Rediscovering Australia’s Deep History
ADM Fellowship awardee Dr Laura Rademaker has been appointed to a prestigious position at the Australian National University, researching Australia’s deep human past.
Not long after Laura Rademaker found out she had been selected as a 2018 ADM Senior Research Fellow, she also received news that she had been awarded a prestigious Kathleen Fitzpatrick Laureate Fellowship at the Australia National University (ANU). For Laura this meant making the tough decision not to take up her ADM Fellowship in order to pursue the significant opportunities her ANU position will afford over the coming years. In her new role, Laura will work with Professor Ann McGrath on a vital research project that seeks to re-write the history of Australia to more accurately reflect the deep historical narrative of Aboriginal people.
Laura will return to ANU – where she earnt her PhD with a thesis on Aboriginal missions in the Northern Territory – to conduct this new research project titled ‘Rediscovering the Deep Human Past: Global Networks, Future Opportunities’. The project seeks to analyse Australia's epic Indigenous narratives alongside relevant new scientific evidence to create a ‘big-picture history’ of Australia and, as a result, transform the scale and scope of history.
Laura explains the aims of the project in reframing Australian history as a deep history of 60,000 years: “One of the major objectives of the project is to re-think how we understand history. What would it mean to incorporate Aboriginal understandings of the past – where the past is present in the now of today – into our histories? Deep history is not as distant as it might seem. The project is also hoping to develop new interdisciplinary approaches to history. That means using what might normally be considered scientific data as historical sources, informing a narrative about human life and meaning.”
Laura will be working with Aboriginal communities in the Northern Territory and South-Eastern Queensland to bring Aboriginal memory narratives into conversation with scientific data about Australia’s deep past. “So much of Australian history starts at 1788, anything before that being the realm of ‘pre-history’ or archaeology,” she says. “But when historians look beyond written documents to other kinds of sources, there’s so much we can know about the earlier past. I’ll be starting with looking at Indigenous epic narratives, as well as interviewing Aboriginal traditional owners. We’re interested in what language can tell us about migration patterns over the centuries. We’re also interested in how genetics can inform history. It’s a huge project.”
It is exciting to note that Kathleen Fitzpatrick Laureates also have a particular focus on mentoring women. Laura will be working with Indigenous women to develop cultural knowledge-sharing techniques, as well as mentoring emerging academic scholars of Indigenous history. Laura says, “I’m excited for what this project could mean for all Australians – that it might reshape and enlarge our vision of our shared history in this place. I’m also excited about learning about Aboriginal historical practices and bringing these into academic history.”
Since being awarded her doctorate in 2015, Laura has worked as a Postdoctoral Research Fellow in the Institute for Religion and Critical Inquiry at the Australian Catholic University, researching histories of race, gender and religion. She has published several academic articles in journals such as Gender & History, Aboriginal History and Australian Feminist Studies. Her work has also been recognised with numerous prizes, including the ANU J.G. Crawford Prize, Australian Historical Association’s Serle Award and Council of Humanities Arts and Social Sciences Future Leaders’ Prize. Her 2016 article ‘Only Cuppa Tea Christians: Colonisation, Authentic Indigeneity and the Missionary Linguist’ was awarded the Taylor and Francis Prize for best article in History Australia.
While ADM is sad to lose Laura, we celebrate the continued success of our Fellowships program in raising up Christian women for public engagement and influence. We look forward to seeing the impact of Laura’s significant research in the future.