lisa Featherstone (UQ), Jeremy Martens (UWA), Skye Krichauff (University of Adelaide)

Jill Roe Prize 2020

Karen Twigg, ‘Dust, dryness and departure: constructions of masculinity and femininity during the WW11 drought’

This beautifully crafted essay threads two life histories through a compelling narrative to make an important intervention in gender and environmental history. Focussed on the Mallee in drought, it shows the influence of regional, continental and global ecological systems in human lives, treating the experience of the characters with sensitivity and insight. It elegantly moves from the intimate to the global and, with great flair, conveys dust as an ‘actor’. While dust was seen by humans as an entity of torment and spite, the author reminds us that dust is simply ‘earth’ that is ‘loose and blowing on the wind’. 

Highly commended: Lauren Samuelsson, From Nutrition to Glamour: The Australian Women’s Weekly cookery editors, 1930s-1970s.

This is a skillfully-crafted essay that uses the changing profiles of cookery experts employed by the Australian Women’s Weekly between the 1930s and the 1970s to trace shifts in Australian domestic cuisine. Written with verve and confidence, it sheds new light on the eclipsing of trained female nutritionists in the shift towards glamour in the marketing of Australian cooking. 

Judges: Anne O’Brien (UNSW, Chair), Frances Steel (Wollongong), James Dunk (Sydney)

Jill Roe Prize 2019

The Jill Roe Prize was not awarded in 2019.

Jill Roe Prize 2018

Alexandra Roginski, ‘Talking Heads on a Murray River Mission’

This essay considers interactions between travelling phrenologists and Indigenous people at Maloga Mission and Cummeragunja reserve in the late nineteenth century. Characterised by accomplished and sophisticated writing, and demonstrating a command of both the sources and the historiography, the essay is extremely impressive in its understanding and articulation of its argument and intervention in existing scholarship. In a subtle and interesting analysis of phrenological lectures as participatory popular science performances that re-evaluates the role of Indigenous actors in scientific modernity and knowledge formation, the essay achieves a synthesis that takes Aboriginal history and the history of science in new directions.

Judges: Ethan Blue (University of Western Australia), Anna Johnston (University of Queensland) and Kathleen Neal (Monash University)

Jill Roe Prize 2017

James Findlay, ‘Cinematic Landscapes, Dark Tourism and the Ghosts of Port Arthur’

This well-researched essay complements other studies on convict tourism in Tasmania. After noting that by the early twentieth century convicts were increasingly invisible in Australia’s popular memory, the essay argues that, especially after WWI, travelogue films expressed a fascination with the landscape of Port Arthur, thus situating Port Arthur’s convict past within a visitor experience of a specific Tasmanian landscape. Without evidence for the reception of the films, Findlay makes good use of relevant film history and theory to suggest persuasively that these films shaped visitors’ actual experience of Port Arthur as both a picturesque ruin and a site of convict labour.

Judges: David Carment (Charles Darwin University), Jane Lydon (University of Western Australia) and Timothy Rowse (Western Sydney University)

Jill Roe Prize 2016

James H. Dunk, ‘The Liability of Colonial Madness: Jonathan Burke Hugo in Port Dalrymple, Sydney and Calcutta, 1812’

The essay takes an instance of mad aristocratic behaviour in eastern Australia in the time of Macquarie and makes it a case study of the dilemmas of a colony that was just beginning to fashion civil law and charitable administration. The essay puts Macquarie’s administration and its successors in an Imperial context, referring to practices in India and in the United Kingdom that were illuminated by the case study’s misfortunes. Skilfully written, the essay allows the reader to savour authority’s uncertainty about how to deal with conduct that was not criminal but embarrassingly unfathomable. The mutual bewilderment of the governors and their exemplary ‘lunatick’ is registered with sympathy and delicate irony – conveying, in an unusually intimate way, a transitional moment in the colony’s authority.

Judges: Christina Twomey (Monash University), Tim Rowse (Western Sydney University), Robert Foster (University of Adelaide)

Jill Roe Prize 2015

No prize awarded.

Judges: Tim Rowse (Western Sydney University), Sheila Fitzpatrick (University of Sydney), Lynette Russell (Monash University)

Jill Roe Prize 2014

Chris Holdridge, ‘The Pageantry of the Anti-Convict Cause: Colonial Loyalism and Settler Celebrations in Tasmania and Cape Colony’ – published in History Australia 12, no 1 (April 2015).

This paper was the unanimous winner in what was a very strong field for the inaugural Jill Roe Prize. This prize is awarded annually for the best unpublished article-length work of historical research in any area of historical enquiry, produced by a postgraduate student enroled in a History degree at an Australian university. The judges were impressed by the transnational and comparative analysis of the celebrations surrounding the successful anti-convict agitation in the Cape Colony and Tasmania in 1850 and 1853 respectively. In this beautifully written and researched paper including a number of illustrations, the author focuses on the reports of the ‘pageantry’ and public celebration surrounding these two movements. Through an identification of a number of key commonalities between the two colonies, such as the role of such celebrations in forging colonial patriotisms and civic education, the author establishes the value of international/intercolonial comparison in creating new understandings of past historical events. The paper also contains an excellent and sophisticated discussion in relation to earlier literature. Considering that these two colonies have been separated both geographically and historiographically, the author has done a remarkable job in drawing together a range of relevant sources to present an engaging and fascinating argument.

Judges: Melanie Oppenheimer (Flinders University), Sean Scalmar (University of Melbourne), Nathan Wise (University of New England)