JCU historian’s book wins top prize

First published 12 December, 2012

JCU historian Russell McGregor

James Cook University’s Associate Professor Russell McGregor’s Indifferent Inclusion has won the 2012 NSW Premier’s Australian History Prize.

The book maps the complex relationship between Indigenous and settler Australians during the middle four decades of the twentieth century.

It was published by Aboriginal Studies Press, the publishing arm of the Australian Institute of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Studies (AIATSIS) in Canberra.

In handing down their decision, the judges said the book was “critical to an understanding of twentieth century Aboriginal history and to an explanation of changing notions of Australian citizenship”.

Indifferent Inclusion maps the changing ways in which the Australian Governments defined the concept of assimilation and developed more inclusive policies to incorporate Indigenous people into the Australian community, in the period from Federation to the 1967 referendum and beyond,” they said.

“(Associate Professor McGregor) suggests that inclusion was less a function of a political actionthan of a social and cultural campaign as Aboriginal Australians challenged the apathy of European Australians and claimed a place within the nation.

“This book is filled with sharp insights into particular events and movements, and establishes arich general context for this complex and important story.”

JCU Vice-Chancellor Professor Sandra Harding said she hoped Indifferent Inclusion might encourage settler Australians to be more willing to consider, perhaps even embrace, the full inclusion of Aboriginal people in the Australian nation.

“Russell’s beautifully weighted work ends with an appeal — to do much better than continue to consider issues of the national inclusion of Aboriginal Australians as polarized polemic,” she said.

Associate Professor McGregor said he was “surprised and delighted” when his name was announced as winner.

“These award ceremonies are rather tense affairs since no-one - except the judges - has any idea who the winners are before they are announced,” he said.

He said some of the $15,000 prize-money may go toward a holiday in Greece.

“What better place for an historian to holiday in?” he joked.

Associate Professor McGregor said his next venture was to write another book, but on quite a different topic.

“The next one will be a history of Australian ambitions to 'develop the north', from colonial times to the present day. The ambition to develop the north has been a recurring theme - sometimes more like an obsession - running through Australian history, and once again it is topical today.”

Indifferent Inclusion was also shortlisted in Australian History Prize in the Prime Minister’s Literary Awards earlier this year.

For more information visit: http://www.aiatsis.gov.au/asp/aspbooks/RussellMcGregor.html

For interviews, contact: Associate Professor McGregor 07 4781 4987.

JCU Media contact: Caroline Kaurila (07) 4781 4586 or 0437 028 175