The John Douglas Kerr Medal of Distinction for 2014: Dr Kay Cohen

At the Queensland Day Dinner hosted by the Royal Historical Society of Queensland, Dr Kay Cohen was presented with the 2014 John Douglas Kerr Medal of Distinction. In a career spanning over thirty years, Dr Kay Cohen has and continues to demonstrate a quiet, generous and prodigious professionalism and dedication to the field of Queensland history. Kay’s principal area of…

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Review – Janice Cooper, Crossing the Divide: a history of the Alpha and Jericho Districts, Barcaldine Regional Council, 2013.

By Thom Blake Crossing the Divide is a history of the area in central Queensland formerly encompassed by the Jericho Shire Council. Janice Cooper, a PHA member, was commissioned by the Barcaldine Regional Council to research and write this history. The Council should be well pleased with the result as Cooper has done an admirable job. She was well qualified…

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Guest Editorial – Historically-minded in Queensland

Dear Editor,

Your recent editorial on generational change expressed some important issues very clearly. It is certainly true, as you say, that it is the 60+ generation that seem the most interested in history, and that trend has probably been with us since Adam was a boy. I am not sure if anyone has done a study of all those ‘Back to Croydon/Hughenden/Cloncurry’-style commemorative publications printed in the 1950s etc. to celebrate the historical anniversaries of Queensland districts, but I am sure that ‘old timers’ were probably at the forefront of such heritage-minded endeavours. As we get older, we do tend to have a greater awareness and appreciation of the passage of time. (more…)

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Editorial – It’s not all Gloom and Doom!

I am told that “May you live in interesting times”, is often referred to as the Chinese curse. I don’t believe in curses in any providential sense, but it is true that, as professional historians, we are living in interesting times. There is much about our present context that makes it difficult for a historian as an independent and credible scholar. Digitalisation of historical resources has come at a price. Certainly it speeds up the research process and makes it even possible to access sources which were too distant to make it unfeasible to organise a research trip. It cannot be all put up online. The trip to the archives (hopefully not too far away) is still a necessity, and given the volume of archival material, it will still be a necessity for a long time to come. However, what the trained scholar has access to, so has the amateur historian. There is no problem in the fact that increasingly many folk now wish to take up the role of the amateur historian, nor is there a problem in the archivist making it easier for the disciplinary-untrained to do history work. Most archives have a public obligation to make material freely-available. The difficulty doesn’t lie here.


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2013 John Douglas Kerr Medal of Distinction – Dr Ruth Kerr, OAM

Few people have made a greater contribution to excellence in Queensland history as Dr Ruth Kerr has, and continues to, over a career spanning forty-five years. In her teaching, research, publications and involvement with Queensland State Archives, Queensland Parliamentary Library, a range of Queensland Government Departments, the University of Queensland, the Royal Historical Society of Queensland, the Australian Mining History Association, the Professional Historians Association of Queensland and most of Queensland’s local historical associations Dr Kerr has contributed diligently and generously to advancing our knowledge of Queensland’s history.

Queensland Day Dinner 2013

Queensland Day Dinner
From L to R – Her Excellency Ms Penelope Wensley, Mary Elliott, Ruth Kerr’s sister-in-law, and Ruth Kerr (more…)

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An Australian Intellectual View of the History Profession

By Neville Buch, MPHA

Greg Melleuish is an Australian intellectual historian, a rare and strange creature in this country. He is an Associate Professor at the University of Wollongong, and is  generally considered a conservative scholar with very critical views of the contemporary history discipline and the humanities generally. There are problems that he sees in the current state of play in Australian history, and that includes the sub-genres that we professional historians engage.


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Who is best to write history in the marketplace?

David Greenberg. That Barnes & Noble Dream (Entry 1), Posted Tuesday, May 17, 2005 (Entry 1), and Wednesday, May 18, 2005 (Entry 2), in Slate Online Magazine.

It is an important experience to hear what people actually say about history and historians, instead of what they want you to hear, knowing your role as a professional history. It is not that difficult to prod some honest answers if you know where to look.  And so it came to pass that I read this comment in the Association of Personal Historians’ social networking site: “Historians tend to write in a style that reflects the archives or lecture hall–somewhat turgid and dry.”


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Editorial – Professional History as Generational Change

One of the prejudices I struggle with are judgements about generation.  Perhaps it is the stage of my life. I am in the thick of it; a cross-point between family relations that are very young and very old.  My partner and I are looking after one child who at primary school and nurturing a young adult daughter.  In the other direction our eyes are on elderly parents in their eighty. We have already experienced the loss of one parent from disease in their senior years. So it is understandable to make generalisations based on age.

Talk of generations, however, I find is over-generalising. As if because a person was born at a certain year, they must have the same outlook in that same cohort. If you think about it for one minute, you realise this is utter nonsense, and yet the journalistic-style books on generational shifts sell well. One of the important lessons you learn as a discipline-trained historian is don’t assume an era can be reduced to one set of behaviours or codes. You look for subtle movements of changes, conflict, and shifts against the tide.

And yet, what I see – or want to see — is that, the younger generations, Y, X, and Z (what happens after “Z”?), have little patience with things historical. My youngest daughter thinks I am boring and stupid because I say too much about things in the past. My eldest has some sympathy, but my history-making is just not cool. “Too much detail!” they say. On the other hand, my post-WWII generation parents speak well of history, but still don’t understand and don’t really want to understand – that is, to understand at a level of engagement.

I have thought of about this. Most of my clients were the generation of young adults in the immediate post-WWII years. If you are involved in a local history group you know that the medium age is usually over 60. The largest portion of this generation never went to college or university. Often they sacrificed themselves in their menial jobs to give their children a higher education. The twist in the history is that this generation don’t often have the patience with their children’s literary engagement simply because they have never had the luxury to be exposed to that level of reading.

Nevertheless, the literary tastes for history, as well as other historical engagements, are more complex and developing than the simple generalization provides. As historians we know that people who lived in the same era were all very different, shaped in the judgements other than age; in categories of class, gender, race or ethnicity, politics, and nationhood (“Australian”) or statehood (“Queenslander”).

There is a pertinent point here for the professional historian.  We need to think inter-generationally in our work. Age still does have relevance, among everything else.  The demand in the market is with the older generations. Sometimes it is really frustrating to work with older people who have just discovered “history.” You have to remind yourself of the naturalness in the process. Most people don’t care about history until much later in life when they starting to think about their own mortality. (more…)

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Historical Ideas in Queensland: An Invitation for Dialogue and Engagement in Study, or please rescue me from my crazy notions…

By Neville Buch

There are different approaches to history practiced in this state. Family history is very popular. Many of our members are practitioners of local history, as am I. A few get the opportunity to break open a field that cast the research across Queensland.  A number of historians do well in heritage studies, and house or property history. And there are arrays of topics that cover the horde of ways Queenslanders live their lives – education, heath, law, transport, employment, gender, children, aging, dying, and so forth.


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