Articles

George Johnston's 'majesties of nature and monstrosities of man' is my Sydney | Paul Daley

Fifty years on, the second book in the Meredith trilogy is an evocation from afar by an author lost among his own people

Fifty years after Clean Straw for Nothing won the prodigal Australian writer George Johnston a second Miles Franklin award, the novel has aged as a rich critique of social change, cultural complacency and the rise of smug nationalism in Menzies-era Australia.

Military buff Tony Abbott is the wrong choice for the Australian War Memorial | Paul Daley

The war memorial’s council lacks a professional historian and critics say it’s like a hospital being run by homeopaths not doctors

The appointment of the former prime minister Tony Abbott to the Australian War Memorial council has further distanced the popular institution from the public it supposedly serves and, critics insist, still leaves the board without the critical advice of a professional historian.

Captain Cook's legacy is complex, but whether white Australia likes it or not he is emblematic of violence and oppression | Paul Daley

British and Australian regret over Cook’s treatment of Indigenous people would go a long way to enhancing understanding of the continent’s shared history

The British government has issued an oh-so-carefully worded expression of “regret” for the killing of Māori in Aotearoa, today’s New Zealand, at the point of first contact during Lieutenant James Cook’s “voyage of discovery” 250 years ago.

Why a Hann Highway could be a monument to Indigenous genocide | Paul Daley

History implicates the Hann brothers in terrible frontier violence. No highway should be named in their honour

Frank and William Hann are legends in the annals of North Queensland’s white colonial pastoral and settler history.

About 1862, having originally landed in Victoria from Wiltshire, England, the brothers moved to the Burdekin River district of Queensland, the new frontier of pastoral expansion and violent dispossession of Indigenous landowners.

We demean our history when we turn the Australian War Memorial into Disneyland | Paul Daley

The Coalition’s $500m expansion plans deviate from the memorial’s mission, undermining what should be a space for quiet reflection

Brendon Kelson is a former senior career commonwealth public servant whose many jobs included directing the Australian War Memorial from 1990 to 1994.

He turned 84 last week. When I last saw him, he was fit and feisty, smiling, and his eyes sparkling with wit. But he has been crook of late, in hospital with pneumonia; Canberra’s winters become tougher the older you get.

Australia cast itself as the hero of East Timor. But it was US military might that got troops in | Paul Daley

Newly released diplomatic cables show the realpolitik behind the scenes as Indonesian militias prepared to torch Dili

Australia’s precise role in bringing independence to Timor-Leste two decades ago continues to simmer as unsettled business at the heart of modern Australian diplomatic and military history.

The true story of Australia is neither simple nor easy. How about some honest history? | Paul Daley

Too many politicians opt for an uncomplicated For-We-Are-Young-and-Free narrative, but we can be so much more

Even before the Senate recently voted for an inquiry with wide-ranging terms of reference into “nationhood, national identity and democracy”, the word was out among progressive historians who’ve long wanted a public airing of how history informs our democracy.

Our constitution is already racist, but the politics around the voice have been craven and nauseous | Paul Daley

The voice is a hostage – perhaps now already a victim – of Coalition internal politics

The Indigenous people of this land are used to white lies.

History, if you don’t re-interpret it, as many have, to render the colonial experience of this continent benignly, tells us that.

Related: A $500m expansion of the war memorial is a reckless waste of money | Paul Daley

What’s behind the AFL’s sudden insistence that the game has Indigenous beginnings? | Paul Daley

We should allow for the possibility of a shared history but the timing of this changed position looks opportunistic

Debate over whether Australian football has its beginnings in Indigenous Marn Grook, a ball game with an ancient continental past, is intensifying after the AFL’s sudden insistence that the Aboriginal pastime has apparently influenced the earliest official Aussie Rules code.

Regardless of whether the Wentworth statue stands or falls, it's a conversation worth having | Paul Daley

Here’s the reality check: Wentworth was indeed a racist who saw the demise of Indigenous people as inevitable and desirous

Predictable outrage from the usual dreary quarters has greeted the call by supposedly “radical” University of Sydney students to tear down a statue of their institution’s founder, William Wentworth, because of his racist approach to Indigenous people.

Pages