Presidents Letter December 2019


Issue no. 58                                          President’s Letter                                        December 2019

A Busy Year

2019 has been a busy year for the History Council, and I would like to begin this newsletter by thanking out-going President Peter Monteath. Despite his heavy work commitments and admirable publication record, over the past four years, Peter has competently and good-humouredly ensured the smooth running and continued effectiveness of the History Council.  His foresight and the connections he has forged with other organisations and institutions will stand the Council in good stead in the future. We are grateful to Peter for continuing to play an active role on the Executive Committee in 2020.

The 2019 Awards Ceremony

The Awards Ceremony, held at the Adelaide Town Hall on Friday 31 May, was thoroughly enjoyed by all who attended. The awards recognise outstanding research and scholarship. They are a means through which the South Australian history community can acknowledge nominees’ contribution to history through teaching, leadership, mentoring and community involvement. Many worthy historians were nominated, and the judges had to balance a number of factors when making their final decision.

The 2019 Award recipients were:

  • Lifelong Historian (jointly awarded)

Dr Pauline Payne’s interests include oral history, heritage surveys, community and family history. She has written and published widely including sole and joint authored books, articles in scholarly journals and community magazines, reports, entries to the Australian Dictionary of Biography and chapters in edited books. Dr Payne continues to practice history, undertaking research, publishing and speaking on the family, public and social history. It is a tribute to Dr Payne’s unceasing hard work and enthusiasm that her nomination was supported by the Professional Historians Association of SA, the History of Science, Ideas and Technology Group and the German Heritage Research Group.

Uncle Lewis Yerloburka O’Brien has developed an original capacity to combine Aboriginal ways of knowing with western philosophy.  With linguist Rob Amery and the Kaurna Language Working Group, he has been a driving force in re-inscribing a Kaurna presence into the Adelaide topographical and cultural landscape and bringing to light Aboriginal knowledge and protocols. Uncle Lewis has been a tireless and proud contributor to heritage, arts, sports, reconciliation and education. At UniSA, he was a key consultant on integrating Aboriginal knowledge into science and engineering programs. Uncle Lewis is widely regarded as a leader of reconciliation and custodian of Kaurna culture.


  • Historian of the Year

Robert (Bob) Kearney has contributed to the knowledge and understanding of the nation’s role in major conflicts. The Humanities Department of Education and the Council of the History Teachers Association consider Bob’s historical research pivotal in improving young people’s historical understanding and research skills. Bob has sole-authored two books and co-authored four books. Valour and Violets, commissioned by the State government and co-authored with Sharon Cleary, was published in 2018 by Wakefield Press.  As Chief Research Historian at the Virtual War Museum, Bob works closely with teachers and students. He is a consultant and judge for the Premier’s Anzac Spirit and has made an outstanding contribution to our understanding of war and its impact on South Australia.


  • Regional Historian

For over thirty years, Helen Hennessey has been committed to the preservation of the heritage of the town of Gawler. In 1995 she established the Gawler Public Library and its Local History Collection. In 1997 she co-ordinated the commissioning of a written history for Gawler’s sesquicentenary celebrations. Helen’s broad perspective encompasses many community associations and many different types of collections. Her advocacy – such as for the preservation of buildings – actively engages the community. Helen utilises her professional knowledge and skills to diplomatically introduce best concept practices to community collections. Helen embraces new technologies to provide maximum access and inclusivity, broadening the community’s understanding and appreciation of their heritage.


  • Emerging Historian

Since founding ‘Modernist Adelaide’ in October 2017, Stuart Symons has researched, visited, photographed, written and presented on 85 significant examples of Adelaide’s architecture to raise community awareness and strengthen the community profile of Adelaide’s post-war architectural heritage. He has done this through feature articles and interviews in print, online and radio, and through Instagram and Facebook. Stuart has written six tours. In 2018 he staged a free public exhibition of his photographs of Adelaide’s modernist architecture. Respected for the rigour of his research, his engaging presentations and his collaborative and inclusive approach, Stuart has amplified the community profile of Adelaide’s and South Australia’s architectural history and built public knowledge and appreciation.

The History Council congratulates all the above recipients, and we hope that those deserving people whose nominations were unsuccessful in 2019 will be re-nominated in 2020.


History Council Fellowship

Past-Presidents Peter Monteath and Susan Marsden have been working closely with Geoff Strempel to establish a History Council Fellowship in conjunction with State Library of SA. The interest raised through donations to the Cultural Fund will be used by the successful applicant to offset travel, accommodation and living expenses. The State Library will provide a room, facilities and archivist assistance. The fellowship will be open to historians who are researching a topic relevant to South Australia history and utilising records held in the State Library. The History Council aims to have the Fellowship up and running sometime in 2020.


History Council Award for secondary students

Elspeth Grant and I have been working on introducing an annual History Council Award for secondary students. SACE Stage 1 (year 11) Modern History students and Year 10 Australian Curriculum History students who have researched an aspect of South Australian history as part of their Historical Study will be eligible to apply for the award. The maximum word length will be 1000 words, although entries presented in oral (max 6 minutes) or multimodal form (equivalent to 1000 words or 6 minutes) are most welcome. We have drafted up a list of potential research topics to provide guidance for students and teachers, and will draw up a list of sources and names for further enquiries during the summer break – before Elspeth commences her Churchill Fellowship (congratulations Elspeth)! Elspeth has publicised this new award at the History Teachers’ Association conference held in Adelaide in October 2019, and we are hoping that teachers will encourage their students to submit an entry. The ultimate aim is to foster an interest in South Australian history among younger generations.


