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Dr Anna Clark


Anna Clark is an Australian Research Council Future Fellow and Co-Director of the Australian Centre for Public History at the University of Technology Sydney. With Stuart Macintyre, she wrote the History Wars in 2003, which was awarded the NSW Premier’s Prize for Australian History and the Queensland Premier’s Prize for Best Literary or Media Work Advancing Public Debate.

Her PhD thesis, Teaching the Nation, was published by Melbourne University Press in 2006 and examines debates about teaching Australian history in schools. Follow up research, History’s Children: History Wars in the Classroom (New South, 2008), used interviews with 250 history teachers, students and curriculum officials from around Australia to explore Australian history teaching in school. She has also written two history books for children, Convicted! and Explored!

Anna’s most recent project, Private Lives, Public History, used interviews with 100 Australians from around the country to consider and include their thoughts on history alongside public and political discussions about the past and is published by Melbourne University Press. Reflecting her love of fish and fishing, she has also recently been written a history of fishing in Australia, which will be published in 2016.

Her current project, 'Re-imagining the National Story', is a history of Australian historiography, funded by the Australian Research Council.

Anna's teaching interests range across Australian history and historiography, including contests over the past, oral history, history education, memory studies, and public history.

Image of Anna Clark
Future Fellow and Senior Lecturer, School of Communication
Associate Member, TFC - Transforming Cultures
Core Member, CPCE - Centre for Creative Practices and the Cultural Economy
Core Member, CCS - Cosmopolitan Civil Societies
BA Hons (Usyd), Grad Cert (Monash), PhD (Melb)
+61 2 9514 2553

Research Interests

The ‘History Wars’ in Australia and internationally


Australian history

Oral history

History education

Memory studies

Public history.

Can supervise: Yes
Registered at Cat 1: can supervise all

Australian history

Cultural history

Public History

Memory Studies


Clark, A.H. 2016, Private Lives, Public History, 1, Melbourne University Publishing, Melbourne.
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Clark, A. 2016, Once Upon a Time: Australian Writers on Using the Past, 1, Australian Scholarly Publishing, Melbourne.
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Clark, A.H. 2008, History's Children: History Wars in the Classroom, 1, UNSW Press, Sydney, Australia.
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Clark, A.H. 2008, Explored!, Hardy Grant Egmont, Prahan, Australia.
Clark, A.H. 2006, Teaching the Nation: Politics and Pedagogy in Australian History, 1, Melbourne University Press, Carlton, VIC.
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Clark, A.H. 2005, Convicted!, Hardy Grant Egmont, Prahan.
Macintyre, S. & Clark, A.H. 2003, The History Wars, 1, Melbourne University Press, Carlton, Australia.
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Clark, A.H. & Elmersjö, H.Å. 2017, 'Epistemology of Rival Histories' in Clark, A. & Elmersjö, H.Å. (eds), International Perspectives on Teaching Rival Histories: Pedagogical Responses to Contested Narratives and the History Wars, Springer, London, pp. 1-14.
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Part I, 'Historical cultures and national histories, consists of three chapters. ... hopeful, showcasing the limits, rather than the possibilities, of 'teachers' in conflict-affected societies [propensity] to engage with rival histories in integrated settings.
Clark, A.H. 2016, 'Contested Pasts: History in Politics' in Ashton, P., Clark, A. & Crawford, R. (eds), Once Upon a Time: Australian Writers on Using the Past, Australian Scholarly Publishing, Melbourne, pp. 37-48.
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Clark, A.H., Ashton, P. & Crawford, R. 2016, 'Out of the Past: Making Histories' in Ashton, P., Clark, A. & CRawford, R. (eds), Once Upon a Time: Australian Writers on Using the Past, Australian Scholarly Publishing, Melbourne, pp. 1-15.
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Clark, A.H. 2013, 'The History Wars' in Clark, A. & Ashton, P. (eds), Australian History Now, New South Wales University Press, Sydney, pp. 151-166.
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Ashton, P. & Clark, A.H. 2013, 'Rethinking Australian History' in Clark, A. & Ashton, P. (eds), Australian History Now, New South Wales University Press, Sydney, pp. 13-23.
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A survey of Australian historiography over the last fifty years.
Clark, A.H. 2013, 'Connecting to the Past: Memory and History in Australian Communities' in Hamilton, P. & Ashton, P. (eds), Locating Suburbia: memory, place, creativity, UTSePress, Sydney, pp. 75-86.
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Shortly before my grandmother Dymphna died she called me into her room. She was tired and wincing with pain. `I want to show you The Box, she said. But she looked so sick that I suggested we leave it until after she had rested. I had seen its contents maybe 10 years earlier, when I was 11 or 12. I didnt really know anything about this box, except that it was old, it came from Sweden and had been passed down the female line in our family.
Clark, A.H. 2010, 'The 'history wars'' in Nieuwenhuysen, J. & Dunstan, D. (eds), Southern Worlds: South Africa and Australia Compared, Australian Scholarly Publishing, Melbourne, Australia, pp. 120-129.
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In this chapter I want to catalogue some of these debates over Australia's past, For those who are close to Australian historiography, I'm sorry if I seem to be traversing familiar territory. But I wanted to provide an introduction for participants here today who may not know much about contests over Australian history, And I hope this paper can be a starting point for some comparative consideration of why history raises such similar debates across countries and cultures,
Clark, A.H. 2008, 'The Challenge of Teaching Australian History' in John Butcher (ed), Australia Under Construction: Nation-building Past, Present and Future, ANU E Press, Canberra, pp. 33-47.
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Clark, A.H. 2006, 'Our children-the citizens of tomorrow', History in Global Perspective: Proceedings of the 20th Congress of Historical Sciences, Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences, University of New South Wales, University of New South Wales.

