Historians, Policymakers Meet in Canberra

‘Getting It Right’ (APH conference 2012)
by Dave Earl,
University of Sydney


Leading historians, policymakers, and senior officials from a broad range of government departments met in Canberra on Monday. The ‘Getting it Right: Using History to Inform Policy’ workshop was hosted by the Australian Policy & History Network in collaboration with the Research School of Social Sciences and the HC Coombs Policy Forum, Crawford School of Public Policy, Australian National University.

‘Getting it Right’ developed closer ties between social scientists, historians and policymakers by analysing how critical engagement with the past can inform public policy, and workshopping how academics historians can best make their research useable to policymakers.

Discussants included Professor Pat Thane (Institute of Contemporary British History, King’s College London), Professor Marilyn Lake (Australian Historical Association), and Professor Stuart Macintyre (Melbourne University).

Tim Rowse (University of Western Sydney) and Melanie Oppenheimer (University of New England), demonstrated how effective historical reflection can broaden our understanding of contemporary issues, presenting analytical histories of the Northern Territory intervention and volunteering in twentieth century Australia.

A number of historically trained speakers whose careers have straddled academia and public office, including Peter Shergold (University of Western Sydney), who holds a PhD in economic history from the London School of Economics, and Dennis Glover (Per Capita), who read history at Monash and Cambridge Universities, presented papers outlining how their background as historians have shaped their work in government.

Also present were several recipients of Australian Policy and History/Copyright Agency Limited Internships, which provide mentorship and support for outstanding early career historians to research and write peer-reviewed articles for the APH journal.

The workshop generated considerable interest and some lively discussions on Twitter, with participants tweeting using the #HistoryPP and #OzHst hashtags. A video cross to the members of the British History & Policy group at King’s College, London, responded to the Australia in the Asian Century White Paper, demonstrating how transnational and historical perspectives can re-frame contemporary policy debates.

The Australian Policy and History Network was established in 2010 and aims to foster stronger ties between historians, policy-makers and the media. Its website features short peer-reviewed articles which provide relevant and accessible historical background to current events and issues.

The HC Coombs Policy Forum is a collaboration between the Australian Government and ANU’s Crawford School of Public Policy. It supports policy-relevant exploratory and experimental inquiry between government and academia.

Dave Earl

Permanent link to this article: http://aph.org.au/historians-policymakers-meet-in-canberra