This research program builds on the ongoing work of historians engaged in examining Australia's changing social structures, norms and self-perceptions in the period since 1945.

These changes are being examined through three distinct prisms:

  1. The Australian military as an institution reflecting society
  2. Cultural artefacts
  3. Sites of institutional knowledge

The program brings together the research agendas of Associate Professor Noah Riseman, Dr Melissa Bellanta, Dr Maggie Nolan, Dr Hannah Forsyth and Dr Catherine Bishop.

Serving in Silence? LGBTI Military Service in Australia since 1945

Associate Professor Noah Riseman 
(ARC Discovery Grant funded project, 2016 - 2019)

This project aims to investigate how the Australian armed forces have grappled with changing social attitudes towards lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex (LGBTI) people from the end of the Second World War until the present. The research will analyse why in some eras the Australian military has been an international leader in facilitating social change, while at other times it has lagged behind civilian norms. It will reveal the untold experiences of LGBTI personnel, the processes of change to policies and practices, and wider cultural shifts around sexuality and gender. The project outcomes will inform current debates about Australian Defence Force culture and wider questions about how institutions respond to social change.

Defending Australia, Defending Indigenous Rights: Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Military Service and Australian Identity, 1946-2003

Associate Professor Noah Riseman
(ARC Discovery Project, 2011-2013)

This project was concerned with recovering the experiences of Australian Indigenous soldiers and veterans in conflicts and peacetime since World War II, within the context of evolving notions of citizenship, race, and civil rights. By examining the interrelated influences of military service on Indigenous communities, non-Indigenous soldiers, activism, veterans' affairs, and political discourse, this study advanced knowledge of Indigenous soldiers' and veterans' impact on Australia's national identity and constructions of citizenship. The outcome was an enhanced understanding of the movement towards Indigenous citizenship rights and social justice.

Serving Our Country: A History of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander People in the Defence of Australia

(ARC Linkage Project, 2012-16)

Chief Investigators: Noah Riseman; Professor Mick Dodson, ANU; Professor John Maynard, University of Newcastle; Professor Joan Beaumont, ANU; Dr. Geoffrey Gray, ANU; Dr. Samuel Furphy, ANU; Dr. Mary Anne Jebb, AIATSIS; Partner Organisations: Department of Defence, Department of Veterans' Affairs, National Archives of Australia, Australian War Memorial.

This is a four-year research project exploring the history of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander service in Australian defence and auxiliary services from the 1890s to 2000. This national project has brought major agencies dealing with veterans, their families and their stories, memorialisation and current defence personnel into collaboration with key collecting and exhibiting institutions.

Partnerships between leading scholars and Indigenous families address calls for recognition of their significant defence roles. This project will identify and research new collections, then deliver accessible scholarly and popular outcomes, including biographies and family narratives to illuminate the Australian history of race, nation, service and citizenship.

Tender Feeling in a Hard Man's Country: Gender and the Emotions in Australian Culture

Dr Melissa Bellanta
(ACU Research Funding Grant funded project 2014-2016, ARC Postdoctoral Fellowship 2010-12)

Sentimentality and tender emotional expression has played a much more significant role in Australian culture over time than usually acknowledged. The stereotype of the hard or laconic Australian man is particularly misleading. Focusing on the decades between 1870 and c.1960, in fact, this project shows that 'tough' men with tender hearts have long been central to Australian culture and public life. In so doing, it casts crucial light on gender and settler-Aboriginal relations and formal Australian politics, not to mention on the consumption and performance of song, poetry, theatre, film and sport in Australian history.

Looking Flash: Consumption, Identity and Street Style in Australia Since 1800

Dr Melissa Bellanta 
(ACU Research Funding grant funded project 2014-2016)

This project explores the significance of 'flash' street style and culture in Australian history since 1800. The term 'flash', meaning flamboyantly street-wise or street-smart, was widely used from this period. Ever since, it has existed in a complex relationship with fashion and commercial popular culture at the same time as functioning as a way for underprivileged people to strive for self-dignity. The project builds on Dr Bellanta's historical knowledge of street youth, her growing fascination with dress history, and her longstanding interest in connecting popular entertainment, visual culture and everyday practices in Australian history.

Fictions of Reconciliation: Book Clubs and Australian Historical Fiction

Dr Maggie Nolan
(ACU Research Funding grant funded project 2014-2016)

Fictions of Reconciliation, a joint project with Robert Clarke (UTas), James Procter (Newcastle University, UK) and Danielle Fuller (Birmingham University), examines how readers in book clubs read recent works of Australian historical fiction dealing with Indigenous and non-Indigenous relations. The study aims to shift the focus of analysis of works of literature from the literary academy and literary media to those communal spaces in which non-professional readers engage with fiction and which foster social and intellectual networks, and thereby expand our understanding of how works of literature influence public understandings of the past. This project promises to offer a richly textured picture of how Australian literary culture contributes to understandings of the nation's past.

Australian Universities since the Second World War

Dr Hannah Forsyth

After the Second World War, universities worldwide grew from small, elite institutions educating a tiny proportion of the population to a system in which more than one-in-five young people, from a widening socio-economic base, attend university. Moreover, research, which was not perceived even to be part of the university's mission prior to the war, now defines it. Knowledge in the twentieth century, expressed in these changing priorities in universities, transformed Australian political and economic life, as it has the global economy. This history of Australian universities uses a historical lens to explain the institutions of the present and to explore the changing nature of knowledge in twentieth century capitalism.

