CASS Newsletter, May to July

It has been a memorable three months for CASS researchers. A number of our members and affiliates have completed major research projects. Their work has been recognised at public events, through the award of prestigious prizes, and via various public engagement activities.

Award Honours

On the 7th of July André Brett won the Max Crawford Medal – Australia’s most prestigious award for achievement and promise in the humanities. André won the award for his work on the environmental history of railways. He was described by his nominator, Professor Sean Scalmer, as ‘among the best of his generation of historians working in and on the history of Australia and New Zealand at present’. You can find out more about André’s award here.

André was also recognised for his work on the history of the colonial separation movements in Australasia with an invitation to present as part of the NSW Parliament ‘House Talks’ on the 27th of July. His presentation, titled ‘A Colonial Divorce: Drawing the Boundaries of New South Wales’,  can be viewed online.

Historicising Australian Foodways

Lauren Samuelsson submitted her PhD thesis, titled ‘A Matter of Taste: The Australian Women’s Weekly and the Birth of a Modern Australian Food Culture’, on the 25th of June. We were very fortunate to be able to toast her success just days before Greater Sydney went into lockdown. Lauren’s work is generating a high level of public interest. Following the submission of her thesis she was interviewed by Wendy Harmer and Robby Buck on ABC Radio Sydney and an article on her thesis was published on the ABC’s website. Lauren was also interviewed by Indira Naidoo for ABC Radio’s ‘Nightlife’ program. You can listen to the full forty-minute interview here.

New histories of Chinese Australian Women

On June 11th, CASS joined forces with the Centre for Critical Human Rights Research (CCHRR) to host a launch for three new UOW books. Professor Vera Mackie chaired the event which included new books by Adrian Robert Bazbauers and Susan Engel; Charles T. Hunt and Phil Orchard; and our own Kate Bagnall and Julia T. Martínez. Kate and Julia’s collection is the first book length history of Chinese women in Australia. Claire Lowrie launched the book. The full text of her launch presentation is up on the CASS website.

New Research Project on the Cultural Determinants of Health

In May, Lisa Slater began a new project with the Kimberley Aboriginal Law and Cultural Centre (KALACC) and Dr Melissa Marshall (Notre Dame University, Broome). The project explores the relationship between the KALACC festival and cultural determinants of health in the Kimberly. It is funded by an Australia Council for the Arts Industry Collaboration grant (2021-2024).

CASS members review major works in colonial history and the history of Aboriginal activism

Jodie Stewart’s review of Johanna Perheentupa’s Redfern: Aboriginal Activism in the 1970s (Aboriginal Studies Press) was published online in History Australia in June. You can read it here. The same issue of History Australia included Sharon Crozier De Rosa’s review Imperial Emotions: The Politics of Empathy across the British Empire (Cambridge University Press) by Jane Lydon.

If you are a CASS member or affiliate and you have news on your research that you would like to publicise, contact Claire



Book Launch Report – Kate Bagnall and Julia Martínez (eds) Locating Chinese Women: Historical Mobility between China and Australia, Hong Kong University Press, 2021

On June 11, The Centre for Critical Human Rights Research (CCHRR) and the Centre for Colonial and Settler Studies (CASS) hosted a launch for three new UOW books. Professor Vera Mackie was chaired the event which included new books by Adrian Robert Bazbauers and Susan Engel; Charles T. Hunt and Phil Orchard; and Kate Bagnall and Julia T. Martínez.

Claire, Susan, Julia, Vera and Phil at the Unibar launch

Claire Lowrie launched the book of Kate and Julia who are long time CASS members. The text of her speech is provided below for those of you interested in finding out more about this important book.

Claire Lowrie on Kate Bagnall and Julia Martínez (eds) Locating Chinese Women

“I want to begin by acknowledging that the University of Wollongong spreads across many interrelated Aboriginal Countries that are bound by this sacred landscape. I acknowledge the Custodianship of the Aboriginal peoples of this place and space that has kept alive the relationships between all living things. I also acknowledge the real and devastating impact of colonisation on Aboriginal Countries and peoples and further commit myself to truth-telling, healing and education.

Thank you to Susan, Phil, and Julia for making this event happen. As an academic it is easy to get stuck on the unrelenting conveyor belt of productivity – always moving on to the next thing – usually an article or chapter that is already overdue. I think it is important to acknowledge and reflect on the completion of project – to bask in the glory of the moment for a little while and to do that with a community of kindred scholars, friends and family members. So that is my goal for the next 10 minutes in discussing Kate Bagnall and Julia Martinez’ Locating Chinese Women: Historical Mobility between China and Australia published by Hong Kong University Press.

My thanks to Julia for inviting me to launch Locating Chinese Women which is an absolute honour – especially because I received a free copy of this beautiful book. The rest of you should definitely go and buy a copy of your own.

