HIDDEN HISTORIES: Causing a stir with Arcadian Adelaide

Hidden HistoriesIn this third installment of Hidden Histories, we travel back in time to 1905 Adelaide, when Scottish-born actress and satirical writer Thistle Anderson first published Arcadian Adelaide to quite a stir in sleepy Adelaide.

Published again in 2020 for a modern audience, this hilarious little volume, intended by its author as ‘a playful skit’, is to be taken with a pinch of salt … or perhaps savoured, stubbornly, with a glass of excellent Adelaide wine.

Continue reading

HIDDEN HISTORIES: Medieval recipes for today with food historian Barbara Santich

Hidden HistoriesIn this second installment of Hidden Histories, we are traveling back in time to discover The Original Mediterranean Cuisine and delve into the recipes (and food culture) of medieval times.

Acclaimed culinary historian Barbara Santich tells the story of authentic medieval Mediterranean food, and brings to the table recipes translated and adapted for modern kitchens from fourteenth- and fifteenth-century Italian and Catalan manuscripts.

Continue reading

HIDDEN HISTORIES: Ivan Polyukhvoich’s case to answer

In the first instalment of our new series, Hidden Histories, intern Reem Ernst, recent Law graduate, takes a look at the shocking trial of Ivan Polyukhovich in Adelaide in 1990.

Written by journalist David Bevan, and based on his observations as a court reporter, court transcripts and witness statements,.A Case to Answer serves as a record of an astounding case in legal history both in Australia and the world.

Continue reading

BEHIND THE BOOK: Valerie Volk and her search for Anna

In a new series on the Wakefield Press blog, we’ve asked authors to write about the background, inspiration, research and work that goes into writing a book.

This week, Valerie Volk writes about her search for her distant relative Anna Werner, who in 1889 left the German town of Lewin to search for her son in the distant colonies of Australia. This search culminated in Valerie’s novel, In Search of Anna, a story that Valerie describes as a journey book, historical fiction, a study of motherhood, a detective novel, and a romantic tale all rolled into one.

Continue reading

BEHIND THE BOOK: Anne Black on George Isaacs

Anne Black, George Isaacs and Pendragon

In a new series on the Wakefield Press blog, we’ve asked authors to write about the background, inspiration, research and work that goes into writing a book.

This week features Anne Black, author of Pendragon: The life of George Isaacs, Colonial wordsmith. Anne writes about her first encounter with little-known literary icon George Isaacs, and the death certificate that sparked an obsession and a biography.

Continue reading

GUEST POST: Stephen Orr on Auschwitz, guilt, and responsibility

Stephen Orr on Auschwitz, guilt , and responsibility

What right do I have to talk about this place? What do I know about it? How much can I feel, can I see and smell and hear the suffering?

These are the questions author and teacher Stephen Orr asked himself after visiting the remains of the Auschwitz prison camp. In this guest post, Stephen writes of the importance of feeling pain that is not necessarily yours, and of remembering what has happened in the past as a way of improving the future.

Continue reading

Book Launch: The First Wave

Gillian Dooley is an Honorary Senior Research Fellow at Flinders University, South Australia. Gillian is also a journal editor and the author of books and articles on literary subjects from Jane Austen to J.M. Coetzee. In this guest post she writes about the launch of The First Wave: Exploring early coastal contact history in Australia, and the book’s importance in our understanding of Australian history.

On 20 June, The First Wave: Exploring Early Coastal Contact History in Australia, edited by The First Wave coverDanielle Clode and myself, was launched in London. This was the result of a happy convergence of circumstances: I was in the UK on an extended visit, presenting at several conferences and giving the odd lecture and seminar, and Flinders University was looking for an excuse to hold an alumni event in London. The Alumni Office at Flinders organised a splendid event in the sumptuous Downer Room at Australia House, with help from the South Australian Agent-General’s office. The Vice-chancellor, Professor Colin Stirling, flew in for the occasion, and nearly 100 people, including Flinders Alumni and many UK-based friends and colleagues, were present to see The First Wave launched into the world – a few weeks before it was even published in Australia – by the incomparable Elleke Boehmer, Fellow of the Royal Society of Literature, Professor of World Literature at Oxford, novelist, prominent and prodigious scholar of the South and of colonial and post-colonial encounters.