Journal articles

Clark, A.H. 2017, 'The Place of Anzac in Australian Historical Consciousness', Australian Historical Studies, vol. 48, no. 1, pp. 19-34.
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There is an ever-greater popular attachment to the commemoration of Anzac Day in Australia, with growing commercial, popular and institutional support around the country. This resurgence has also generated significant disagreement among historians, shaping the historiography of Anzac in recent years and raising important questions about Australia's current obsession with Anzac: is it a reflection of increasing popular historical engagement, or an ideologically driven 'mobilisation' of the past? While various scholars have sought to unpack and understand this potent phenomenon of national sentiment, this article, based on a series of oral interviews with ordinary Australians in selected communities, reveals an uncertainty and complexity in many vernacular responses to Anzac that need to be included if that commemorative sentiment is to be properly understood.
Clark, A.H. 2016, 'Private Lives, Public History: Navigating Historical Consciousness in Australia', History Compass, vol. 14, no. 1, pp. 1-8.
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Contests over Australian history captivate governments, historians and public commentators; they grab headlines and spawn endless public commentary. The 'history wars', as those debates have come to be known, play out over museum exhibits, national commemorations, public apologies and the ways we teach the past to the next generation: should the Australian War Memorial commemorate the victims of the Australian frontier wars? Should Australians be sorry for historical actions in the past? Should Australian history be compulsory in school? (And so on.) But does that 'national story' have any meaning for Australian families and communities? This paper canvasses some recent qualitative research into historical consciousness in Australia to explore the ways those historical discourses operate beyond the public domain. It asks participants to speak in their own words about what history means: how they relate to their local and family histories, and how they engage with Australian history more broadly. Impor- tantly, the project reveals a depth and complexity to Australians' historical engagement and demonstrates that public and personal discourses about the past do indeed intersect in everyday life around the country.
Clark, A.H. 2015, 'Remembering and Forgetting: Inheritance and Indigenous Historical Consciousness', Journal of Australian Indigenous Issues, vol. 18, no. 1, pp. 86-98.
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Clark, A.H. 2014, 'Inheriting the past: Exploring historical consciousness across generations', Historical Encounters, vol. 1, pp. 88-102.
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Despite significant research into the meaning and operation of historical consciousness, there is still much to be understood about its hereditary function. For example, what does historical inheritance look like? How does it influence our individual and collective historical consciousnesses? And, just as critically, what happens to historical consciousness when history is deliberately withheld, when that inheritance is suspended or severed? As a way into some of these questions about passing on the past, this paper draws on a qualitative research project into historical consciousness in Australia to explore how so-called `ordinary people see themselves as part of a historical narrative. It reveals that historical inheritance is critical to our historical consciousness, and it notes the profound impact of forgetting on participants, raising important questions about the role of `silence and `absence in the formation of historical consciousness.
Clark, A.H. 2014, 'An Epic Forgetting', Sydney Review of Books, vol. August.
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There has been an extraordinary resurgence in the commemoration of Australians at war in recent decades. An estimated 50 000 people attended Anzac Day marches around the nation in 1984; a generation later, in 2014, more than that number attended the dawn service at Melbourne's Shrine of Remembrance alone. As backpackers undertake the rite of passage to Gallipoli, record numbers swell Anzac marches at home, and the news fills with emotive, resonant images of war, past and present. Yet there is a blind-spot in this clamour to commemorate, as Henry Reynolds insists in his latest book, Forgotten War. 'Since 1994 there has been a continuous program to commemorate the men and women who have served in Australia's overseas wars from 1885 to the present,' he writes; and yet conflict also 'accompanied the pioneer settlers into almost every district on the continent'. It is this war 'between settlers and Indigenous nations' that 'made the nation', Reynolds argues, 'not the fateful invasion of Turkey'
