Friday, 12 April 2013

"the life of the community fifty years hence is today our responsibility"

Last year I stumbled across a letter in the National Archives written to Ian Clunies Ross on 26th January, 1957 by Mrs Dorothy Harden, a widowed pensioner.

Mrs Harden thanked Clunies Ross for his Australia Day address. She included One pound, a substantial sum from her pension, towards a scholarship for Aboriginal students.

She had also written to the Prime Minister, she said, asking “Mr Menzies would he grant a percentage of all the mineral wealth of our land...for the education and rehabilitation of the Aborigines."

"I have no illusions that my faint cry will be heeded, but will not you who can shout and did in your Australia day address, should and keep on shouting, until a fair dealing is showed these, not them, but fellow countrymen of ours.

Today is our Anniversary Day, but although a fourth generation Australian I can take no pride in it when all about us at Lismore are settlements of the original owners of this land pushed into unwanted corners…although we are not responsible for the misdeeds of our forefathers, what place the Aborigine holds in the life of the community fifty years hence is today our responsibility”

Tuesday, 2 April 2013

Inclusive history: problems for an elite profession

Mike McDonnell, Hannah Forsyth and Tim Allender
For AHA conference

History ‘from below’ made its mark in the mid-twentieth century so that the discipline now readily encompasses groups it previously marginalised. And yet, while history can appear inclusive in this sense, historians themselves tend to be relatively culturally homogenous. This paper draws on research that explores engagement with history in diverse settings (high schools in regions from multi-cultural south-west Sydney to Aboriginal remote Wilcannia) to consider how the practice of history itself – what makes a good historian, or the construction of historical merit – might include or exclude some members of society. The question, we know, is important, for identification with a historical past is key to citizenship and social inclusion. Is history – even history from below – still written by society’s ‘winners’? While this paper links to previous studies in history education and raises some questions about pedagogy and curricula, we aim in addition to explore the question of what an inclusive history might look like in all the ways history is presented and practiced. In this, we seek to look beyond traditions of social and oral history, which, our research suggests, continues to exclude some members of society.

Monday, 1 April 2013

Controlling professional knowledge in Australia: implications for social mobilities

Abstract for AHA Conference this year

Professions grew over centuries but have in recent times experienced rapid change.  A century ago, very few occupations required formal qualifications. Now, by contrast, credentials are the key way to access professional opportunity in Australia. There is no sign of this trend slowing. It has raised the standing of certain occupations but may have simultaneously erected new barriers to those who, for want of tertiary qualifications, can no longer access their chosen profession.

Despite their place in regulating the supply of professionals, universities have not normally controlled the professional standards, grade levels and pay rates that signify the possession of workplace-based knowledge. Partnerships with professional bodies were forged to legitimise tertiary education’s place in the labour market.

The power and equity implications of a growing formalisation of professional knowledge are not clear. Marxist orthodoxy sees the wresting of ‘craft’ knowledge away from workers as a key mechanism of capitalist power. Other approaches, however, emphasise the value to both the profession and society of increased attention to education and professional standards and of merit-based selection.

This paper draws on a case study of engineering in New South Wales to consider the implications of the control and regulation of workplace-based knowledge. It explores the shift away from the pupillage system, based in workplaces, and the competing authority of educational institutions and the Institute of Engineers. This case study represents an initial foray into a larger project on the history of professions in Australia, exploring the effect of changing conceptions of merit on access to professional standing.