This is an exciting collection – the first book length history of Chinese women in Australia. By bringing to light diverse experiences of Chinese women, this book will have a significant impact on the Australian historiographical landscape. While there has been work on Chinese men in Australia, who arrived in significant numbers particularly during the gold rush era of 1850s, histories of Chinese women are much less developed. This has been justified by historians as a consequence of the small numbers of women who came into the country. But as Kate and Julia put it in the introduction, ‘that women were a numerical minority does not make their lives less worthy of scholarly attention’ (2). Indeed, the stories of Chinese women covered in this book does very important work. The micro biographies of women that the contributors detail overturn stubborn stereotypes of Chinese women as silent, submissive and passive – stereotypes based on historically contingent conceptions of race and gender. Instead of silent figures in the background we see women as actors and agents of historical change, albeit within deeply asymmetrical relations of power.

The contributors highlight diverse experiences, including Chinese women that engaged in politics and journalism covered in Paul McGregor’s chapter on Alice Lim Kee. As well as business women in the northern frontier town of Darwin, forging and taking advantage of the trading links between northern Australia and China, as Natalie Fong demonstrates in her chapter. The book includes stories of gifted scholars such as Gwen Fong who graduated from the University of Melbourne with a degree in medicine in the 1940s and was an active member of the University branch of the communist party (despite her elite family background). She was one of a tiny minority of Chinese women – and women in general- that gained entry into Australian universities between the 1920s and the 1950s.

The presence of Chinese women in the public spheres of business, community activism and politics is a theme of this book. Chapters trace, for example, the lives of women like Ham Hop who – with her husband Poon Gooey – launched a challenge to the White Australia Policy, arguing for her right to stay in Australia. Her campaign, which took place between 1910 and 1913, ultimately failed and she was forced to return to China. As Kate puts it in that chapter, she ‘hoped to be made an exemption to this discriminatory policy, she was instead made an example’ (132). Stories of women and children used as ‘an example’ to send a message about Commonwealth government immigration policy seem to me to have particular resonance today. And there are other tragic stories in this book that remain highly relevant today. For example, the account of Perth women Ruby Yen – a victim of domestic violence. We know her name and a good deal about her home and family life, her physical and material experiences, because she died and thus left an archival trail in the form of a coronial inquest that historian Antonia Finnane analyses.

While acknowledging how the racist context of the White Australia Policy and systems of oppression based on patriarchy shaped Chinese women’s lives in Australia, the overall narrative of this volume is not a story of what was done to these women but how they lived. The contributors work with the limited historical sources available to ‘locate’ Chinese women – to reconstruct their lives and experiences as far as possible. This is kind of history that I love! The kind that does the hard work of seeking out people whose voices and perspectives are not easy found in the archives – whose lives were not necessarily considered worth recording and who appear only in moments when they make into contact with government authorities or did something remarkable.

The tradition of writing history from below requires that the contributors sometimes use less orthodox historical sources and approach traditional source material in a creative manner. Mei-fen Kuo, for example, taps into changing ideas about gender by analysing accounts of Chinese womanhood penned by Chinese men in Australia’s early Chinese language newspapers. Alana Kamp draws on oral histories to plot Chinese women’s experiences of migration and mobility in their own words. For me, the standout source material used in this book is the extensive collection of photographs. The photos come from public archives and private family collections. The cover image is particularly beautiful and carefully choregraphed. Note how perfect the women look after a long sea journey from Hong Kong to Sydney arriving in 1938 – the Kwok women in matching cheongsam. They epitomize a modern and progressive of conception of Chinese womanhood cultivated among the economic elite of Chinese Australian society – another theme that comes through in a number of the chapters.

Photographs not only illustrate the pages if this volume but inform the analysis within it. They are used to bring these women to life and highlight their agency. To give one example, the chapter by Sophie Couchman which centres on wedding photos. Couchman explores the depiction of Chinese women in white western wedding gowns from the late nineteenth century to the 1930s. Rather than a chapter about Chinese women simply taking on western traditions, Couchman plots the role Chinese Australians played in facilitating the global adoption of the white wedding by different cultural groups.

In addition to contributing to Australian history the book also shapes the international field of research of Chinese diaspora – Chinese overseas. It situates the stories of Chinese Australian women within a larger narrative of Chinese emigration from Southern China to other white settler countries like the US, Canada and New Zealand– the story of what Henry Yu has termed the Cantonese Pacific. It also highlights the particularities of the Australian experience, including the surprising degree of mobility of Chinese women even at the height of the restrictive immigration policies that characterized White Australia. For example, the experience of Daisy Kwok, whose life between Sydney and Shanghai is explored in the last chapter by Sophie Loy-Wilson.

