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Personal profile


I am a public historian who specializes in the history of the family, motherhood and poverty. I am passionate about researching ordinary people and places in the past and co-creating historical knowledge with diverse communities. I am currently co-leading an Australian Research Council-funded Linkage project entitled 'History, heritage and environmental change in a deindustrialised landscape' with archaeologists, historians and industry partners. This is a collaborative public history project and we're aiming to produce a walking tour of abandoned shale mining settlements in the Blue Mountains https://mq-cah.github.io/BlueMntARC/about/.

My first three books were about the history of 'illegitimacy', poverty and philanthropy. My third book Fractured Families: Life on the Margins in Colonial New South Wales was a history of Australia's oldest surviving charity The Benevolent Society and I wrote this in collaboration with family historians and the charity. I love teaching and producing public history and working in teams. I curate exhibitions, write for general as well as academic readers, politicians and social policy makers and I make radio and television programs based on my scholarship. I pitch my work at a variety of audiences because my research is targeted at disrupting people's assumptions about the history of the family. It questions supposedly 'authoritative' or 'commonsensical' knowledge about family life in the past. I am committed to the democratization of historical knowledge. My last book was published by New South and was a community history of the Spit Swimming Club at Balmoral Beach. I am continuing to write a history of 'ordinary' mothers in Australia in collaboration with family historians. My next book Family History, Historical Consciousness and Citizenship: a new social history will be published by Bloomsbury in late 2021.

I am Director of the Centre for Applied History: https://www.mq.edu.au/research/research-centres-groups-and-facilities/resilient-societies/centres/centre-for-applied-history@AppliedHist

The Department of Modern History, Politics and International Relations (with colleagues in MMCS, Geography and Planning, the Macquarie Business School and Ancient History) at Macquarie University established this Centre to build linkages with community and industry partners and explore the production and consumption of history outside of universities.

It aims to highlight the role of historical knowledge in shaping public policy, and the uses of history in the development of key institutions and within diverse communities. The Centre will draw upon Macquarie University's nationally and internationally recognised research and teaching strengths in the field of applied history, including family history, digital history and eResearch, cultural heritage, museums, oral history, consultancy work, history and policy, television, radio, community, regional and local history. 

To engage with us please contact me or email arts.cah@mq.edu.au

HDR supervision


Nicole Starling“A New Faith”? Religious belief and ‘moral enlightenment’ in the temperance movement in Eastern Australia: 1833-1878. (Full time, Associate Supervisor, Submitted before time Feb 2021). 

Marian LorrisonThe More Things Change:” Gender Relations and Married Life Across a Time of Transformation’, commenced Feb 2017, Scholarship candidate. Awarded the History Council’s Max Kelly Prize for a Beginning Historian 2017 for a chapter from her MRes thesis. Submitted Feb 2020. 

Melanie Burkett, 'Impressions That Stick: A Critical Examination of Assisted Immigrants' Much Maligned Reputation'. She was an International Scholarship Candidate from the US. Commenced Feb 2016 – I was her Principal supervisor. She was awarded the 3-minute thesis prize in the Faculty of Arts 2016. She was also a postgraduate representative for the Australian Historical Association. (On-time completion. Awarded 2019) 

Jennifer McLaren, ‘Irish Engagement in the British Caribbean, 1780-1830’. Scholarship Candidate. (Associate Supervisor. On-time completion. Awarded 2018). 

Cameron Nunn, ‘Children in Chains: The Transportation of Juvenile Convicts 1787-1834’. PhD by publication – 6 articles accepted for publication in high-ranking journals. One of these was shortlisted for the Australian Historical Association’s Jill Roe prize in 2016. Co-principal supervisor. Submitted 7 months before final due date and he’s a full-time Headmaster at a Secondary School (awarded 2018 – Principal S/V). 

Pip Gale, ‘The Medical and Social History of the Craniotomy in British Obstetrics between 1800 and 1920’ (awarded 2015 – on time completion. Principal S/V). 

Current Students: 

Michael Nicholls, 'Masculinity and the Millions Club in Interwar Australia, 1919-1939' (part-time, Associate Supervisor, Due to submit Oct 2021) 

Karen Pack, ‘Singularly engaged: How and why unmarried, evangelical Christian women in Australia engaged in activism outside the church from the late nineteenth to mid twentieth century’, (Principal Supervisor, Full time, due to submit Feb 2022). 

Sarah Luke, 'Doctoring, Building and Publishing: A Collective Biography of Dr Frederic Norton Manning and his Colleagues in New South Wales’ Hospitals for the Insane' (commenced August 2021).

MRes Theses 

2021 continuing current students  

Margaret Fowler, “Mum Can Do That!” How did postmistresses in nineteenth-century New South Wales negotiate their roles as daughters, wives, mothers, and workers?  (part-time, due to complete early 2022).

Angela Parsons, ‘Before Barangaroo: Waterfront Working life in Sydney Harbour, 1980 – 2012, (part-time, due to complete October 2022).


2018: Caitlin Adams 

“’Under my own Care’: Poverty and Motherhood in New South Wales and Gloucestershire between 1820 and 1834’. Caitlin was awarded an international scholarship to undertake her PhD at the University of Cambridge in late 2019.


Marian Lorrison, ‘Love and Other Bruises: Passion and Yearning in a Time of Social Transformation.’ Marian was awarded a scholarship to undertake her PhD at Macquarie.

Michael Nicholls, ‘Antipodean men: constructing ruling-class masculinity in early colonial New South Wales, 1800-1850.’

External Positions

International Advisory Board Member of História Oral, published by the Brazilian Oral History Association (ABHO)

External positions

President of the International Federation of Public History

Jan 2022Jan 2025

Executive Board of Public History Weekly

2020 → …

International Federation of Public History, Steering Committee Member



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