Annual Lecture ­ ISAA

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Annual Lecture




At the 2020 Annual Lecture via Zoom on Thursday 24 September at 4.00pm the speaker was Professor Bruce Scates, historian, novelist, documentary film producer and Fellow of the Academy of the Social Sciences in Australia, His topic will be 'Monumental Errors': Contested Commemoration across Australia's Civic Landscape.

‘Monumental Errors’: Contested Commemoration across Australia’s Civic Landscape.

Professor Bruce Scates

War memorials are a feature of the Australian landscape. Obelisk and arch, broken pillar and stone statue remind us of the crippling loss a young nation faced in campaigns overseas. But what of the monuments to conflicts fought in our own country – a brutal war of dispossession that left deep and enduring scars on countless communities? As recent debates over memorials to white explorers and pioneers demonstrates sanitised symbols of violence and dispossession have too long stood unchallenged in the heart of our towns and cities. By occupying civic space, they serve to legitimise narratives of conquest and dispossession, arguably colonising minds in the same ways ‘settlers’ seized vast tracts of territory. 

This lecture will examine the ways that historians and the wider community might take issue with these relics of our colonial past. It will explore the concept of ‘dialogical memorialisation’ examining the way that the meanings of racist memorials might be subverted and contested and argue that far from ‘erasing’ history, attacks on these monuments constitute a reckoning with a painful and unresolved past. Most important of all, I address the question of whose voice in empowered in these debates and acknowledge the need for white archival based history to respect and learn from Indigenous forms of knowledge.


About the speaker Professor Bruce Scates FASSA

A prize-winning historian, novelist and film producer, Professor Bruce Scates FASSA is based in the School of History at the Australian National University. A Fulbright scholar, he is the author/lead author of twelve books and numerous articles. His main expertise is on Anzac and the contested memory of war, but he also works in the fields of labour and environmental history, the contested politics of memorials and Indigenous histories. Committed to communicating history to the widest possible audience, he has featured in television documentaries, co-created a number of websites and written numerous opinion pieces for the daily press. 

He is the writer and producer of ‘Australian Journey’, a documentary series exploring the history of Australia through objects and the recipient/co-recipient of university, state and national awards for teaching. His imagined history of Gallipoli, ‘On Dangerous Ground’, was listed on Australia’s first national curriculum for literature and shortlisted in the Christina Stead awards. Bruce Scates’ work on frontier violence in nineteenth century Western Australia was commended by the First Report for the National Council for Aboriginal Reconciliation. It formed the basis of a successful submission to local government, critiquing the Explorers’ Monument in Fremantle.





by Ian Lowe

Ian Lowe AO FTSE FQA is Emeritus Professor of science, technology and society at Griffith University and a long-standing member of ISAA




The wonderful legacy of Ann Moyal


Dr Ann Moyal AM FRSN FAHA lived a long and productive life. Her legacy endures in three areas. First, and most obviously, we must be grateful for her extraordinary body of published work. It includes landmark studies that set new standards for scholarly analysis of the history of science and technology. Secondly, she was a pioneer in this broad field and largely responsible for its acceptance as a reputable discipline in our universities. Thirdly, as a proudly independent scholar for four decades, she was the prime mover in the establishment of ISAA. As its founding President and an outstanding contributor to its work up to and including this year, she put the organisation on a sound footing for the future. 


Ian Lowe AO FTSE FQA is emeritus professor of science, technology and society at Griffith University and a long-standing member of ISAA. 

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Human Rights and Disability: The Promise and the Reality


Trevor R Parmenter AM

Professor Emeritus, Sydney Medical School, University of Sydney

How well Australia has met its obligations to respect the essential humanity of people living with a disability and to enable them to flourish will be discussed in the context of an overview of Australia’s obligations under various human rights instruments: from the Declaration of Human Rights (1948) tothe UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD) (2006.

Trevor Parmenter will examine the intersection of the rights approach to disability and the National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS).Central to the analysis will be an examination of the apparent paradox between the philosophies of self-determination, empowerment and citizenship espoused by disability advocates and the essential focus of the NDIS on consumer choice and market-driven consumer systems. 


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David Christian


We can think of history as a collection of interesting stories about the past. Or (in a more ancient historiographical mode) as a collection of exemplars, stories about the past that can illuminate the present. This essay is written in the second of these modes. It will argue that the very wide-angle lens of big history can help us see the deeper significance of the Russian Revolution in new ways.[i]

The Russian Revolution has a lot to teach us. It is topical because the second of 1917’s two revolutions, the October Revolution, happened almost exactly 100 years ago, on November 7. We call it the October Revolution because, according to the Julian calendar in force in Russia at the time, it took place on 25 October, but according to the Gregorian calendar used in Europe it took place on 7 November. (The new Bolshevik government introduced the Gregorian calendar in Russia on 1 February 1918. This worried many people because it meant that the day after 1 February was 15 February, and some worried that their lives would have shortened by two weeks.)

How can the Russian Revolution illuminate today’s world? Why, today, should we care about what happened in Russia 100 years ago?  That is the central theme of this talk, and I hope I can offer some interesting, and perhaps illuminating, answers at several different historical scales. By doing that, I hope I can illustrate how the very wide-angle lens of big history can broaden our understanding of more conventional historical questions and topics.


[i] There is a rapidly growing literature on big history. For some samples, see David Christian, Maps of Time: An Introduction to Big History, reprint with a new preface, Berkeley, CA, University of California Press, 2004; David Christian, ‘The Return of Universal History,’ History and Theory, Theme Issue, 49 (December 2010), pp 5-26; and a more recent essay, David Christian, “What is Big History?”, Journal of Big History, Vol 1, No 1 (2017), pp 4-19.

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The 2016 Annual ISAA lecture was delivered by veteran broadcaster, Quentin Dempster, on ‘The media in Australia - distorting influences and redeeming efforts’, 5.30-6.30 pm on Thursday 13 October at the National Library of Australia.


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