Australia and the Pacific: A History

‘A fascinating history that shows how Australia’s relationships with the Pacific have shaped and informed each of our worlds.’ – Iain McCalman AO Australia’s deep past and its modern history are intrinsically linked to the Pacific. In Australia and the Pacific, Ian Hoskins – award-winning author of Sydney Harbour and Coast – expands his gaze to examine Australia’s relationship with the Pacific region: from our ties with Papua New Guinea and New Zealand to our complex connections with China, Japan … Read More

Making Australian History by Anna Clark

A bold and expansive history that traces the changing and contested project of Australia’s national story. You will think about this country differently after reading this book. A few years ago Anna Clark saw a series of paintings on a sandstone cliff face in the Northern Territory. There were characteristic crosshatched images of fat barramundi and turtles, as well as sprayed handprints and several human figures with spears. Next to them was a long gun, painted with white ochre, an … Read More

Explore early Council petitions from City of Sydney archives

Learn how to use the City of Sydney’s online archives and history resources to find 19th century petitions to council.  City Archivist Janet Villata and Archivist Mathilde de Hauteclocque introduce you to the City Archives and the catalogue and how to search or browse for petitions to council in this online event. The session will explore 2 petitions from 1844, one about ‘unwholesome trades’ and the other requesting the removal of stone to make the Argyle Cut. You’ll discover what … Read More

‘Breaker’ Morant: Just Deserts or Justice Denied?

From October 1899 a bitter conflict between the British and two Dutch South African republics (the Anglo-Boer War) raged across the South African veldt. British Commander Lord Roberts left South Africa before the end of 1900 and declared victory. But the war was far from over. His successor Lord Kitchener knew a change of strategy was necessary to fight an effective guerrilla insurgency. He introduced a scorched earth policy of burning farms and crops, and concentration camps to remove non-combatants … Read More

South Flows the Pearl: Chinese Australian Voices

The Chinese Australian Historical Society invites you to South Flows the Pearl: Chinese Australian Voices Sydney Lunar Festival Associated Event In the 1980s Mavis Gock Yen began interviewing elderly Chinese Australians, recording hours of conversations. These conversations and stories of the lives of Chinese in Australia, told in their own words, have been edited by Siaoman Yen and Richard Horsburgh. They form the basis of South Flows the Pearl, to be published by Sydney University Press in February 2022. Perth-born Mavis … Read More

Digital Pick: ‘Sacred Space’ with Grace Karskens

Written by Elizabeth Heffernan, RAHS Volunteer This edition’s Digital Pick for the RAHS e-newsletter is the recent ABC Compass story featuring Australian historian Grace Karskens, part of the ‘Sacred Space’ summer series. Hosted by Geraldine Doogue, the series invites prominent Australians to share their own sacred space and what it means to them. For Karskens, that space is the Mitchell Library in Sydney, a ‘cathedral of knowledge’ she has visited ever since she was a child. The Mitchell is where … Read More

Symbols of Australia: Imagining a Nation

‘Just when we need it most, a lively reassessment of the symbols that define us.’ — David Malouf, award-winning Australian writer ‘The star-studded cast of Symbols of Australia shows us the nation in its full dignity, diversity and dagginess.’ — Frank Bongiorno, Professor of History, Australian National University Australia is a land of symbols. The Southern Cross. The Sydney Opera House. The kangaroo. Vegemite. But what do they actually mean? Where do they come from? Why are some symbols so … Read More

Australia Day 2022 YouTube Playlist

Visit the RAHS YouTube Channel on Australia Day where we will be premiering a selection of our recorded lectures from 2020-2021 on various aspects of Australian history, including: Presentations from RAHS President Carol Liston, Bruce Baskerville and Joy Hughes on the lives and histories of the vice-regal consorts of NSW: 10.00am – The Role of the Vice-Regal Consort in the Nineteenth and Twentieth Centuries 10.30am – Scandals in Government House – or were they? Lady Loftus and Lady Lygon 11.00am … Read More

Search for descendants after family vault uncovered at Central Station

A search is underway for the descendants of two colonial Sydney families after a 181-year-old family burial vault was discovered at Central Station in 2019. Following archaeological investigations by Sydney Metro, archaeologists have identified a name plate from one of the burials belonging to the Perry and Ham families. During the archaeological excavation of Burial Vault 2 in April 2019, three fragmented name plates were identified at the base of the vault. Cleaning and subsequent analysis of the name plates … Read More

French Connection: Australia’s Cosmopolitan Ambitions

In the late 1800s, for Australians, France was the land of haute cuisine, haute couture and high culture, but also a country of dangerous revolutionaries and menacing colonialists. Alexis Bergantz’s well-researched and very engagingly written history of the French in Australia offers revealing portraits of individual lives, deftly assesses the way the two societies saw each other, and explains how the French helped create modern Australia. – Professor Robert Aldrich, University of Sydney In French Connection, Alexis Bergantz transcends ‘contribution’ or … Read More