Regional Lecture

Mother and daughter team Penelope and Tansy Curtin gave the History Council’s Regional Lecture at the Hahndorf Academy on Thursday 21 November. The lecture followed the Hahndorf Academy’s AGM and was attended by approximately 50 people. Penelope and Tansy discussed the artistic merits of paintings selected for their book, Blooms and Brushstrokes, published by Wakefield Press in 2019.

SA’s cultural and collecting institutions and historical societies

Since taking over the role of President in October, I have met with the heads of many of SA’s cultural and collecting institutions and historical societies and attended various events which provided an opportunity to discuss the role of the History Council, to learn how the History Council may be of use to our diverse members and to reflect on how to strengthen ties and increase networking opportunities between our diverse members.

History Council organising educational social events for all our members

The idea of the History Council organising educational social events for all our members has been greeted enthusiastically by many I have been speaking with. Possibilities for 2020 include a tour of the basement of the State Library (offered by Geoff Strempel) in the first half of the year and a tour of archives at State Records (offered by Simon Froude) in the second half of the year. Confirmation and dates of these events will be decided during our Executive Committee meeting in January 2020.

History Council’s e-newsletter

Those I have met with have also noted the importance of the History Council’s e-newsletter as a means by which our members can communicate their activities and achievements and provide notice of upcoming events to a broader network. A regular, informative (albeit succinct) newsletter which has a consistent format and is sent out to all our members via email – and which will also be posted on our website and, ideally, made accessible to members via facebook – will greatly expand the reach of both the History Council and our member organisations. However, it takes time and effort to produce a newsletter, and our hardworking secretary is understandably stretched. We are currently in the process of recruiting volunteers from the History Trust’s volunteer list and from UniSA’s Communications, Journalism and Creative Writing students. We expect that early 2020 will see the beginning of a regular HCSA newsletter.

New Planning and Design Code

General Committee member Meredith Ide is keeping the Council up to date with the State Planning Commission’s proposals to change heritage protections through the new Planning and Design Code (implemented under the Planning, Development and Infrastructure Act 2016) which the State Government plans to introduce in July 2020. As Meredith points out, the State Planning Commission has bypassed the Community Engagement Charter and ignored the Report of the Parliamentary Environment, Resources and Development Committee Heritage Inquiry. The process of community consultation and feedback has, to date, been unsatisfactory; information provided has been confusing, contradictory, and, in some instances, incorrect while key community questions have been ignored; the Planning Portal was late in development and is difficult to navigate. In short, the State Planning Commission has failed to make the case for the changes it is advocating and it has not adequately assessed the change’s risks and potential negative impacts. The period for public consultation ends for the metropolitan area in February 2020. All concerned History Council members are urged to review the proposed Code and provide feedback to the Premier, Vice Premier, the Minister for Planning, Transport and Infrastructure (Stephen Knoll) and their local MP.


Painting by Colonel Light

On 24 November, a watercolour painting, allegedly painted by Colonel Light, depicting a view towards the hills from (what is now) the corner of Kings William Street and North Terrace, was auctioned by Elder Fine Art. This painting – which shows the landscape, vegetation and, ultimately, Aboriginal management of Country) at the heart of (what was to become) Adelaide during the earliest months of European settlement (the scene can be dated to the first three months of 1837) – is of great historical significance for South Australians. Unfortunately, due to doubts that Light was the artist, none of South Australia’s collecting institutions put in a bid. Instead, the painting was purchased by a private collector for less than 80% of the starting price. It is a shame that the public will not be able to view this important artwork.


Premier’s Policy Advisors.

On 13 December I met with Rebecca Astley who is one of the Premier’s Policy Advisors. The purpose of our meeting was to: introduce myself and outline the role and purpose of the History Council; stress the significance of History to our communities and our State and draw the Premier’s and his advisors’ attention to the ‘Value of History’ statement released by the SA, WA, Victorian and NSW History Councils; ask about the current government’s support for History in SA and inquire about the fulfilment of pre-election commitments outlined by the Liberal Party in their ‘Investing in the Arts’ document; draw attention to long-term issues raised by our members. The meeting was, in general, productive and informative, and I will report on it at our first General Committee meeting.

We have much to look forward to in the year ahead. For those who intend to submit an essay for the Wakefield Prize, please be aware the due date is 31 January. The date for our Awards night has not yet been set, but it will be at the end of the History Festival in May. Similarly, details of our regional lecture have not yet been decided, and there is a high possibility that additional lectures may be held in regional areas including the Flinders Ranges (potentially June 2020).

In conclusion, I would like to wish all members of the History Council a very merry Christmas. I hope you return from the summer break refreshed and relaxed, and that 2020 is a busy, productive and enjoyable year for all.

Dr Skye Krichauff, President, HCSA

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