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Personal profile


I am a public historian who specializes in family history, cultural heritage, history and sport, gender in sport, community, local and regional history, memory and life-stories, histories of charities and NGOs, history and the media and history in tourism. 

As Director of the Centre for Applied History and President of the International Federation of Public History I am committed to revealing the value and significance of history for individuals and society to everyone.

I analyse how history works in everyday life. I am passionate about researching ordinary people and places in the past and co-creating historical knowledge with diverse communities. Past consultancies include the areas of: history and sport, gender in sport, family, history in the GLAM sector, cultural heritage, community, local and regional history, histories of charities and NGOs, history and the media.

I am currently co-leading an Australian Research Council-funded Linkage project entitled 'History, heritage and environmental change in a deindustrialised landscape' with archaeologists, heritage consultants, historians and industry partners. This is a collaborative public history project and we're producing 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 prize-winning 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 Family History, Historical Consciousness and Citizenship: a new social history was published by Bloomsbury in early 2022.

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 History and Archaeology (with colleagues in MCCALL, Geography and Planning, the Macquarie Business School and Education) 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 draws 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


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).

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, 2022). 

Michael Nicholls, 'Masculinity and the Millions Club in Interwar Australia, 1919-1939' (part-time, Associate Supervisor, 2022) 

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: 


Peter Baxter, 'Imperial Colonial Local - a comparative history of colonialism and colonial heritage in the UK and Australia', co-tutelle student at the University of Bristol (commenced October 2022)

Elizabeth Elwell-Crook, 'Before “Something for the girls”: Re-examining the genesis of the Girl Guide movement through uniform and primary sources, 1901–1917' (commenced April 2023)

MRes Theses 


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)

Research student supervision

I am open to consultations regarding prospective Higher Degree Research (Masters, PhD) and Postdoctoral project primary or associate supervision in the following subject areas:

Public history, family history and the history of the family in Britain and Australia from the 19th century to the present and the history of gender in sport. The history of women in sport, public and community sporting history.

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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