HCSA Historian Awards 2020 Winners

Emerging Historian:

Rachel Bleeze

Rachel Bleeze holding her award

History has been a focus of study for Rachel since she began her Arts degree at the University of Adelaide in 2008. Rachel graduated with a double major in History and Mandarin Chinese. For her Honours degree, Rachel cleverly combined these two areas of study; she investigated the fear engendered by the numbers of Chinese traveling to the Victorian gold mines via the South Australian fishing port of Robe.

Rachel completed a Graduate Diploma in Education in 2012, enabling her to teach History and Mandarin Chinese up to Year 12 level. Rather than going directly into teaching, Rachel enrolled in a PhD in the School of Education at the University of Adelaide, investigating history curriculum documents.

While completing her PhD, Rachel presented at international conferences – in Beijing in 2016, and in Wellington, where she received the New Scholar Award for 2018. Rachel also presented to academics and her fellow PhD students at the University of Adelaide. In recognition of the high standard of these presentations, Rachel received the Schulz Post-graduate Award for the Study of Education in 2018.

Rachel finished the last three years of her PhD candidature as a part-time student in order to take up two part-time positions in History and Education.

Rachel is currently employed at Tabor College teaching Australian, Early Modern European and Asian History, and at the University of Adelaide teaching in the University Preparation Program which introduces history to students with little or no Year 11 and 12 background in the subject.

On these impressive credentials, Rachel is an extremely worthy recipient of the Emerging Historian Award for 2020. Congratulations Rachel, we look forward to hearing of more about your innovative contribution to the teaching of history in the future.


Regional Historian:

Vale Eric Fuss of Burra

Eric Fuss. Image Credit ABC Rural 2014

Since Eric retired in 2000, Eric’s energies have gone into documenting and raising interest in the history of Burra and making his work available to others. Together with another prominent local historian, Meredith Satchell, Eric has prepared the data for 65 heritage plaques around Burra and district – a very time-consuming task!

Erc and Meredith have also collaborated to prepare self-guided walks of Burra and the Burra cemetery. They have published several books including one about Burra’s first historian, Frank Treloar, and one about the First World War enlistees of Mt Bryan and District. Another significant publication is Burra, a Photographic Journey.

Eric has undertaken the major task of indexing and summarizing articles of all Burra newspapers from 1876 to the present day, as well as articles relating to Burra from The Register from 1845 to 1876. The more than 7000 pages of newspaper items prepared by Eric are a valuable researching tool that augments the TROVE availability of The Burra Record (1878-1954).

Eric has also compiled indexes of all the men and women of the district who served in both World Wars, and an index of almost a hundred years of local government elections. He has been the secretary of the Burra History Group since its inception in 2006. As his nominators’ noted, the old adage, “that if no one else does it, the secretary must” certainly applies to Eric. In his role of Secretary, Eric has contributed to the website of the Burra History Group.

Unfortunately, Eric was unable to attend the awards ceremony but we hope Eric has watched the live stream. Congratulations Eric, and thank you for your wonderful contribution to regional history.


Lifelong Historian:

Vale Barbara J. Lodge

Barbara J Lodge holding her award

Barbara’s interest in history was sparked by two elderly uncles sitting at the kitchen table reminiscing about “the old days”. This prompted her to document the history of the family farm which had been in their possession since the first land sales in 1876.  After successfully finishing her family history, Barbara began researching and documenting the history of Ardrossan and its surrounds.

As well as writing countless articles published in the Yorke Peninsula Country Times and Ardrossan Progress Association newsletter, Barbara has compiled several books. These include her family history, From the Borders to the Bush, and centenary publications of three organizations, Ardrossan Community Hospital,  Ardrossan School, and the Petersville Hall.

As Barbara’s nominators state, most towns have something to crow about, and Ardrossan’s claim to fame is the Stump Jump Plough.  This SA icon was manufactured in Ardrossan by the Smith Brothers. The original powerhouse of that factory is now the Ardrossan Heritage Museum. Barbara has researched and documented the factory’s inception and growth to its closure in 1936 as a result of the depression.

She has been actively involved in the Ardrossan Heritage Museum Committee since its inception in 1973. Now, at the age of 92, Barbara is currently a Minute Secretary and Historian of the Ardrossan Heritage Museum Committee. She also plays a key role in educating school children when they come to the Museum.

This year Barbara was to present monthly sessions at the Museum – titled “Discover Local History Through The Eyes of Barbara Lodge”. These sessions were to commence during the SA History Festival in May but Covid19 pandemic thwarted Barbara’s plans.

Despite Barbara insisting that she is not a “professional” researcher or writer, her meticulous research and diligence in documenting the history of the Ardrossan district is unsurpassed – it provides a comprehensive record that will be a lasting memorial to everyone that has lived and worked in the region.  Barbara’s work will allow future generations to understand the hardships of years gone by as well as the importance of inventions such as the Stump Jump Plough.

Barbara is a living treasure of Ardrossan, Yorke Peninsula, and indeed of South Australia.


Historian of the Year:

Paddy O' Toole

Paddy O'Toole holding her award

Paddy’s book,  Fragments of Time: The Lives and Works of the Willunga Slate Carvers, was published in 2019. It is the result of four years of research and travel within Australia and overseas. As Paddy tells us, slate was first discovered by Europeans in Willunga in 1840, only one year after the district was first occupied by colonists. Slate is key to the history and heritage of Willunga and continues to be of significance to the people of Willunga today.

In Paddy’s words, “The Willunga slate carvings are a product of a particular time, a particular place and particular people. They are local, but a hint of other lands, they are material but hint at abstract cultural influences.  They are a legacy of the past to be celebrated in the present and into the future.”.

A grant from the History Trust of South Australia assisted in the publication of the book of  197 pages and over 200 historical photographs and images of slate carvings, showing that Paddy has indeed achieved her aim  - “to introduce our unique legacy of Willunga District slate carvings to an audience beyond the immediate district, and present the lives of the slate carvers in 19th century South Australia as they existed within the turbulent events of that time”.

Paddy’s meticulously researched and beautifully written book has been well received. Paddy is a popular leader of Cemetery Walks, and Heritage Walks in Willunga, a public speaker, a regular contributor to Willunga Now and Then, and author of interpretive signage in the Slate Museum relating to the Willunga slate carvers.