Contemporary Histories Research Group, Deakin University and Australian Policy and History


International Symposium on Public Health Systems: Historical and Contemporary Perspectives

A virtual conference

Tuesday 9 November 2021, Australian Eastern Daylight Time (UTC + 11)

Register here (free)

About this event

Australian Policy and History and the Contemporary Histories Research Group at Deakin University will host leading academics and policy experts from across the world to discuss public health policy from historical and contemporary perspectives. Speakers including Hon Dr Neal Blewett, Bill Bowtell and Professor Catherine Bennett talking about the foundation of Medicare and the contemporary state of our public health system. Historians from the US, UK and Canada will offer perspectives on their  health systems.

Program Details


Welcome to Country and Introduction

Alfred Deakin Professor Julie Owens

Deputy Vice Chancellor, Research

Deakin University


‘Hip-pocket First, Fairness Second: Australians and the Birth of Medicare’

Dr Carolyn Holbrook

Contemporary Histories Research Group, Deakin University


‘Building and Maintaining Medicare: Insiders’ Perspectives’: Panel Discussion chaired by Professor Frank Bongiorno, ANU

Hon. Dr Neal Blewett, Commonwealth Minister for Health, 1983-1990

Bill Bowtell, senior adviser to Health Minister Neal Blewett, 1983-1987 and Prime Minister Paul Keating, 1984-1996

Caroline Edwards, Deputy Secretary/Associate Secretary of Commonwealth Department of Health, 2017-2021


Morning tea break


‘How Healthy is Health Journalism?’

Professor Matthew Ricketson and Dr Chris Scanlon

School of Communication and Creative Arts, Deakin University


‘Isn’t it iconic? Investigating the past, present and future of Medicare as a public sector brand’

Dr Richie Barker

School of Communication and Creative Arts, Deakin University


‘Medicare and the economics of health care in Australia’

Associate Professor Martin Hensher and Paul Crosland

Institute for Health Transformation, Deakin University


‘Getting a read on Medicare Awareness, Relevance and Satisfaction’

Professor Catherine Bennett, Institute for Health Transformation, Deakin University and Professor David Lowe, Contemporary Histories Research Group, Deakin University


Lunch break


‘Healthcare in the Plague: Spanish flu in Melbourne in 1919’

Mary Sheehan

Public Historian and PhD Candidate, University of Melbourne


‘History-Making, Popular Memory, and the British National Health Service’

Dr Andrew Seaton

Research Fellow, Oxford University, UK


‘Seeing the Love? Forging and Fighting Feelings for Britain’s NHS’

Professor Roberta Bivins

Warwick University, UK




‘Anti-welfare Nationalism: U.S. Health Care as an Ideological System’

Professor Beatrix Hoffman

Northern Illinois University, USA


‘Maple Syrup, Mounties and Medicare: How Universal Health Insurance became a National Identity in Canada’

Professor David Wright

McGill University, Canada


Discussion and Closing Remarks


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