Reflections on the Last Two Decades of Indigenous Histories

The study of history may not immediately seem to be political. For many of those who study Indigenous histories it is not only political but oftentimes also deeply personal. This 2021 Kathleen Fitzpatrick lecture reflects on the connections between the personal and the political. In it, Professor Lynette Russell considers how Indigenous historical studies have changed since she began her doctoral research at the University of Melbourne in 1992. She reflects on the valuable skills that she developed out of that education and make a plea for deepening our nations’ historical education: if we want to make a better tomorrow we need to base it on a solid foundation of understanding the past, warts and all.



Professor Lynette Russell AM is an award-winning historian and Indigenous studies scholar. She is currently a Kathleen Fitzpatrick Laureate Fellow at Monash University. She is also the Deputy Director of the Australian Research Council’s Centre of Excellence in Biodiversity and Heritage, and Director of the Monash Indigenous Centre. She has a PhD in history from the University of Melbourne and has taught and researched in the area of historical and anthropological studies for over twenty years. All her work is interdisciplinary, blending history, archaeology and material culture studies. Her most recent books include: A Trip to the Dominions: The Event that Changed Australian Science (2021); Australia’s First Naturalists: Indigenous Peoples’ Assistance to Early Zoology (2019) with Penny Olsen; Hunt Them, Hang Them: The ‘Tasmanians’ in Port Phillip, 1841–42 (2016) with Kate Auty; and Roving Mariners: Aboriginal Whalers and Sealers in the Southern Oceans 1790–1870 (2012). Her new research focuses on the past 1000 years of Australian history, in the project Global Encounters & First Nations Peoples: 1000 Years of Australian History. This project is examining the Dutch, French, Spanish, Makassan and Pacific visitors to ‘New Holland’ over the past millennia. She is a former President of the Australian Historical Association; she has held two fellowships at Cambridge University and one at All Souls, Oxford.


The Annual Kathleen Fitzpatrick Lecture Series

The lecture series honours the memory of Kathleen Fitzpatrick (1905–1990) who lectured in History from 1939 until her retirement as Associate Professor in 1962. She was a dedicated researcher and a gifted and influential teacher. Susan Foley and Charles Sowerwine have noted: “Her greatest legacy was … the enduring influence of her lectures. Appropriately, an annual lecture is given in her name”.