The First Wave draws together 26 essays, stories, and poems from a range of authors, some of Aboriginal heritage – poets, novelists, historians, literary scholars, art historians, anthropologists, musicologists, linguists, ecologists. We wanted to include multiple perspectives on multiple encounters, in a variety of genres – concentrating on meetings with explorers – temporary visitors, rather than the settlers or invaders who came later, though it’s not so easy to draw these kinds of boundaries.

Elleke spoke at the launch with even more than her customary grace and acuity. She read some passages, including an extract from Kim Scott’s That Deadman Dance and a poem by Ali Cobby Eckermann. Referring to the genesis of the book in my exploration of the encounters described in Matthew Flinders’ accounts of his voyage, she noted

the complex fractal pattern of perspectives, observations and silent sight-lines both Indigenous and European that the co-editors Dooley and Clode had delicately constructed around Flinders’ 1801-3 journey of Australian circumnavigation. Many of these observations crystallised out from the crucial meeting on the beach, that classic zone of colonial encounter, yet at a fragile time before that encounter became violent and destructive. The First Wave also beautifully demonstrates how those observations were then recorded not only in the explorers’ journals and logbooks but also in Indigenous song and dance, so making a very different yet equally telling historical record. Dooley and Clode had achieved this fine balance by drawing together an extensive generic range of writings including some resonant contemporary poetry and were to be especially congratulated about this.

Elleke’s speech made me see the work we had done in a new light, not as merely a heterogenous collection of a variety of perspectives – which it undoubtedly is, and which was our intention – but as something which appeared, in a way, complete – which had an integrity of its own, perhaps beyond the sum of its parts. I found her words extraordinarily moving and extremely gratifying.

Alastair Niven, LVO, OBE, formerly Director of Literature at the both the British Arts Council and the British Council, now of Harris Manchester College, Oxford, kindly agreed to make some closing remarks:

‘It is a genuine privilege to take part in the launch of The First Wave. That’s the sort of politely conventional thing one says on this sort of occasion, but tonight it is really true. This is a monumental book, and I don’t just mean in terms of weight. It is an essential work of true scholarship. This book matters, re-visiting old episodes and in the process re-visioning them.’

There is a crucial if brief sentence in Gillian Dooley’s and Danielle Clode’s excellent introduction. ‘What were the Europeans NOT seeing?’ These essays examine the not seen, which includes how they were themselves viewed by the indigenous peoples they found on arrival in Australia. I don’t usually spatter my talks with Biblical references, but it’s hard not to be reminded of words we have all grown up with and know as evidence of what we define as our civilisation: ‘Now we see through a glass darkly, but then face to face; now I know in part, but then shall I know even as also I am known.’ This book helps us clarify our opaque vision.

‘Throughout The First Wave words are given new shades of meaning as a consequence of their post-colonial interrogation.  Take as an example Valerie Munt’s essay ‘Sense or Sensibility? Encountering a “Savage” Land in a Romantic Era’, where every word of her title is ironic or nuanced: ‘sense’, ‘sensibility’, ‘encountering’, ‘”savage”‘ (placed in inverted commas), ‘land’, ‘Romantic’, ‘era’, even ‘or’.   This is a book full of such upendings. Encounters and exchanges, footprints and landing parties are all seen afresh. Books like Robinson Crusoe, Coral Island and Lord of the Flies will never seem the same again.’

Once again, I was touched, flattered and surprised by Alastair’s kind words. I have learned a huge amount during this project. When I first conceived of this book project, I knew I’d need a co-editor and the multi-talented Danielle Clode was my first choice, given her expertise on the French voyages to Australia and her wide and varied experience in writing and publishing. Luckily she agreed despite her overflowing schedule and she has been a wonderful partner in this enterprise, in addition to contributing her own beautifully crafted and carefully researched story about whaling on Australia’s east coast. I am grateful to every single one of the contributors for their unique accounts of a myriad of meetings, sightings and exchanges. Only one of them, Patrick Kaye, was able to be present at the London launch, but we look forward to celebrating its publication with many of the others in Adelaide soon – watch this space.

The First Wave, at over 450 pages, has turned out to be a big book, but I hope you will agree with me that its size is justified by the richness of the insights it provides.

