Amy is an academic in the Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences, where they work across the Schools of Education and Communication.
Their research monograph, co-authored with Professor Heidi Norman, Emeritus Professor Andrew Jakubowicz and a diverse research team, was published by Aboriginal Studies Press in 2019. 'Does the media fail Aboriginal political aspirations? 45 years of news media reporting' is the result of a major study of media representations of Aboriginal initiatives for self-determination.
They are the recipient of the Vice-Chancellor's Research Excellence Scholarship for their PhD research, which focuses on the contest between ideas of self-determination and assimilation in Indigenous bilingual schooling in northern Australia since the 1970s. For an essay on this topic, they were awarded the Northern Territory Literary Award in 2018 in the Essay category. Amy was a 2018 Shopfront Community Research Fellow with UTS.
In 2018, they were awarded a UTS Teaching and Learning Award alongside the teaching team from the Masters of Education (Learning and Leadership). In 2016 they graduated from the Masters of TESOL and Applied Linguistics at UTS as the recipient of the UTS Postgraduate Luminaries Scholarship.
Their research interests include Indigenous studies, critical studies in education, language, and literacy, historical and educational sociology, political economy, policy and political discourses, and gender and sexuality, particularly within late modern Australia.
They have published in both academic and popular press, including Sexualities, History Australia (forthcoming), History of Education Review, Crikey, Overland Literary Journal, and The Lifted Brow (as a founding co-editor).
Amy previously worked as an English language and adult literacy educator, and as a writer, editor, publicist, and an advocate for asylum seekers and refugees. They have also worked on evaluation and learning design for tertiary programs.
Amy is a member of the Australian Sociological Association (TASA), the Australian Historical Association (AHA), the Australian and New Zealand Association for the History of Education (ANZHES), and the Australian Lesbian and Gay Archives (ALGA).
critical studies in education, language, and literacy
historical and educational sociology
policy and political discourses
gender and sexuality
Beyond Culture: Diversity in Context
Navigating Policy in Changing Environments
Discourse and Genre
For too long Australia's media has failed to communicate Aboriginal political aspirations. This unique study of key Aboriginal initiatives seeking self-determination and justice reveals a history of media procrastination and denial.
A team of Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal researchers examine 45 years of media responses to these initiatives, from the 1972 Larrakia petition to the Queen seeking land rights and treaties, to the desire for recognition expressed in the 2017 Uluru Statement from the Heart. This analysis exposes how the media frames stories, develops discourses, and supports deeper historical narratives that corrode and undermine the intent and urgency of Aboriginal aspirations, through approaches ranging from sympathetic stalling to patronising parodies.
This book can be used by media professionals to improve their practices, by Aboriginal communities to test media truth-telling and by anyone seeking to understand how Aboriginal desires and hopes have been expressed, and represented, in recent Australian political history.
Thomas, A 2020, 'Apocalypse now?', Overland, vol. Summer 2019, no. 237.
Thomas, A, Forsyth, H & Bonnell, AG 2020, '‘The dice are loaded’: history, solidarity and precarity in Australian universities', History Australia, vol. 17, no. 1, pp. 21-39.View/Download from: Publisher's site
© 2020, © 2020 Australian Historical Association. This article responds to debate over casualisation within the Australian Historical Association (AHA) and within the history profession in Australia more generally. It is argued that competing interests increasingly govern relations between salaried and casual academics. The article seeks to historicise these competing interests within the discipline in the history of Australian universities since the late 1980s. The authors draw on Marx’s descriptions of the ‘reserve army of labour’ and recent sociological debates over precarity to describe the political economy that has produced a casual academic workforce. By also analysing the effects of recent shifts in the structure of academic work more widely, the article advocates for solidarity, on the basis of academic historians’ shared precarity in the university sector. It then points to how historians might marshal their research resources to derive lessons from the past, in the service of protecting historians as a community, particularly for those most affected by the trend towards precarity.
