HCSA Historain Awards 2021 Winners and History Festival Closing Ceremony

30 May 2021

About the event

The History Council of South Australia, The History Trust of South Australia and the State Library of South Australia celebrated the end of SA's History Festival and the SA Historians' Awards for 2021 at the Mortlock Library, State Library of South Australia, North Terrace, Adelaide.

The event was a major success, and was live streamed on our Facebook page and will be found on YouTube shortly. The HCSA would like to thank all the speakers: Keith Conlon, Rosemary Wanganeen, Michael Bollen of Wakefield Press, Skye Krichauff; the organisers: History Trust SA, the State Library SA, and the HCSA; the generous sponsors, Wakefield Press and Penfold’s Wines, and everyone that attended.


South Australian History Council Research Fellow

Dr Rebecca Jones, ‘Drought, flood, heat and dust: living with extreme weather in arid Australia’.

Dr Jones will investigate how people in settler societies have learnt from the emotional and physical challenges of weather extremes in the past and how this information can contribute to our responses to climate change in the present. She will use the Fellowship to examine diaries and letters written by nurses working for the Australian Inland Mission in Oodnadatta and Innamincka and Beltana in the 1900s and 1910s.  Held in the State Library of South Australia, these sources provide rich insights into the experiences of people living and working in remote arid areas in the early twentieth century and the many ways that they adapted (or didn’t adapt) to drought, dust, heat and flood.


Wakefield Press Essay Prize

From left to right: Rita Bogna (commendation), Connor Deegan (winner), Maggi Boult (commendation) and Michael Bollen of Wakefield Press


Judges’ Commendations

Rita Bogna: "Under siege: The Spanish flu in South Australia, 1919-1920."


Maggi Boult: "Smallpox and the office of the Colonial Surgeon in South Australia, 1839-1855.



Connor Deegan: ''Setting the pioneer legend in stone: The memorialisation of Captain Charles Sturt in the early twentieth century."


This essay resonates with the current international debates about memorialisation, providing a timely reminder that the nature of public memorials and statues has always been contested. Deegan sets out the important role played by groups such as the United Trades and Labor Council of South Australia in securing the plot for Sturt's statue, and describes the substantial public debate around the potential erection of statues of businessmen (in this instance, George Fife Angas and John Howard Angas) instead of 'courageous' explorers such as Captain Charles Sturt. Deegan presents a valuable introduction to a largely unexplored part of South Australia's history and at the same time, sheds light on the important role played by public monuments such as Sturt's statue in the promotion of the mythology of Australia's pioneer legend.


Emerging Historian

Dr Anne Black

In 2016, Anne Black completed her PhD thesis through the University of Adelaide, for which she received a Dean’s Commendation. Pendragon – based on Black’s thesis – was published by Wakefield Press in 2020. Black is the first scholar to comprehensively examine of the life, work and significance of colonial writer George Isaacs. As Black explains, Isaacs did not fit comfortably into colonial society. He was of Jewish heritage, had an unconventional private life, was fiercely intelligent, and willing to speak (and write) his mind. Although a prolific writer and the author of the first novel published in SA, Isaacs was largely forgotten after his death. The judges were impressed with the rich primary sources Black drew on to track Isaacs’ progress across two hemispheres and two Australian colonies. They concluded that the resulting publication illuminates our understanding of not just the man Isaacs, but also the period and its citizens.  With the publication of Pendragon, George Isaacs’ life has been revealed, examined, placed in its historical context and assessed. The result is a significant and authoritative contribution to our understanding of South Australia’s past, and a platform for future research.


Digital Technologies

Dr Kristy Kokegei (Judges’ nomination and award)

The impact of Covid-19 throughout 2020 and in to 2021 has been (and continues to be) significant.  While many organisations struggled to maintain even a small connection with the community, Dr Kokegei and her team at the History Trust of South Australia took the up the challenge and used last year as an opportunity to bring the hugely successful ‘Talking History’ series into the homes of South Australians.  Adapting public presentations for the virtual world and delivering them to a community starved of a physical connection is not straight forward; the challenges are significant, especially in managing real-time Q&A. As the Director of Public Engagement and the person responsible for managing the History Trust’s digital presence in the digital, community museum, and learning and education spheres, the judges were unanimous in nominating and selecting Kokegei for her innovation and vision in making ‘The Talking History’ series available to the wider public through digital technology.


Regional and/or Community Group Historian(s)

Jeffrey Noble

For many years, Jeff Noble has dedicated himself to sorting through his father’s (Lionel Noble’s) history collection. In doing so, Noble has researched all the land titles in Peters burg/Peterborough, and countless letters and images relating to Peterborough and the surrounding district. Noble’s photographic records include people and events he has encountered throughout his railway career.  Noble has transcribed more than fifty interviews conducted by his father between 1971-1991. Each interview is from one to two hours in length, and the original tapes are now part of the Oral History Collection of the State Library of South Australia. They are a valuable and unique source of the history of the early days, providing a living snapshot of the Peterborough Township District.


Historian of the Year

Will Sergeant

Will Sergeant has been involved in gay activism since the 1970s and has been a member of a number of landmark community groups and organisations which have recorded and preserved the history of the gay community in South Australia. He regularly presents at Australia’s Homosexual Histories conferences. Sergeant was a committee member when Adelaide first hosted the conference in 2001 and chair and treasurer for the 2015 and 2017 conferences. In 2001 Sergeant worked with Sandra Knack MLC (and others) to commemorate the first gay memorial in Adelaide in 2002 and the 30th anniversary of Dr George Duncan’s murder.  He collaborated with Ian Purcell and Tim Reeves in 2015 to curate the exhibition An Open & Shut Case?, which commemorated the 40th anniversary of the decriminalisation of male homosexuality in South Australia.  Sergeant is now conducting oral history interviews as part of a rainbow oral history project with independent aged care provider ECH and the State Library of South Australia. These include some of the thirty-nine men who were previously interviewed half a century ago.


Lifelong Historian

Don Loffler, Motor industry and Holden (GMH)

For more than thirty years Don Loffler has been a generous and passionate advocate for the history of the Holden motor car in Australia, and he is widely recognised as Australia’s foremost authority on early Holdens. Loffler’s first book, She’s a Beauty (now in its second re-print) traced the design, development and eventual release of the ‘FX’ Holden, General Motors Holden’s first Australian vehicle.  The popularity of this book and the abundance of additional information that followed in the wake of its publication compelled Loffler to write an expanded version of She’s a Beauty. Loffler has since published another seven books.  He willingly gives his time for talks, presentations, tours and media interviews, and has been instrumental in recording the details of several thousand Holden vehicles throughout Australia.


From left to right: Connor Deegan (Wakefield Press Essay Prize), Jeffrey Noble (Regional/Community Historian Award), Will Sergeant (Historian of the Year), Kristy Kokegei (Digital Technologies Historian Award), Don Loffler (Lifelong Historian Award)


Many thanks again to the event’s Sponsors: