APH and the Contemporary Histories Research Group are excited to announce the recipients of the inaugural Contemporary Histories Research Group Award in History and Policy. 

This award provides $10,000 each to two early career researchers to undertake research in an area of history that relates to a significant issue of contemporary Australian public policy. Congratulations Niro and Mia.

Dr. Niro Kandasamy 

A photo of Niro Kandasamy

Project Description:

In 2019, Prime Minister Scott Morrison highlighted the importance of strengthening Australia’s connections with countries in the Indo-Pacific region, stating that ‘it is where we have our greatest influence and make the most meaningful impact and contribution.’ The emphasis on education, trade and security has facilitated a new focus on Australia’s role as a ‘middle power’ in the Indo-Pacific region. Some scholars have used the middle power tradition to explore Australia’s connections in the Indo-Pacific as a strategy to deepen collaboration between like-minded democracies, while others describe the developments as foreign policy pragmatism. My project aims to understand these processes by examining contemporary histories of Australia’s Indo-Pacific developments with Indian Ocean island states, focusing specifically on foreign policy relations with Sri Lanka between 1970 to 1990. Drawing on archival research, the project will critically engage Australia’s foreign policy processes with smaller countries such as Sri Lanka in the Indo-Pacific region.



Niro Kandasamy completed her doctorate in the School of Historical and Philosophical Studies at the University of Melbourne in 2019. Her thesis on the long-term resettlement experiences of young Tamil refugee people in Australia received the 2019 Dennis-Wettenhall prize. She was a student visiting fellow at the Refugee Studies Centre, the University of Oxford in 2018. She is currently the Gilbert postdoctoral development fellow at the University of Melbourne and is a sessional lecturer at the Australian Catholic University. She is the co-editor of A Sense of Viidu: The (Re)creation of Home by the Sri Lankan Tamil Diaspora in Australia (2020).

Dr. Mia Martin Hobbs

A photo of Mia Martin Hobbs

Project Description:

My research project, “Race and Gender in Western Militaries in the War on Terror“, explores the experiences of women and minorities who served in the US, UK, and Australian militaries and deployed to the Middle East after 9/11. The so-called War on Terror saw the most diverse soldier-force ever deployed by Western militaries, with military diversity touted as a strategic strength in peace-building and counterinsurgency operations. Yet this soldier-force waged a deeply racialized and gendered war that fostered local resentments, and women and minorities within the US, UK, and Australian militaries faced epidemics of racism and sexual violence within their own institutions.

This oral history project seeks to understand women and minority veterans’ experiences as victims and perpetrators of gendered and racialized violence, how they view racial and sexual violence as tools of social and military control, and how they understand their role in increasingly diverse militaries and broader societies. The Contemporary Histories Research Group Australian Policy History Award will support a preliminary scoping of existing interviews with veterans in oral history collections, and establish the groundwork for a multi-year transnational oral history project into the experiences of women and minorities in the War on Terror.


Mia Martin Hobbs completed her PhD in History at the University of Melbourne in 2018, where she teaches modern US history. Her doctoral research was a transnational oral history project with Australian and American veterans who returned to Vietnam after the War. She has published research on veterans’ experiences in Australian Journal of Politics & History and written on contemporary veterans’ issues for The Conversation and Australian Policy History. Her research interests include war and conflict, memory, trauma, international history, gender, and security studies.


You can find out more information about the awards here.