Funds to explore Rottnest Island prisoners and 1950s views of Aboriginal missions

Media release: Tuesday, 30 August 2016

The National Archives of Australia and the Australian Historical Association (AHA) have awarded two new scholarships to support postgraduate archival research into unexplored aspects of Australia's history.

The latest winners of the twice-yearly joint scholarships for 2016–17 are PhD candidates Katherine Roscoe from the University of Leicester, United Kingdom, and Jo Grant from Griffith University, Brisbane.

Katherine Roscoe's project looks at the transportation of European and Aboriginal convicts to islands surrounding Australia. She is completing her PhD as part of the European Research Council project, The Carceral Archipelago that explores convict transportation globally. Her case studies are Cockatoo Island (New South Wales) and Rottnest Island (Western Australia).

'Although these islands confined the most marginalised within colonial society – Indigenous Australians and twice-convicted prisoners – they actually played a key role in the imperial project,' she said. 'For example, Aboriginal prisoners on Rottnest built not one, but two, lighthouses to guide ships to the busy port at Fremantle – just one of countless examples of convicts building the maritime infrastructure necessary for global trade.'

Jo Grant's project looks at the visits of international public intellectuals to Aboriginal missions in the Northern Territory during the 1950s. The visitors included anthropologist Clive Kluckhohn in 1952, zoologist Julian Huxley in 1953 and historian Arnold Toynbee in 1956.

'During the 1950s Paul Hasluck, then Minister for Territories, invited a number of foreign public intellectuals to spend several weeks in the Northern Territory,' she said. 'My project is an intellectual and cultural history of these visits to several missions during the early years of the Cold War. It will focus particularly on Huxley who was the first Director-General of UNESCO.'

The scholarships, currently valued at $650 each, support researchers with the cost of digitising records held in the National Archives' various locations across Australia.

'We're pleased to provide archival research support for these talented postgraduate scholars,' said Louise Doyle, Assistant Director-General, National Archives of Australia. 'The National Archives is the keeper of Australia's memory so it's important that any research into the nation's past includes our records.'

Joint partner the Australian Historical Association also acknowledges the importance of archival resources in enabling postgraduate research into Australian history.

'The ability to access archival material from the NAA's extensive holdings digitally is of great benefit to history postgraduate students', said Professor Lynette Russell, President of the AHA. 'We are honoured to be associated with the NAA in this scheme.'

Contact information

  • Elizabeth Masters (Media Officer)
    t (02) 6212 3957 m 0417 247 157 e
  • Professor Tim Rowse (Australian Historical Association)
    t 02 9772 6543 e

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