- Genealogy of Makarrata
- Remaking the Australian Environment through documentary film and television
- Representations of Children
- Family Secrets, National Silences
- Inquiring into Empire
- Revitalising Indigenous-state relations
- Progressive Education and Race
- Western Australian Legacies of British Slavery
- Understanding and Recognising Indigenous Law and Legal Systems
- The Burden of Freedom?
- Completed projects
Genealogy of Makarrata
Adrian Little’s work looks to gain a deeper understanding of the Prime Minister’s rejection of the Uluru Statement and Referendum Council Report. In particular, Little focuses on the role played by the proposal for an Indigenous voice to parliament in this rejection. Little contends that the Uluru Statement rightfully demanded a three-pronged approach, and that all three are necessary for progress on Indigenous-settler relations. The truth and treaty elements of the proposed Makarrata commission are argued to be just as controversial as the proposal for voice. Little explores truth in a comparative light as a way of clarifying the choices Australia will face in how to institutionalise truth processes. This ranges from the South African attempt to build an institution which saw truth as central to reconciliation, through to Northern Ireland where the pursuit of truth remains deeply controversial twenty years after it was decided that the issues were too raw to form part of the Good Friday Agreement. He has recently published articles on this topic in Political Theory (2020) and the Review of Politics (2018).
Remaking the Australian Environment through documentary film and television
ARC Discovery Project
This project aims to investigate how documentary film, television and online media have transformed our sense of the Australian environment since the 1950s. The project will produce a historicised account of how media has fashioned contemporary environmental consciousness. Expected outcomes include environmental knowledge and social action, collaborations between media producers, scientists and educators, and attention to the role of Indigenous knowledge practices in relation to the environment. The project will enhance understanding of the significance of environmental documentaries in shaping practical and imaginative responses to a world undergoing transformation.
Representations of Children in Australian Political Controversies
Children have figured strongly in Australian political controversies. In twenty-first century Australia, some of the most controversial political debates have centred on the lives of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children, and child asylum seekers at Australia’s borders. The project undertakes an extensive analysis of representative claims made about both groups of children to demonstrate the ways in which political debates are transformed by the appearance of children. By examining representative claims about children and the impact of these claims on political decisions, this project engages with emerging literature on the relationship between democratic theories of representation and the conduct of ‘real politics’ to develop a political account of childhood and explore its implications for policy-making.
Family Secrets, National Silences: Intergenerational Memory in Settler Colonial Australia
This project aims to investigate the inherited family secrets, stories, and memories that inform Australians’ understandings of colonial history. The histories told in schools and museums shape national identity and impact Indigenous-settler relations. But little is known about the histories told or concealed within families, and how they drive people’s political views and promote or stymie national truth-telling. This research intends to benefit individuals and communities working toward national reckoning via creating knowledge about how viewpoints are created, fixed, and altered over time. It also aims to show how educators can use family histories to teach people about intergenerational inequalities, cultural traumas, and hidden diversities.
Inquiring into Empire: Remaking the British world after 1815
Zoë Laidlaw is a Chief Investigator on ARC Discovery Project DP180100537 Inquiring into Empire: remaking the British world after 1815 (2018-2022). Inquiring into Empire examines the pivotal role of commissions of inquiry in reforming law throughout the British Empire from 1815-1840. Using traditional methods and digital tools, the project investigates the design, instantiation and impact of inquiry on colonial law, the imperial constitution and the mechanisms of imperial governance across the empire. Its outcomes include enhancement of our understanding of law reform, the historical functions of commissions of inquiry, and the legacy of British imperial rule throughout the world. Chief investigators are Lisa Ford (UNSW); Kirsten McKenzie (Sydney); David Roberts (UNE); Zoë Laidlaw (Melbourne); and Stephen Doherty (UNSW). Partner Investigators are Alan Lester (Sussex); Paul Halliday (Virginia); and Philip Stern (Duke).