To conclude with more of a local reflection … this book reflects the research strength on Chinese Australian history at UOW. A specialization which has in large part been fostered by Julia’s work in that area and her success in bringing researchers of Chinese Australian history to UOW. This includes her co-editor Kate Bagnall, who came to UOW as a DECRA, and three PhD students in recent years working in related topics, including her current student Renzhe Zhang, co-supervised with Jason Lim.

The book is an outcome of two UOW events that brought leading international scholars of Chinese diaspora here. The first was the 2013 Dragon Tails conference convened by Julia, Jason, and Paul Macgregor. The second was a 2014 workshop on Chinese Women in the Southern Disaspora co-convened by Julia and Kate. I had just started my job at UOW in mid-2014 and attended that workshop. It was really exciting to be at a University that was leading the field in terms of historicizing connections between China and Australia. It was clear to me what a rich collection of papers Julia and Kate had assembled and it is fantastic to see it come to fruition.

The chapters in this book are authored by nine contributors ranging from early career researchers to professors, all of whom bring a deep knowledge of the topic drawing on Chinese and English language sources. They include University based historians and geographers, public history practitioners and those working in the museum sector. This combination of voices and expertise results in distinctive and compelling chapters which use sources in different sorts of ways. Congratulations on this wonderful book.”


CASS Newsletter – April 2021

Centre for Colonial and Settler Studies

Newsletter, April 2021

CASS Work in Progress Meeting

This month we held our first CASS WIP for the year. Marcelo Svirsky circulated his article on ‘The reproduction of settler colonialism in Palestine’. Julia Martinez and Renzhe Zhang shared their chapter on ‘Chinese business in colonial Samoa before 1949.’ It was in a significant WIP, marking the first time we have reviewed work co-authored with one of our PhD students (Renzhe). It was also the first time in a while that we engaged with work outside of the discipline of History. We had a really stimulating discussion around issues of colonialism and settler colonialism in the past and present.

Amanda, Mike, Marcelo, Renzhe and Julia at the CASS WIP

A PhD Milestone 

Congratulations to Leonie Tan who passed her Research Proposal Review this month! Leonie’s thesis will be the first detailed study of the career of James Thornton Beckett, the first Chief Inspector of Aborigines in the Northern Territory. She is applying a Settler Colonial Studies approach to analysing his working life. Leonie is supervised by Jane Carey, Julia Martinez, and Ben Silverstein (Ben is based at the ANU).

Leonie at her UOW Honours Graduation 

Harvard Calls

In other exciting news, Simon Ville has been appointed the 2022-23 Whitlam-Fraser Visiting Professor in Australian Studies at Harvard University. The Visiting Professorship aims to foster teaching, research and publications that will help to promote awareness and understanding of Australia in the US. Congratulations Simon!

Research Outcomes and Outreach

CASS members and affiliates have been busy with a variety of research activities this month.

On the 21st of April, Rohan Howitt gave a paper at the University Sydney’s History seminar series titled, ‘The Company-Microstate: Corporate Colonisation and the Auckland Islands, 1849-52’.

 Sharon Crozier De Rosa’s review of Australasian women and the international struggle for the vote, 1880-1914 (by James Keating) was published in Women’s History Review. Sharon was also interviewed about her work on Irish migration and revolutionary women for the ABC Illawarra Drive show (27 April).

Kate Bagnall and Julia Martinez published an article in The Conversation. The article explores the hidden history of Chinese Australian women – a topic that Kate and Julia explore in their recent edited collection on Locating Chinese Women (HKU Press, 2021).

Claire Lowrie presented a paper titled ‘“a hill station for whom?”: Hill Stations and the racialized politics of coping with heat in colonial Malaya and the Philippines, 1920s-1930s’ at the Heat in Urban Asia conference 21-23 April, 2021, Asia Research Institute, National University of Singapore.  She is hoping to get feedback on the paper from CASS members at a WIP in the future.

If you are a CASS member or affiliate and you have news on your research that you would like to publicise, contact Claire

If you would like to receive our newsletter via email or become a member of CASS, you should also email Claire.

CASS Newsletter – March 2021

It has been a productive month for our CASS people.

A PhD over afternoon tea

On the 12 of March we held an afternoon tea for our PhD students. Lauren Samuelsson, Renzhe Zhang and Nicholas Dickie came along. It was fantastic to see them supporting each other and sharing their experiences of the PhD journey. Even more so because they are each at a different stages of the process. Lauren will be submitting her thesis on food history and The Australian Women’s Weekly this year. Renzhe is in his second year and has just starting writing his first chapter for a thesis on New Cultural Movement and the Chinese Diaspora in Australia. and Nick is in his first month of the PhD. Nick’s thesis is on the Australian military police and prisoners of war during the second World War.