Clark, A.H. 2012, 'Ordinary People's History', History Australia, vol. 9, no. 1, pp. 201-216.
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The history wars are far from over: the question is, do they resonate beyond the limited public sphere in which they play out? What do Australians think of their history in light of these politicised historical debates? By way of answer, this article examines the enduring public contest over the past and then investigates more elusive, but no less significant, everyday conversations about Australian history around the country. By proposing a method of `oral historiography to gauge contemporary historicalunderstandings in Australia, it brings a critical new perspective to theseongoing debates. It offers ordinary people a chance to contribute to national discussions about Australian history and it challenges some of the more simplistic and troubling assumptions of the history wars.
Clark, A.H. 2010, 'Talking About History: A Case for Oral Historiography', Public History Review, vol. 17, no. 1, pp. 62-76.
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So the public conjecture over Australian history is far from over as these debates among historians, politicians and public commentators remind us. The question is, does any of this resonate beyond the limited public sphere in which it plays out? What do Australians think of their history in light of the history wars? By way of answer, this paper examines the enduring public contest over the past and then investigates more elusive, but no less significant, everyday conversations about Australian history around the country. By proposing a method of `oral historiography to gauge contemporary historical understandings in Australia, it brings a critical new perspective to these ongoing debates.
Clark, A.H. 2010, 'Politicians Using History', Australian Journal of Politics and History, vol. 56, no. 1, pp. 120-131.
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The political potency of national history has been understood for generations. Yet there has been an unquestionable surge in history's political influence over the last twenty or thirty years, as the various history wars that have broken out around the world attest. Australia has been no exception: disputes over its national story continue to generate considerable controversy in the media, in politics and in public debate. But how has this politicisation of the past affected Australian political history in the present? This paper examines how history is practised in contemporary Australian politics and notices an increasingly strategic use of the past by politicians in recent years.
Clark, A.H. 2009, 'Teaching the nation's story: comparing public debates and classroom perspectives on history education in Australia and Canada', Journal Of Curriculum Studies, vol. 41, no. 6, pp. 745-762.
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Teaching national history in school generates significant public anxiety and political debateas the various 'history wars' around the world reveal. For many school students, however, studying their nation's past is dull and repetitive. Such lack of interest has been confirmed by surveys and research reports that reveal alarmingly low levels of national historical knowledge among young people, and there is growing popular concern that their ignorance of the past endangers the nation's future. Yet preoccupation with students' apparent national illiteracy tends to overlook how they connect with history in the first place. This paper draws on findings from a comparative Australian and Canadian research project that interviewed students and teachers about the ways they learned and taught history. It argues that any return to 'the facts' at the expense of critical historical engagement in class could turn students away from the subject.
Clark, A.H. 2008, 'Learning About Stuff Outside the Box', Overland, vol. 191, pp. 16-19.
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Clark, A.H. 2008, 'Teaching National Narratives and Values', Agora, vol. 43, no. 1, pp. 4-9.
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Clark, A.H. 2007, 'A decision that affects the lives of real peopleâ', The Age, vol. 8 October, pp. 13-13.
Clark, A.H. 2007, 'It's like, history'', The Age, vol. 21 April, pp. 13-13.
Clark, A.H. 2006, 'The History Question: Correspondence', Quarterly Essay, vol. 24, pp. 54-56.
Clark, A.H. 2006, 'Flying the Flag for Mainstream Australia', Griffith Review, vol. Autumn, no. 11, pp. 107-112.