Zoë Laidlaw is also Principal Investigator for three UK AHRC Collaborative Doctoral Partnership Training Grants in collaboration with Dr Gaye Sculthorpe, Curator of Oceania, The British Museum. These grants have funded three PhD studentships exploring the little-known and under-utilised Australian collections of The British Museum and other UK-based collections of Indigenous Australian objects and images. ‘The Royal Navy and Colonial Collecting, 1820-1870’ (2014-17) was completed by Daniel Simpson (Royal Holloway University of London); ‘Picturing the Antipodes: race, image and empire in 19th-century Britain’ (2016-2020) is being completed by Mary McMahon (RHUL); and Nicola Froggatt (RHUL) is working on ‘British Ethnographic Collecting in Western Australia’ (2017-2021).
Revitalising Indigenous-state relations
ARC Discovery Project
- Professor Sarah Maddison (University of Melbourne)
- Dr Nikki Moodie (University of Melbourne)
- Associate Professor Morgan Brigg (University of Queensland)
- Dr Elizabeth Strakosch (University of Queensland)
This project is investigating the complexity of Indigenous affairs governance and the ongoing tensions in the relationship between Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples and the Australian state. The project expects to generate new data on contemporary Indigenous governance arrangements and analyse them using an original conceptual framework to inform knowledge-exchange workshops designed to advance proposed new approaches. Expected outcomes of this project include concrete proposals for re-setting Indigenous-settler relations and Indigenous affairs policy. This should provide significant benefits in the field of Indigenous governance including plans for more genuine transformation in Australian Indigenous-settler relations.
Progressive Education and Race: A transnational Australian history 1920s-50s
ARC Discovery Project
- Associate Professor Sana Nakata (University of Melbourne)
- Professor Julie McLeod (University of Melbourne)
- Professor Fiona Paisley (Griffith University)
- Professor Tony Ballantyne (University of Otago)
This project will provide a new history of progressive education in Australia in the mid-twentieth century by investigating its neglected relationship to and effect upon Indigenous education and colonial governance. Using transnational and comparative methods, it will examine how international progressive ideas informed local initiatives, explore the role of Indigenous advocacy for educational reform and build a genealogy of educability and colonial childhood.
Western Australian Legacies of British Slavery
ARC Discovery Project
- Professor Zoë Laidlaw (University of Melbourne)
- Professor Jane Lydon (University of Wester Australia)
- Dr Jeremy Martins (University of Western Australia)
- Professor Paul Arthur (Edith Cowan University)
- Professor Catherine Hall (University College London)
- Mr Keith McClelland (University College London)
- Professor Alan Lester (University of Sussex)
This project aims to bring Australia into the global history of slavery by exploring the legacies of British slavery in Western Australia. Through developing innovative methods for biographical research and digital mapping, it will trace the movement of capital, people and culture from slave-owning Britain to WA, and produce a new history of the continuing impact of slavery wealth in shaping colonial immigration, investment, and law.
Understanding and Recognising Indigenous Law and Legal Systems
ARC Future Fellowship
This project aims to analyse the written constitutions and laws of Indigenous nations in Canada, Australia, New Zealand and the United States. The Project expects to generate the first comparative study of written Indigenous law. It will generate new knowledge of Indigenous legal concepts that will enable settler and Indigenous officials, scholars and members of the public to better understand and recognise Indigenous law.
The Burden of Freedom? Aboriginal Exemption Policies in Australia
Non-Indigenous Pathways to Reconciliation in Australia
This project examined the Australian experience of reconciliation, asking how the process of reconciliation in Australia connects to the attitudes of non-Indigenous people.
‘Travelling Television’ and ‘Australian Indigenous Film making’
‘Travelling Television’ argues that certain kinds of television re-fashioned relations to place and occupation for non-Indigenous Australians in the second half of the twentieth century.
This research explores fundamental questions of Australian Aboriginal identity in 21st century Australia.