Thomas, A, McCann, H & Fela, G 2019, '‘In this house we believe in fairness and kindness’: Post-liberation politics in Australia's same-sex marriage postal survey', Sexualities, pp. 136346071983034-136346071983034.View/Download from: Publisher's site
In December 2017, Australia legalized same-sex marriage (SSM), following a 13-year ban and a drawn-out postal survey on marriage equality that saw campaigners mobilize for a ‘Yes’ vote on a non-binding poll. Through a discourse analysis of the Yes and No campaigns’ television and online video advertisements, we demonstrate how the Yes campaign was symptomatic of what we call a ‘post-liberation’ approach that saw SSM as the last major hurdle for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Intersex and Queer (LGBTIQ) politics. While the No campaign linked SSM to gender fluidity, transgender identity, and sex education programmes, in contrast the Yes campaign limited itself to narratives around love and marriage. In not attending to the link between sex, gender and sexuality, the Yes campaign narrowed the possibilities of the debate, preserving existing White heteronormative expectations of gender and sexuality. We contrast the debate that unfolded during the postal survey to the Australian Gay Liberation movement of the 1970s, the latter of which was able to successfully and radically challenge similarly homophobic campaigns. Rather than relying on ‘palatable’ or mainstream ideas of equality, love and fairness, Gay Liberation in Australia embraced the radical potential of LGBTIQ activism and presented a utopian, optimistic vision of a transformed future. Here we suggest that we can learn from the history of campaigns around sexuality, to understand what was ‘won’ in the SSM debate, and to better develop strategies for change in the future.
Thomas, AC 2018, 'Before Mardi Gras', Overland, vol. Winter, no. 231, pp. 10-19.
June this year marked the fortieth anniversary of the Sydney Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras. The first parade, in 1978, was brutally attacked by police – a response that sparked a very public stoush over the rights of LGBTIQ people and the right to protest. The 78ers, as the first protesters are now known, won a stunning victory: most of the charges were dropped, and the right to demonstrate was secured in New South Wales. Yet, as the recent ABC historical drama Riot accurately depicts, Gay Liberation groups – the first wave of Australia’s LGBTIQ movement – had been active for nearly a decade before the first Mardi Gras. In fact, by the late 1970s, gay liberationists were facing a religious backlash against the impressive gains they had made.
Revisiting this trailblazing period is timely given last year’s postal vote on same-sex marriage. The Yes campaign’s singular focus on marriage equality in the face of conservative attacks on trans people and the Safe Schools program represented a cautious, small-target approach to social change – and it stands in stark contrast to the revolutionary aspirations of Gay Liberation. Whereas the Yes campaign was anxious to assure conservatives that it would not challenge gender roles, the gay liberationists of the early 1970s openly critiqued the nuclear family and other oppressive institutions. Emboldened by their belief in a world beyond capitalism, Gay Liberation went on the offensive, demanding nothing short of radical social change.
Much scholarship on Australian LGBTIQ politics affords the gains made by Gay Liberation in the early 1970s to the liberalism and lobbying of later decades. According to Australian historian Robert Aldrich, ‘Realpolitik was more effective than the liberationist theorising of the early 1970s or the queer theory of the early 1990s, even though the intellectual engagements of Gay Liberation provided a vital basis for later achievements’. He goes on to say that ‘many who took part in the [Gay Liberatio...
Thomas, AC 2017, 'It is still the Balanda way: How governments approach Indigeneity', Overland, no. 226, pp. 3-10.
You could be forgiven for thinking Aboriginal languages were finally being respected and resourced – but you would be wrong. You would be wrong because there’s a connection between the catastrophic situation in remote Aboriginal communities and the future of living Aboriginal languages. While measures to revive languages are inspiring and should be supported (so far these efforts have been allocated meagre funding), they do not represent a solution, or even a sufficient understanding of the problem. We must recognise that the structures and policies that severely damaged these languages in the first place still exist, and in some places, particularly in northern Australia, they are being re-imposed with alarming vigour. The most spectacularly brutal example is the Northern Territory Emergency Response, known to most as the NT Intervention, and later rebranded as Stronger Futures by the last Labor government.
Thomas, A 2019, ''Dawn of a new era'?: Media narratives of Aboriginal futures following the Apology to the Stolen Generations' in Thomas, A, Jakubowicz, A & Norman, H (eds), Does the media fail Aboriginal political aspirations?: 45 years of news media reporting of key political moments, Aboriginal Studies Press, Canberra, pp. 156-176.
This case study is a textual analysis of national and New South Wales (NSW) mainstream print news media reporting on the day following the Apology. It compares the mainstream reporting to contemporaneous communications in the Koori Mail, and the text of the Apology itself. I argue that the dominant narrative emerging from the mainstream print media on 14 February was that the Apology effectively closed the era of debate about the Stolen Generations, so as to enable a new federal political bipartisanship in Aboriginal policy-making. However, in declaring this era closed, the narrative draws on negative discourses of Aboriginal behaviour to champion ‘practical’ rather than ‘symbolic’ measures to counter supposed social dysfunction in remote Aboriginal communities. This silences discussion of the connection between the devastation associated with protection and assimilation era policies and contemporary social issues. By contrast, the Koori Mail (2008), while showcasing relief at and appreciation for the Apology, focuses on the Stolen Generations survivors’ campaigns, gives voice to desires for the implementation of all recommendations of the Bringing Them Home report, and questions the federal commitment to bipartisanship. It presents a narrative of the Apology as beginning action on the unfinished business of justice for the Stolen Generations, and the discourse of dysfunction is largely absent.