Exciting New World: Australia in the 1930s

William Roberts, an original Anzac, and his family evicted from their Redfern home into the street during the Depression

On Saturday 6 November, the RAHS is holding a special online event, exploring the Exciting New World: Australia in the 1920s and 1930s. This is the second in a series of two blog posts about the interwar decades, providing an overview of the broad spectrum of changes which occurred across Australian politics, society, and culture during that time. Read the first instalment here For further information and bookings visit the website Written by Elizabeth Heffernan, RAHS Volunteer If the 1920s was … Read More

Dyarubbin: Exhibition Review

Written by Brei Dwyer, RAHS Volunteer & Member Professor Grace Karskens’ research led her to the discovery of a document that has changed our understanding of the Darug people of Dyarubbin (the Hawkesbury River, NSW). This document, alongside other revealing sources, are a part of the Dyarubbin Exhibition at the State Library of NSW until March 2022. Dyarubbin was an important resource in sustaining Darug people long before white settlement and remains intrinsically connected to Darug culture and spirituality. In … Read More

Exciting New World: Australia in the 1920s

On Saturday 6 November, the RAHS is holding a special online event, exploring the Exciting New World: Australia in the 1920s and 1930s. This is the first in a series of two blog posts about the interwar decades, providing an overview of the broad spectrum of changes which occurred across Australian politics, society, and culture during that time. For further information and bookings visit the website Written by Elizabeth Heffernan, RAHS Intern ‘… the power of the modern … simultaneously exhilarated … Read More

Media Release – Exciting New World: Australian Life in the 1920s and 1930s

In August, the RAHS made the difficult decision to postpone our 2021 Conference in light of the COVID-19 situation in Greater Sydney and NSW. While we look forward to welcoming our members and affiliates to the postponed conference in Bathurst in 2022, we have some exciting news to conclude what has been a turbulent year for us all. The RAHS is pleased to announce a special event held online via Zoom on Saturday 6 November which will delve into an … Read More

How science was communicated in colonial New South Wales

By Davina Jackson [PhD, M.Arch, FRGS, FRSA, FRSN] Two hundred years ago, in June 1821, Australia’s first learned society was launched in Sydney. Named the Philosophical Society of Australasia – because ‘natural philosophy’ was the prevalent term for science at that time – the group comprised seven prominent men who shared the goal of establishing a museum of natural history. The founders were Judge Barron Field, Dr Henry Grattan Douglass, Colonial Secretary Frederick Goulburn, surveyor John Oxley, merchant Edward Wollstonecraft, … Read More

Call out for blue plaque nominations to celebrate our state’s heritage

Communities across the state can now nominate heritage places linked to notable personalities and events for recognition as part of the NSW Blue Plaques program. Local Members of Parliament (MPs) or Members of the Legislative Council (MLCs) will be asking their communities to provide suggestions on sites which represent a significant story, person or event. The MPs and MLCs will then nominate these sites to Heritage NSW for a Blue Plaque. Minister responsible for Heritage Don Harwin said whether its … Read More

Too Much Cabbage & Jesus Christ: Australia’s ‘Mission Girl’ Annie Lock

A terrific book – lively, informative, engaging. Strikes the right note of uncertainty about how we should now feel about humanitarianism such as Lock’s. – Tim Rowse, Professor Emeritus For too long Annie Lock has been a mere footnote in Australian history. We should all be grateful to Cath Bishop, her nuanced research and beautiful prose reveals not only Annie but her many proteges, friends, and subjects. This book deserves a wide audience. – Prof Lynette Russell AM (Monash University), ARC Kathleen … Read More

‘People of the River’ wins 2021 NSW Premier’s History Award

Congratulations to Grace Karskens who was awarded the NSW Premier’s History Award in the Australian History Prize category for her book People of the River: Lost Worlds of Early Australia. People of the River traces the histories of Aboriginal people and settlers on Dyarubbin, the Hawkesbury-Nepean River, from Deep Time through to the nineteenth century. The judges’ panel said the book ‘is an impressive reflection on the pivotal place river landscapes played in the early history of Australia … it … Read More

Frances Burke: Designer of Modern Textiles

An elegantly illustrated celebration of iconic Australian designer Frances Burke Frances Burke was Australia’s most influential and celebrated textile designer of the 20th century. From the late 1930s to 1970, her designs achieved a prominence unparalleled in Australia before or since. Displaying imagery and colours from native flora, marine objects, Indigenous artefacts and designs of pure abstraction, Burke’s innovative fabrics remain fresh and appealing, distinctive and evocative of Australia. In New Design, her fabric showroom and interior design consultancy, Burke … Read More