ReViewing History – Day One

I do want to try to report on my days at the conference, although it is currently 9pm and I’ve only just got home after nine lectures so I feel quite dizzy with the information, not to mention exhausted. Still I’ll see how I go.

Fabulous day, really, really wonderful to be among the profession in such a wide ranging way. There are delegates from all over Australia and New Zealand (very impressive that they’ve come all this way!) and from all areas of the profession. I’ve heard some fascinating papers and had some wonderful discussions. It really is amazing that when you attend events like this the little bits of information that join up the ideas in your head just fall in your lap or you sit down to lunch next to a Sister of St John of God. Weird, crazy and wonderful all at the same time.

Today I heard from some of my heroes, namely Pat Grimshaw and Geoffrey Bolton, both of whom are just as impressive and fallible as everyone else. A truth so good to be reminded of when the usual contact is via a beautifully polished journal piece in a ‘A star’ international journal. They both spoke passionately and wonderfully on their topics and I was left with questions and quandaries – just the way I should be, I think.

Pat was speaking on women in missions, which shall be very helpful in my foray into WA government Indigenous policy via the building I’m researching for the National Trust. Geoffrey spoke on the Duracks in an enlightening and engaging way and made some links I’d not encountered before, although it is a topic certainly outside my interest area. Similarly, Jamie Belich, who spoke again, was extremely interesting and really made the case that his work forms a frame that helps us to understand the smaller histories we are working on. Definitely something to think about.

In the parallel sessions I listened to papers on family history and the history of reading as well as a feminist collection put together for the National Museum of Australia and women and American troops in Fremantle during the second world war. I do want to say more about these things, but I’m flagging!

Most amazing though, was the paper I listened to about women during WWI who found their way to participate through citizenship. Fiona McLeod’s papers was fascinating but what was so incredible was that she was working on the Australian Women’s National League – the organisation I wrote a history on for my honours thesis. That was 11 years ago and I haven’t come across them again so it was especially exciting to hear that they’ve made it back into someone’s research and Fiona and I had a lovely discussion about them in the way I haven’t been able to with anyone at all. Ever. Very, very pleasant.

Okay. That’s it. I can’t write anymore and need to get to bed so I have some hope of getting up tomorrow for more excitement.

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