Thomas, A 2019, 'The princess and the protestors: The 1972 Larrakia petition and discourses of failure in Aboriginal protest' in Thomas, A, Jakubowicz, A & Norman, H (eds), Does the media fail Aboriginal political aspirations?: 45 years of news media reporting of key political moments, Aboriginal Studies Press, Canberra, pp. 37-56.
I then analyse the selected media, focusing on how it represents and discusses Aboriginal agency, and on the framing of stories, the discourses called upon, and deep narratives that emerge. I argue that the majority of the news reporting studied assumed that Aboriginal protest aiming for policy change would fail, was potentially naïve, often disorganised, and even pitiable. In general, it takes for granted the legitimacy of the royals’ position and the process of Australia’s settlement, and assumes that Aboriginal peoples will be assimilated into mainstream Australian society. This point is reinforced by its differences from some of the local Darwin coverage in the Northern Territory News: the latter, by contrast, entertains the legitimacy of Aboriginal claims to land, and the potential of Aboriginal protest.
Thomas, A 2019, 'The 'quite historic' compact that wasn't: media silence and the Two Hundred Years Later report' in Thomas, A, Jakubowicz, A & Norman, H (eds), Does the media fail Aboriginal political aspirations?: 45 years of news media reporting of key political moments, Aboriginal Studies Press, Canberra, pp. 74-87.
In the light of growing public and political interest in constitutional reform with the 2017 Uluru Statement from the Heart, this study contributes to a small historiography on the political debate over agreement-making and the emerging Aboriginal polity in the early 1980s.
Thomas, A 2019, 'Tough love and talkfests: Discourses of Aboriginal policy in media reporting on Closing the Gap' in Thomas, A, Jakubowicz, A & Norman, H (eds), Does the media fail Aboriginal political aspirations?: 45 years of news media reporting of key political moments, Aboriginal Studies Press, Canberra, pp. 177-195.
This case study undertakes textual analysis of selected national and New South Wales (NSW) mainstream print news media in the weeks following Rudd’s Apology on 13 February 2008 which contain thematic references to ‘close the gap’. It finds that, across the whole sample, there was a failure to distinguish between the Northern Territory Emergency Response (NTER), and Closing the Gap. The NTER, also known as the Intervention, had been launched by the previous government and was supported by Kevin Rudd’s Labor government after some modifications (Bielefeld, 2014). Not only did this erase Aboriginal communities outside the remote Northern Territory (NT) from the mainstream media coverage of Closing the Gap, the negative behaviour said to characterise life in these communities was often generalised to Aboriginal people as a whole, supporting a simplistic discourse of dysfunction that was generally associated with Aboriginality. Aboriginality thus became the gap that needed closing. This supported an overwhelming deeper narrative that ‘tough love’, using Intervention style measures that overruled existing ‘failed’ Aboriginal authority, was necessary to close the gap, while a cognate narrative told that a mixture of consultation and Intervention-style approaches, based on expert opinion, was needed to implement Intervention-style measures. In both narratives, such measures could avoid the apparent mistakes of the self-determination era.
Thomas, A, Jakubowicz, A & Norman, H 2019, 'Findings' in Does the media fail Aboriginal political aspirations?: 45 years of news media reporting of key political moments, Aboriginal Studies Press, Canberra, pp. 232-241.
Thomas, A, Jakubowicz, A & Norman, H 2019, 'Introduction' in Does the media fail Aboriginal political aspirations? 45 years of news media reporting of key political moments, Aboriginal Studies Press, Canberra, pp. 9-9.
Thomas, AC 2018, ''Unviable' languages? Colonisation, assimilation, and bilingual education in the Northern Territory' in Northern Territory Literary Awards 2018: Works by winners and finalists, Northern Territory Library, Darwin.
McCann, H, Fela, G & Thomas, A 2018, '‘If she asks we’ll tell her it’s about fairness and kindness’: The post-liberation politics of the postal survey', Surveilling Minds and Bodies: Sexualities, Medicine and the Law in Australasian Contexts, Newcastle, Australia.
Thomas, A 2018, ''‘They think their way will work on our kids": The birth of mainstreaming in Aboriginal bilingual education 1998-99', FASS Cultural Diversity and Communication Colloquium, University of Technology Sydney.
Thomas, A 2018, 'From mission control to Aboriginal control? The case of bilingual education in the Northern Territory', Australia and New Zealand History of Education Society conference, University of Sydney.