Project outputs include:

  • A History of the Modern Australian University Sydney: NewSouth, 2014
  • ‘Expanding higher education: Institutional responses in Australia from the post-war era to the 1970s’ Paedagogica Historica: International Journal of the History of Education 51(3), 2015, 365-80.
  • 'Dreaming of Higher Education' Southerly 74 (2), 2014,  pp.119-42

Engaged Citizenship and Historical Consciousness in Australia

Dr Hannah Forsyth

In this project, Hannah is working with people and communities to explore aspects of work, knowledge, citizenship and belonging. In outback Broken Hill, Hannah has undertaken a study of the history of professions; of the spatial politics of class and race; and work and memory in the formation of citizenship, based on oral history and archival research. In Wilcannia, Hannah (along with Altin Gavranovic) has also used oral history and archives to explore the ways that Aboriginal people (especially the Barkindji) engaged with the economy as capitalist interests developed along the Darling River. Hannah is now in the process of preparing this research for publication.




  • Noah Riseman, ‘Elite Indigenous Masculinity in Textual Representations of Aboriginal Service in the Vietnam War.’ Journal of Australian Studies 40, no. 1 (February 2016): 32-44.
  • Marguerite Nolan, "Narrating Historical Massacre: Alex Miller's Landscape of Farewell." JASAL: Journal of the Association for the Study of Australian Literature. JASAL 16.1 (2016)
  • Hannah Forsyth, 'Expanding higher education: institutional responses in Australia from the post-war era to the 1970s' Paedagogica Historica: International Journal of the History of Education 51:3)  (2015): 365-80.
  • Hannah Forsyth and Annette Cairnduff, 'A Scholarship of Social Inclusion in higher education: why we need it and what it should look like'. Higher Education Research and Development 34:1 (2015), 219-222.
  • Hannah Forsyth, 'The mass university is good for equity, but must it also be bad for learning?' The Conversation 27 May 2015.
  • Hannah Forsyth, 'Group of Eight's change of tack smacks of self-interest' The Conversation 8 April 2015.
  • Hannah Forsyth, 'Malcolm Fraser's life and legacy: experts respond' The Conversation 8 March 2015.
  • Noah Riseman and Timothy Winegard, 'Indigenous Experience of War (British Dominions)' in 1914-1918 Online. International Encyclopedia of the First World War, eds
  • Peter Gatrell, Heather Jones and Jennifer Keene (Berlin: Freie Universitat, 2015). Click here to access.
  • Noah Riseman, 'The Vietnam War and Indigenous Service in Australia and the United States', in New Perceptions of the Vietnam War: Essays on the War, the South Vietnamese Experience, the Diaspora and the Continuing Impact, ed. Nathalie Nguyen (Jefferson, NC: McFarland & Company, 2015): 203-228.
  • Noah Riseman. "Laying wreaths for Australians who once served in silence." The Conversation (23 April 2015), online, available from
  • Riseman, Noah, 'Escaping assimilation's grasp: Aboriginal women in the Australian women's military services', Women's History Review, published online 3/12/2014, DOI: 10.1080/09612025.2014.975499.
  • Riseman, Noah, 'The Rise of Indigenous Military History', History Compass 12 (12), 2014, 901-911.
  • Riseman, Noah, 'Aboriginal Military Service and Assimilation', Aboriginal History 38, 2014, 155-178.
  • Riseman, Noah, 'Enduring Silences, Enduring Prejudices: Australian Aboriginal Participation in the First World War', in David Monger, Katie Pickles and Sarah Murray (eds), Endurance and the First World War: Experience and Legacies in New Zealand and Australia. Newcastle upon Tyne: Cambridge Scholars Publishing, 2014, 178-195.
  • Riseman, Noah, 'Performing Australia's forgotten Anzacs', History Australia 11, (2), 2014, 258-260.
  • Bellanta, Melissa, 'Uncle Tom in the White Pacific: African-American Performances of the Slave Sublime in Australasia, 1878-1889', Journal of Colonialism and Colonial History, 15 (3) 2014.
  • Bellanta, Melissa, 'Bury Me Deep Down Below: Sentimentality, Masculinity and Death on the Colonial Frontier', Outskirts, 31, 2014
  • Bellanta, Melissa and Piper, Alana, 'Looking Flash: Disreputable Women's Dress and "Modernity"' History Workshop Journal, 78 (1), 2014
  • Bellanta, Melissa, 'The Sentimental Bloke: Australian Romance in the First World War Era', Journal of Popular Romance Studies, 4 (2), 2014
  • Bellanta, Melissa, 'The Leary Larrikin: Street Style in Late-Colonial Australia'. Cultural and Social History, 2014
  • Forsyth, Hannah, 'The Russel Ward Case: Academic Freedom in Australia during the Cold War', History Australia 11 (3), 2014, 31-52
  • Forsyth, Hannah, 'Dreaming of Higher Education' Southerly 74 (2), 2014, 119-42
  • Forsyth, Hannah, 'Disinterested Scholars or Interested Parties? The Public's Investment in Self-interested Universities', in M. Thornton (ed.), Through a Glass Darkly: The Neoliberal University and the Social Sciences, Canberra, ANU Press, 2014
  • Clarke, Robert and Nolan, Maggie, 'Book Clubs and Reconciliation', Australian Humanities Review, May 2014
  • Nolan, Marguerite, 'Australia', Section12: New Literatures. Year's Work in English Studies 93 (1), 2014


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