Renzhe and Lauren

Canberra Times

Three of our researchers headed to Canberra this month. André Brett began his National Library of Australia Fellowship on a project titled “Scars in the Country: Railways in Australian and New Zealand Environments, 1850s–1915”. Claire Lowrie also spent time at the NLA, completing the final stages of research for her ARC DP on Chinese indentured labour in the colonial Asia Pacific region, 1919–1966. Sharon Crozier De Rosa gave a paper at ANU CASS on her work on the history of emotions, women and empire.

 Research Outcomes and Outreach

We have also had a couple of exciting outcomes released. A preview of the new book by CASS members Kate Bagnall and Julia Martinez has been released by Hong Kong University Press. “Locating Chinese Women” explores Chinese women, their gendered migrations, and their mobile lives between China and Australia. The book will be released formally in April.

In addition, the website for an ARC Discovery Project on Ayahs and Amahs: Transcolonial Servants in Australia and Britain was launch. The launch took place as part of the Inaugural Emeritus Professor John Maynard Aboriginal History Lecture on March 17.

Claire Lowrie is a member of the project, which is led by Victoria Haskins (University of Newcastle) and also includes Swapna Banerjee (City University of New York). In the lead up to the launch, Claire also wrote a blog on ‘Travelling Servants and Moving Images’ for the University of Bristol’s Visualising China site.

If you are a CASS member or affiliate and you have news on your research that you would like to publicise, contact Claire. If you would like to be a CASS affiliate or just be notified of our news, you should also contact Claire

March Research Activities: Railways and Chinese Indentured Labourers

Our CASS members are certainly keeping busy this year. This week André Brett and Claire Lowrie will be travelling to Canberra to undertake research on two different projects.

Dr Brett is about to begin his National Library of Australia Fellowship on a project titled “Scars in the Country: Railways in Australian and New Zealand Environments, 1850s–1915”. By extending our understanding of transport’s dynamic role in settler colonialism, Dr Brett’s research will expose the tensions between economic growth and environmental change and how these intersect in large nation-building railway projects. He will use the fellowship to complete his primary research and advance the writing of his book manuscript.

Dr Lowrie is completing the final stages of research for her ARC DP on Chinese indentured labour in the colonial Asia Pacific region, 1919–1966. The project, led by Julia Martínez with Gregor Benton as a co-investigator, explores the continued use of Chinese indentured labour by colonial governments after the First World War. It seeks to overturn the assumption that the use of indentured labour had ceased by the 1920s. Dr Lowrie will spend a week in Canberra collecting materials for the final project manuscript.

CASS in 2021

CASS already has good news to report. Dr Peter Gibson, whose PhD thesis was conferred in 2020, has been awarded the S.J. Butlin Prize. The prize is awarded triennially by the Economic History Society of Australia and New Zealand (EHSANZ) for the best Masters or PhD thesis in Australian or New Zealand economic history. Peter won the prize for his thesis titled “Made in Chinatown: Chinese Furniture Factories in Australia, 1880–1930”, supervised by Julia Martinez, Jane Carey and Claire Lowrie. Congratulations Peter!

This year CASS welcomes a new PhD student to our centre. Nick Dickie will be beginning a project on “Provosts and Prisoners: The Australian military police and prisoners of war in Europe, North Africa, the Pacific and Australia during the Second World War”. He is supervised by Claire Lowrie and Jen Roberts. Welcome Nick!

Over the course of 2021, the focus of CASS will be on fostering our strong record of publication and grant successes through our regular WIP (work-in-progress) sessions. We will also provide opportunities for PhD students to develop their scholarly networks and present their research.

CASS news will be shared via the website and twitter.

Stay tuned.

CASS 2020 Update

At the beginning of 2020, CASS was poised for another year of research and outreach. Our plans for first semester included ‘Let Me Tell You A Story About Israel’, a performance by Marcelo Svirsky, and a meet-and-greet session for our post-graduate students. Julia Martínez had been invited to speak at Cornell University and Columbia University. While those plans have been put on hold due to the pandemic, CASS members have continued to pursue exciting research projects.

Sharon Crozier De Rosa has taken up a National Library of Australia Fellowship; André Brett was awarded an Australian Academy of the Humanities Travelling Fellowship; Simon Ville and Claire Lowrie began work on new ARC discovery grants; and Lisa Slater was awarded two UOW Global Challenges grants as part of collaborative research teams.

The research successes of our post-graduate students include Tamara Cooper being awarded her doctorate in September and Renzhe Zhang passing his Research Proposal Review in October.

The CASS work-in-progress (WIP) group has continued without interruption. Following feedback at those sessions, two members had articles accepted in top-ranking international journals. In addition, Jane Carey’s co-edited special issue of Postcolonial Studies has come out.

In 2020 CASS also became part of the new Faculty of Arts, Social Sciences and Humanities (ASSH). Stay tuned for our 2021 plans!