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In June 2004, the Prime Minister, John Howard, and the Federal Minister for Education, Brendan Nelson, announced a new $31 billion federal education package in which funding would be tied to a National Values Framework. The increased government support would be contingent on the implementation of several policy initiatives "that will underpin the Australian Government's national priorities, shaping our schools over the next decade".
Clark, A.H. 2006, 'Textbooks: from the Narrative of the Nation to the Narrative of Citizens', Rekishigaku Kenkyu, vol. 816, pp. 24-30.
Clark, A.H. 2006, 'Teaching the Nation', The History Teacher, vol. 44, no. 1, pp. 16-18.
Clark, A.H. 2006, 'History's forgotten voices', The Age, vol. 15 July, pp. 9-9.
Clark, A.H. 2006, 'Is History Fiction?', Australian Book Review, vol. 278, pp. 21-21.
Clark, A.H. 2005, 'The 125 moments that changed Australia', The Bulletin, pp. 52-111.
Clark, A.H. 2005, 'Murder at Pioneer Cemetery', The Bulletin, vol. 5, pp. 19-19.
Clark, A.H. 2005, 'Murder at Pioneer Cemetery', The Monthly, vol. September, pp. 19-19.
Clark, A.H. 2005, 'Sense and Nonsense in Australian History', The Bulletin, pp. 69-69.
Clark, A.H. 2004, 'Who was Edmund Barton, and who cares?', EQ Australia, vol. Winter, pp. 7-8.
Clark, A.H. 2004, 'The great history debate', The Age, vol. 9 February.
Clark, A.H. 2004, 'Oh lucky land', The Age, vol. 28 August.
Clark, A.H. 2004, 'History Teaching, Historiography, and the Politics of Pedagogy in Australia', Theory and Research in Social Education, vol. 32, no. 3, pp. 379-396.
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This article examines debates over teaching Australian history in schools and notes a pervasive anxiety about what "our children" should know. The article sketches some of these debates, and while noting the politics of history teaching both in Australia and abroad, argues that its heavily politicized discourse has been further intensified by an increasingly pedagogical invocation. As a sense of investment and ownership in the teaching of Australian history in school becomes more widespread, the contest over the past, paradoxically, has focused increasingly upon the image of the child as a generic symbol of the future.
Clark, A.H. 2004, 'Whose history? Teaching Australia's contested past', Journal Of Curriculum Studies, vol. 36, no. 5, pp. 533-541.
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Clark, A.H. 2003, 'Teaching the Past', Australian Cultural History, vol. 22, no. 1, pp. 191-201.
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The I Australians and the Pase project was initiated in response to growing historical interest and awareness in Australia. This attention to the past has manifested itself in both local and personal histories, as well as in increasing tension and debate oyer Australian historY. more broadly, ' School history is intrinsically situated in these discussions. Debates over history syllabuses are inseparable from the contemporary struggles and desires to represent Australia through its heritage. Indigenous histories in particular have incited most response, although migrant, feminist and comparative post-colonial units in history syllabuses have also produced significant reaction. Teaching history, and Australian history in particular, is loaded with the political context (and contest) of articulating the national past. This article examines the lAustralians and the Past' survey in the context of school history using interviews with history teachers conducted as part of the project.
Clark, A.H. 2003, 'The Politics of Australian History Education: An Initial Exploration', Australian Studies, vol. 18, no. 2, pp. 113-124.
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Clark, A.H. 2002, 'Getting back to the facts', The History Teacher, vol. 40, no. 3, pp. 20-25.
Clark, A.H. 2002, 'History in Black and White: a critical analysis of the black armband debate', JAS, Australia's Public Intellectual Forum, vol. 75, pp. 1-11.
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Clark, A.H. 2001, 'A student of optimismâAustralian lives', The Australian, vol. 1 January, pp. 16-16.
Clark, A.H. 2000, 'Progress of the Past? History in New South Wales Secondary Schools, 1972-1999', Public History Review, vol. 9, pp. 106-121.
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Clark, A.H. 2016, 'On listening to new national storytellers', The Conversation.
Australian history is already a hotly contested discipline but is it time to broaden our definitions of the canon? Might an indigenous rock painting or a novel or a poem constitute a work of history?
Selected Peer-Assessed Projects