Dr Mary Tomsic

Postdoctoral Research Associate Dr Mary Tomsic

Mary Tomsic is an ARC Postdoctoral Research Associate researching the history of visual representations of child refugees. Her broad teaching and research interests are in cultural history in particular visual culture, film and history; historical representations in popular culture; Australian film culture as well as understandings of gender and sexuality. Her book Beyond the Silver Screen: A History of Women, Filmmaking and Film Culture in Australia 1920-1990 was be published in October 2017. Mary is a co-convenor of the Australian Women’s History Network and the Melbourne Feminist History Group.

Picturing Refugee Children

My project explores shifting understandings of child refugees and displaced children depicted in visual sources since 1920. I will examine a range of representations over several decades, including photographs, film, fundraising materials, picture story books, newsreel and television footage and children's art works. Through these visual representations, I will explore how child refugees have been characterised and the role of visual depictions in mobilising support or opposition to child refugees in Australia and around the world. In drawing together a wide array of visual depictions I hope to better understand the impact of visual culture in the stories and histories that are told about displaced children in the past and today.


  • Tomsic, Mary. ‘‘Happiness again’: photographing and narrating the arrival of Hungarian child refugees and their families 1956–1957’, The History of the Family, 2017, DOI: 10.1080/1081602X.2016.1276852
  • Tomsic, Mary, ‘The politics of picture books: Stories of displaced children in 21st century Australia’ History Australia (forthcoming accepted 14 May 2017)
  • Tomsic, Mary. Beyond the Silver Screen. A history of women, filmmaking and film culture in Australia, 1920-1990 (Melbourne University Press, 2017)
  • Damousi, Joy, Kim Rubenstein and Mary Tomsic (eds.), Diversity in Leadership: Australian women, past and present (Canberra: ANU Press, 2014)


January 2018

Interview with Trevor Chappell, ABC Radio, Overnights with Trevor Chappell

The experiences of refugee children

Trevor Chappell discussed this with Dr Mary Tomsic who is part of a team looking into the child migrant experience. She is from the School of Historical and Philosophical Studies, Faculty of Arts, University of Melbourne.

November 2017

Interview with Clare Bowditch, ABC Radio Afternoons (audio expired)

Dr Mary Tomsic speaks with Clare Bowditch about her recently published book, Beyond the Silver Screen. The interview begins at 1:05:27.

October 2017

Women 'Beyond the Silver Screen'

Dr Mary Tomsic talks with Fran Kelly on the ABC's RN breakfast program about how women, as early as the 1920s, have been making their mark in the world of film in Australia.

Speaking Beyond the Silver Screen with Dr Mary Tomsic

Dr Mary Tomsic discusses her book Beyond The Silver Screen; A history of women, filmmaking and film culture in Australia, 1920-1990 (Melbourne University Press, 2017) with Perth community radio station RTR FM.

June 2017

Learning form the Past. Working with WWII Refugees

Dr Mary Tomsic on the Pursuit website: "Since civil war erupted in Syria six years ago, millions of refugees have made the perilous journey, by land and sea, to Europe, to escape bloodshed and conflict. It’s been referred to by organisations like the United Nations as the “biggest refugee crisis since World War 2”.

February 2015

Gabrielle Murphy, "Writing history in pictures", The Age 5 February 2015