Prestigious Laureate Professorship for History Program at Melbourne

School of Historical and Philosophical Studies' Professor Joy Damousi has been awarded an Australian Laureate Fellowship, joining 15 other illustrious professors around the country. Awarded by the Australian Research Council, and allowing five years of full-time research, the position also brings capacity for team building and student scholarships within the Faculty's History Program.  It is a remarkable achievement, capping an exceptional research career.

Specifically, the award allows Professor Damousi to build on her detailed research into the history of the paidomazoma – the removal of children to Australia during the Greek Civil War in the 1940s.  In this project, Professor Damousi charted a painful history that saw tens of thousands of children removed from villages across Greece, often to Eastern Europe, but also to Australia.  Among many other aspects of this story, Professor Damousi's research highlighted the role of Australian Council of International Social Service director, Aileen Fitzpatrick, and the pivotal role she played in moving debates beyond Cold War politics and promoting a global community united by humanitarian efforts and international exchange.

Professor Damousi's new project will examine the broader history of child refugees seeking asylum in Australia, asking questions about how the past informs current and future approaches to immigration and refuge.  Professor Damousi hopes the project will "generate new and powerful understandings of the impact and experiences of child refugees in Australia … and enable an integrated approach to understanding the impact of child refugees in Australia in cultural, social and economic terms".  It is important, Professor Damousi has argued, that we have both "a historical and contemporary framework for current discussions on child refugees".

Commenting on the awarding of the laureate professorships, the University of Melbourne's Deputy Vice-Chancellor of Research, Professor James McCluskey, noted that these fellowships recognise "outstanding world-leading achievements", but also and importantly that it is "research that informs and assists the community". Professor Damousi's project will focus on diverse communities in Australia, including groups that have the highest migration of children, such as the Vietnamese in the 1970s and the Sudanese since the 1990s.  It will also focus on historical case studies and community attempts to assist children much earlier in the twentieth century, such as the role of Jewish communities in the 1930s.

In addition to this prestigious new role, Professor Damousi will assist the community through her role as an ambassador for women in the humanities, arts and social sciences.  She undertakes this role as the most recent recipient of the Kathleen Fitzpatrick Award.  Named after the renowned Melbourne University historian, a key part of this role is to mentor and support female researchers to become scholars. "We have to get more women in there, and more research and awards in the humanities", Professor Damousi has said.  "It is great to see the ARC supporting studies of migration like this – Australian communities have a lot of stories to tell, and they haven't all been told yet."