Many thanks to Flinders University, Australia House, Elleke Boehmer, and Peter Livingstone, photographer, for their involvement in this wonderful evening.

To purchase a copy of the book, give us a call on (08) 8352 4455, visit us at our Mile End Bookshop, or find it in our online web store.

Extract: The Australian War Memorial

In The Australian War Memorial: A century on from the vision, Steve Gower, the highly successful director of the Australian War Memorial from 1996 to 2012, gives a comprehensive account of the development of the Memorial from its inception just over a century ago.

Australian War Memorial, Steve GowerThe book recounts the many challenges in establishing the Memorial and then in developing further its galleries and displays, the extensive collection, associated events and the overall supporting facilities. It also goes behind the scenes to provide insights into the many facets of a major, modern cultural institution.

In this extract from the final chapter of the book, Gower reflects on the importance of the Memorial, as well as the way the Australian people. have interacted with the Memorial over the years; some with disdain and contempt, others with a sense of solemn pride. He notes that directors past, present and future have always had the betterment and preservation of the Memorial at the front of their mind.


It seems relevant to ask why so many people are interested in what happens at the Australian War Memorial and why such passion is aroused at different times. I would suggest the reason is that the Memorial deals unmistakably with an agreed, major Australian narrative, not the only one but. arguably the principal one, which had its origins in the Gallipoli campaign and which has resonated with successive generations. That narrative has been challenged and dismissed by some: others demand that it be interpreted their way. Minorities have attached what they believe it stands for and have confidently predicted its imminent demise. Notwithstanding, the narrative has survived and is probably stronger now than it has ever been. It belongs to the Australian people, with all their strengths, weaknesses, pride, foibles. and innate decency, who by their support have expressed their satisfaction with its very essence. it comes from the people voluntarily, not imposed from above.

The Australian War Memorial, as a custodian of the narrative, belongs to all Australians. It’s not owned by the defence force, whose members carry the burden of the nation’s expectations that they live up to the values implicitly recorded there. I have no doubt that can be a source of strength and resolution for them in fulfilling their duty. The .institution is not owned by veterans, despite their service and sacrifice and the fact that some regard it as the sacred cathedra of a secular Anzac religion. And it’s certainly not owned by the staff of the Memorial, the Director, historians, curators, or the like. Having said that, every Director and staff member down the ages has believed strongly in the Memorial and had its interests and advancement to the forefront of their minds.

The greatest privilege conferred on all staff is holding temporary stewardship of the narrative. and its contemporary meaning. In accepting this task, it’s their challenge to meet the collective high expectations the general public has of this great. and uniquely Australian institution. This sometimes requires a degree of resilience and fortitude not usually associated with museums and a sensitivity to nuances and subtleties.

In 2015 I asked Peter Burness, that long-serving. servant of the Memorial, what he thought Bean’s reaction would be were he to come back now. Burness thought he’d be thrilled. Bean’s vision had not only blossomed. but flourished, perhaps well beyond his original dreams. he might even be a little surprised by. the esteem with which it is held by the public, and its prominence as the central repository of .Australia’s remembrance of war. The Memorial is a great tribute to his. determination, persistence, and powers of persuasion in seeking the fulfilment of his vision.

As for Treloar, I believe he, too, would be pleased, but as an undemonstrative, hard-working, self-contained man, it is probable that he would suppress any satisfied smile. But inwardly, he’d be very proud of seeing how the place to which he’d devoted his life had progressed. His life’s work has become a lasting legacy, as he had hoped.

Both would be well pleased with how the record has been guarded over the last century. And so should anyone else who has been associated with the Memorial, in whatever capacity.

Steve Gower was Director of the Australian War Memorial between 1996 and 2012. He is a Duntroon graduate and Vietnam veteran who gained an Honours degree in Engineering from the University of Adelaide, followed by a Masters degree by research. He spent 37 years in the Australian Army, attaining the rank of major general before resigning to become the ninth Director of the Australian War Memorial, a position he held for over 16 years.

To purchase a copy of The Australian War Memorial: A century on from the vision, visit us in our Mile End bookshop, give us a call on (08) 8352 4455, or find the book in our online web shop.