Rachel Stevens awarded NLA fellowship

Rachel Stevens awarded National Library of Australia Fellowship for 2018

Research assistant Dr Rachel Stevens has received a prestigious National Library Fellowship, which she will take up in the spring of 2018. This three month fellowship - funded by the past and present members of the National Library Council - allows researchers to make intensive and sustained use of the Library's rich archival collections. Rachel will use the fellowship to continue her research on Australian humanitarian and political efforts to support refugees during the Bangladeshi Liberation War of 1971.

Project title: Refugees, Relief and Revolution: Australians in the Bangladesh Liberation War

Project summary

The Bangladesh Liberation War against West Pakistan in 1971 triggered a mass exodus of 10 million refugees, the deaths of approximately 1.5 million and widespread destruction of villages and crops. Preoccupied with the Cold War and domestic politics, powerful nations such as the US and UK did not intervene or offer substantial aid, at least initially. Many Australian individuals and relief organisations, however, engaged with this conflict and promptly delivered financial and material aid to Bangladesh, and effectively pressured the Australian Government to follow suit. Australian left-wing activists and academics vocally supported Bangladeshis’ struggle for independence from what they perceived as the colonial rule of West Pakistan.

This project will explore how and why Australians provided relief to these predominantly Muslim refugees, including some Maoists. It will also examine why particular Australians advocated for revolution and decolonisation in Bangladesh, especially at a time when Cold War considerations dominated international politics.

Using extensive manuscript, sound and newspaper materials held at the National Library, including unique and under-utilised items, this research will offer new insights into Australian refugee history, its engagement with Asia and prominent role in international crises.