Thomas, A 2018, 'Mainstreaming versus community control: bilingual schooling at Yuendumu in the Intervention era', The Australian Sociological Association (TASA) Conference 2018: Precarity, Rights and Resistance, Deakin University, Melbourne, Australia.
Thomas, A 2018, 'Self-determination, bilingual education, and the foundation of the Strelley community school', Australian Historical Association 2018, Australian National University, Canberra.
Thomas, A 2018, 'Self-determination, settler colonialism and ‘Aboriginalisation’ in the Northern Territory bilingual program', Historical Materialism 2018, University of Sydney.
Thomas, A, McCann, H & Fela, G 2018, 'The Failure of “Fairness”: Post-Liberation Politics in the Australian Marriage Equality Campaign', Happy Anniversary? Reflecting on marriage equality, Australian National University, Canberra, Australia.
Thomas, AC 2017, 'The English Intervention? Neo-assimilation and language of instruction policy in Northern Australia', International conference on multilingualism and multilingual education, Braga, Portugal.
Thomas, AC 2016, 'Imperialism, the state and English hegemony in PNG and Nauru', Applied Linguistics Association of Australia conference, Monash University, Melbourne, Australia.
Thomas, AC 2016, 'Valentin Voloshinov in perspective', Historical Materialism Australasia, The University of Sydney, Sydney, Australia.
Thomas, AC 2015, 'PANEL: Race and class: a rough guide to reactionary rectories', Historical Materialism Australasia, University of Sydney, Sydney, Australia.
Thomas, AC 2012, 'Debating liberation: then and now', Homosexual Histories 2013, Victoria University, Melbourne, Australia.
Thomas, AC 2012, 'The meaning of gay liberation', Historical Materialism Australasia, Sydney Mechanics School of Arts, Sydney, Australia.
Thomas, AC & Stilwell, F 2011, 'Debate: Should we support a carbon tax?', Sydney Uni Political Economy Society, University of Sydney, Sydney, Australia.
Thomas, A & Rodgers, J 2018, 'Querelle 2008', QUT EPrints, Brisbane.
Thomas, AC & Rodgers, J 2008, 'Querelle 2008', QUT EPrints, Brisbane, Australia.
The 2008 issue of the Australian national queer student magazine, Querelle, edited by Amy Thomas and Jessica Rodgers.
Thomas, A 2007, 'The Definite Article', QUT Student Guild, Brisbane, Queensland, Australia.
Thomas, A & Scott, R 2007, 'The Lifted Brow', Managing Editor.
Thomas, AC 2007, 'City calm down', The Lifted Brow, Brow Books, Brisbane, Australia.
Surgeoner, R 2006, 'UV Magazine', Wolfgang, Brisbane, Queensland, Australia.
Thomas, AC 2006, 'We are Magic Talking to Itself', The Rumours are True: New Writing from QUT 2006, Creative Industries Faculty and dot/lit, Brisbane, Australia.
Thomas, A 2004, 'Utopia', QUT Student Guild, Brisbane, Queensland, Australia.
Thomas, AC & De Crespigny, R Campaign for Change for Asylum Seekers 2014, How can it happen? Steps towards a regional co-operative framework for processing asylum seekers and refugees, Sydney.
Thomas, A 2019, 'Federal election 2019: What the hell just happened? Five arguments', Overland.
Thomas, A 2019, 'In My Blood it Runs and the crisis facing Indigenous students', Crikey.
Fela, G, Thomas, A & McCann, H 2018, 'Long live the gender whisperers', Overland.
Thomas, A 2018, ''Think in the national language' and other assimilationist proverbs', Overland.
Thomas, A 2018, 'Tony Abbott's vision for remote education has been tried, and failed', Crikey.
Thomas, AC 2018, '‘Words are cheap’: ten years on, Mparntwe fears another Stolen Generation'.
Ten years on from the Rudd government’s apology to the Stolen Generations, there’s a sense of history repeating in Mparntwe (Alice Springs).
Thomas, AC 2018, 'Out of the closet and into the streets, the fight against homophobia has just begun', The Wire.
Both in India and Australia, there is much more to be won for true LGBTQIA+ equality to be achieved.
Thomas, AC 2017, '‘Our souls are in jail’: the NT Intervention ten years on', Overland.
Thomas, AC & McCann, H 2017, 'Marriage equality: yes, it's about gender', Overland.
Thomas, AC & McMahon, E 2016, 'Mardi Gras fracas: No Pride in Detention makes no apology for marching for Nima and Ashkan', New Matilda.
Thomas, AC 2015, 'Home of craters and rocks', Overland.