Marian Quartly Prize – Previous Winners

2023 Winner

Tim Calabria (2022), “The Origins of Segregated Education in Central Australia: A Tale of Two Families,” History Australia, 19:2, 210-229.

In crisp and compelling prose, Tim Calabria’s detailed revision of the history of Alice Spring’s notorious Bungalow Children’s Home is a significant contribution to Australia’s record of Aboriginal assimilation. Calabria shows that the oft-cited account of the 1914 Home as an institution of paternalistic altruism—‘taking in’ the children of Arabana woman Topsy Smith—was entirely manufactured by its settler founder, Robert Stott (and furthered by anthropologist Baldwin Spencer). By delving deeply into government records, and by taking seriously the stories of the Smith family’s descendants, Calabria reveals how Stott forcibly interned Topsy Smith’s children to create the means for keeping his own offspring close by. Calabria’s sensitive pursuit of the descendants’ counter-history is a model of collaborative research and scholarly myth-busting.

Highly Commended:

Catherine De Lorenzo & Eileen Chanin (2022), “Arts on show: Australia’s first national pavilions at international expositions in 1908 and 1937,” History Australia, 19:4, 731-752.

In this engaging and well-conceived article, Catherine De Lorenzo and Eileen Chanin take us back to the Australian pavilions at the Franco-British Exhibition in London (1908) and the Exposition Internationale des Arts et Techniques dans la Vie Moderne in Paris (1937). Extensively researched in government and exhibition records, De Lorenzo and Chanin carefully explore how the pavilions represented Australia to the world. In shedding new light on the evolving relationship between visual art, national and cultural identity, De Lorenzo and Chanin showcase an Australian history mindful of the interplay between local and international influences.

2022 Winner

Nancy Cushing (2021) “#CoalMustFall: Revisiting Newcastle’s coal monument in the Anthropocene,” History Australia, 18:4, 782-800.   

An immediately engaging article on the history and future of the Jubilee or Coal Monument in Newcastle, New South Wales. Cushing’s work adds a critical focus on climate to recent debates about commemorative structures. It argues for the removal of the Coal Monument but not its total erasure. Instead, Cushing presents a sensitive case for the monument’s reframing elsewhere as well as for the temporary erection of a counter-monument in its place. Combining activist, archival, and theoretical approaches, her article demonstrates the multiple important uses of history – emotional, political, academic, and local.   

Runner up: Georgina Arnott & Charlotte Greenhalgh (2021) “Between Empire, Periphery, and the United States of America: the local and international origins of the Melbourne Social Survey (1941–1943),” History Australia, 18:3, 544-63.   

A deeply researched and beautifully written article on competing characterisations of early Australian social research through an explication of the Melbourne Social Survey (1941–1943). Through an oft-neglected antipodean focus, Arnott and Greenhalgh’s work serves as a timely contribution to ongoing global debates about the formation of knowledge.   

2021 Winner

Jordana Silverstein, “Refugee children, boats and drownings: a history of an Australian ‘humanitarian’ discourse”, History Australia 17:4 (2020): 728-742

This powerfully argued article explains the background and context behind one of Australia’s most trenchant stories about itself: that its government needs to stop the boats of asylum seekers so that children don’t drown. Silverstein explores the history of humanitarian discourse in Australia in order to make sense of this pervasive narrative – its emotional mechanics, its racializing effects, and its enduring hold on the Australian psyche. The article mobilises new thinking in the study of development, settler colonialism, nationalism, and the child. Well-told, well-paced, ambitious, and urgent, it is an exemplar of contemporary history.

2020 Winner

Jeremy Martens, ‘The Mrs Freer case revisited: marriage, morality and the state in interwar Australia,’ History Australia 16.3 (2019)

Jeremy Martens’ article is a masterclass in how the examination of a particular ‘case’ can open up significant questions about the entanglement of race, gender, sexuality and class in the management of settler national borders. Martens’ article reconstructs a now forgotten public sensation in 1936 when the dictation test was deployed to deny Mabel Freer entry to Australia. Freer was a white British woman whose personal and sexual history was deemed of a dubious character by Australia’s Minister for the Interior, and thus provoked the application of this technology of racial exclusion. Martens’ beautifully written article explores the case, the media sensation and public outcry that followed (often in support of Freer). Postcolonial histories have long demonstrated how colonial and settler states policed sexuality in order to maintain white racial membership, and Martens’ article incisively demonstrates how ideas about propriety inflected the operation of the white Australia policy. Importantly, though, Martens’ research reveals how the course of racial thinking never ran smooth: feminist outrage reworked and challenged the government to secure Freer’s admission even as it upheld the racial thinking that justified her exclusion. Martens’ article is a timely reminder that Australian borders have been continually remade and reworked not only by the state but also by other groups pushing against its determinations. This is a compelling history of the dynamic intersections between race, gender and sexuality at the Australian border and the ways in which that border was produced through those intersections.

2019 Winner

Frances Steel, ‘Servant mobilities between Fiji and New Zealand: the transcolonial politics of domestic work and immigration restriction, c 1870-1920’, History Australia Volume 15, issue 3 (2018).

From the abstract: In the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, Europeans travelling beyond Fiji were often accompanied by Melanesian, Indian or Indigenous Fijian servants. Occasionally, families resident in the Australasian settler colonies also hired servants, mostly men, from Fiji. This article traces such patterns of transcolonial domestic labour mobility, and highlights instances of servants challenging employer controls and seeking out more autonomous futures. Viewed together, these fragmentary histories suggest possibilities for juxtaposing and integrating temporary, short-term and circular transcolonial mobilities that tend to be overlooked in nation-centred histories of immigration and colonial domesticity.

2018 Winner

Ben Silverstein, “Possibly they did not know themselves”: the ambivalent government of sex and work in the Northern Territory Aboriginals Ordinance 1918′, History Australia, vol. 14, no. 3 (2017): 344-360.

In crisp prose, Silverstein’s article wove a theoretically informed line of argument around new empirical material to explore the regulation of Indigenous life in the service of the health of the settler population. Demonstrating ‘the malleability of racial categorisations’, it is an innovative article that will push the field forward in coming years.

2017 Winner

Laura Rademaker, ‘Only Cuppa Tea Christians’: Colonisation, Authentic Indigeneity and the Missionary Linguist’ History Australia, 13:2 (2016): 228–42.

The article provides a nuanced understanding of the changing views of CMS missionaries on the use of English or Aboriginal languages as tools for conversion and the development of true belief. The setting is the Angurugu mission on Groote Eylandt but the well-structured and beautifully written article locates Groote Eylandt in the wider historiography of colonial missionary endeavour. One of its strengths is the way it explores the different ways the Angurugu people and the white missionaries understood the relationship between linguistics and belief and between Indigenous spirituality and evangelical Protestantism.