Historian and Emeritus Professor Shurlee Swain has been elected a Fellow of the Australian Academy of the Humanities. This is the highest honour for achievement in the humanities in Australia.
The Australian Academy for the Humanities was established in 1969 as one of Australia’s four learned academies. Fellows are elected by their peers in recognition for their outstanding contributions to research and public life. Membership as a Fellow in the Academy is a marker of Professor Swain’s distinguished research and its significant impact, and reflects the esteem in which she is held by her peers in the fields of History and Social Work.
Professor Swain is recognised internationally as one of Australia’s preeminent historians of social welfare. She has written extensively about the welfare system in Australia, including on topics such as relinquishing mothers, forced adoptions, those who grew up in out-of-home care, Indigenous children and the history of women’s leadership in Australia. She has been Chief Investigator on numerous Australian Research Council grants, and coordinated the historical component of the Find & Connect project. Find & Connect set up a web resource as part of the reparations package tied to the Commonwealth apology to the Forgotten Australians, where care leavers can search information about institutions and records.
Professor Swain has also been a founding member of ACU’s thriving History program, both in research and learning and teaching. Since joining ACU in the early 1990s, Professor Swain has mentored historians and built a thriving research and teaching culture that is grounded in collaboration, partnerships and engaging historical research with the wider community. Professor Swain retired from ACU earlier this year, and was awarded the title of Emeritus Professor in August. Even in retirement, she has continued to mentor historians and other colleagues in the National School of Arts, demonstrating her ongoing commitment to supporting future generations of scholars. She is already a Fellow of the Academy of the Social Sciences in Australia, and now adds the esteemed role of Fellow of the Academy of the Humanities to her long list of career achievements.
National Head of the School of Arts, Professor Michael Ondaatje, heaped praise on Professor Swain: ‘Shurlee has been outstanding researcher, a first-rate teacher and a wonderful mentor to ACU historians over many years. She is recognised nationally and internationally as a scholar of exceptionally high-standing and this most recent award crowns a long and distinguished career. In the National School of Arts, we are very proud of Shurlee and feel privileged to work with her’.
In notifying ACU about Professor Swain’s success, the Australian Academy of the Humanities stressed that her election as a Fellow also illustrated ACU’s growing esteem within the Fellowship in regards to humanities’ leadership and scholarship.