Editorial – The Best of Times, The Worst of Times, July 2012

It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair, we had everything before us, we had nothing before us, we were all going direct to heaven, we were all going direct the other way – in short, the period was so far like the present period, that some of its noisiest authorities insisted on its being received, for good or for evil, in the superlative degree of comparison only.
Charles Dickens, A Tale of Two Cities

When feeling despondent about the recent political and economic environment in Queensland, we need to remind ourselves of Dickens’ words, and the thought that it is not over yet. The “fat girl” hasn’t sung, and her name is history. Professional historians are not history yet in this state! We, as an Association, have it in our own hands to make our future and that is why I urge members to consider and read carefully the item in this e-bulletin, called “Announcing Strategic Planning”.

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Reflections on Floodlines Exhibition

By Helen Gregory

‘Will you go through our collection to see what you can find for an exhibition on the 1890s floods in Brisbane?’ was an invitation too tempting to resist. Flooding was in all our minds early in 2011 when the State Library of Queensland was planning its ‘Floodlines’ exhibitions. The exhibition on the 2010-2011 floods which inundated vast swathes of Queensland was planned to be a high tech exposition, using the latest in electronic wizardry to communicate the horrible experiences endured by many people in Queensland’s ‘summer of sadness’.

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On Becoming a Historian

by Ross Johnston, Winner of the 2012 John Douglas Kerr Medal of Distinction

‘I want you to cast your mind back to 1956, end January/early February.  I have a clear picture, of little Rossie Johnston, standing wide-eyed, amazed, bedazzled, bemused, confused – as he surveyed his surrounds, the Great Court of The University of Sydney, that massive, magnificent, overwhelming Gothic pile.  It certainly overwhelmed him; he was but sixteen year, four months old – about to start out on his career, on his life.  The intention was to be a lawyer, since he had won an Arts/Law scholarship. His older brother Val said: ‘we need a lawyer in the family’. I am not sure why – although there has been a tradition among the Johnstons, a Lowland Scottish clan, living on the Border with England, of cattle-stealing (rustling).  Our mob, probably trouble-makers, had been sent some centuries ago to Ireland – ‘to civilise the Irish’ – ending up on border-lands (County Fermanagh, today on the border of Northern Ireland and Eire).  When the going got tough, as a result of the Great Famine in the 1840s, my forebears emigrated to Australia, and ended up in border-lands, again – in ‘Queensland Irredenta’, the upper Clarence basin (part of the Northern Rivers of New South Wales).  Cattle-stealing was not unknown in that area.

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Citation for the 2012 Winner of the John Douglas Kerr Medal of Distinction: Ross Johnston

Composed by Jeff Hopkins-Weise

Associate Professor Dr William Ross Johnston brought rigour to academic Queensland history and through his teaching, research, publications and involvement with The University of Queensland, Queensland State Library, Queensland Museum, the Queensland Historians Institute (now the Professional Historians Association of Queensland), the Brisbane History Group, and the Australian Dictionary of Biography’s Queensland Working Party – have all helped advance Queensland’s history and its place at the forefront of Australian history. Likewise, his Pacific and British Empire writings have provided a separate, yet strongly connected context to his writings on Queensland and Australia.

Ross Johnson, recipient of the 2012 John Douglas Kerr Medal of Distinction
Ross Johnston, recipient of the 2012 John Douglas Kerr Medal of Distinction

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Tribute to Dr Diane Menghetti

May 22, 1940 – June 18, 2012

In the 1970s, Diane Menghetti decided to complete her education in her thirties after a career as a nurse working in Papua New Guinea, Northern Australia and elsewhere. She was one of the first mature age students to be accepted at James Cook University at the time, and was awarded a University Medal.  In 1980 Diane Menghetti graduated with First Class Honours in History, a University Medal and the Jean Farnfield Prize in Australian History.

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Tribute to John Douglas Kerr’s Historiography

By Ruth Kerr


The following tribute was delivered on the occasion of the Ceremony for the 2012 Presentation of the Award of The John Douglas Kerr Medal of Distinction for Historical Research and Writing. It presented by Dr Ruth Kerr, a long-serving member of the Professional Historians Association (Queensland) and life partner of the late John Kerr.


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Editorial: Better late? June 2012

It is a terrible cliché: better late than never.  It overlooks too easily the fact that success is a matter of better timing; as happens so well when the lucky ones launch a timely idea. Yes, but!  (There is always the “but”). There are those moments in history where being late may fortuitously bring us to a timely encounter with success, in ways in which we could not anticipate. And much in this –  very late – issue of the e-bulletin illuminates that insight.

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Economics of Voluntary-Professional Endeavours in Local History

By Neville Buch

Disclaimer: The views expressed herein are solely those of the author and do not claim to represent the Professional Historians Association.

The economy, or more precisely, economic value, works differently among members of the Professional Historians Association.  Those members who are academics are paid by universities primarily to teach and to gain future research funding by delivering research outputs, mainly publications which will count in Excellence in Research for Australia (ERA) evaluations.  Actually producing history professionally is a by-product in this particular facet of the economy.  Other members are employees of government entities. As public servants, they may have the role of historians but they must perform dissimilar bureaucratic duties for which they are also paid to do.  A few members are consultants in the employ of private companies, and others are freelance consultants.  These members are paid to complete historical projects but are subject to the demands of the market, and many times the market doesn’t want or offer terribly much.

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Editorial: First Web-Based Edition, May 2012

Look to the past, live in the present, and move into the future. It is an ethical code that I put forward for professional historians. Like all codes, it will never settle historiographical debates, but it has a simple point to it that may guide our way.  As historians we want to understand the past, but we ought not to endeavour to live in the past. Our critical capabilities as historians tells that, as much as we inherit choices and habit in time gone-by, the living is the now, and the ability to choose what is at hand is the step into the future. Historical insight also tells us that for the sake of a better future we need to put old habits aside; perhaps just retaining a few sets of crusty habits as part of our charming character but a willingness, nevertheless, to always develop new ones over against old practices.

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What’s a name worth in Queensland: Invitation for 2012

What are the important anniversaries in Queensland during 2012? We would like the “What’s a name worth in Queensland” is be a regular column for the PHAQ e-Bulletin. Here is an opportunity to name that anniversary. You will be surprise how many of us ponder upon a name and wish to know more. If there is a place name or…

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