ANU History honours student Matthew Barton has been recognised in the 2018 Undergraduate Awards. Matthew has been named the global winner in the History category, for his essay “Pattern of the National Type: Australians, the Beach, and the Rise of the Lifesaver in the Interwar Period.”
The honour was an unexpected one for Matthew.
“It is just surreal. I don’t think it will really sink in until I am about to get onto the plane to Dublin. I am stoked to have received international recognition for my work!”
The awards, presented each year in Dublin as part of the International Undergraduate Summit, celebrate original, creative, and critical thinking by undergraduate students from around the world.
Head of ANU School of History Professor Frank Bongiorno offered praise for Matthew’s achievement.
“The Undergraduate Awards are very competitive, attracting students from around the world. The ANU School of History is very proud that Matthew Barton has become our second winner of this award. Matt’s essay was a marvellous piece, and we are delighted that he is now completing an Honours year in the School. This success once again reveals the very high quality of so much undergraduate student work in History.”
Matthew’s essay explores how beach culture has shaped Australia’s national identity, and how we perceive that identity. In particular, the figure of the surf lifesaver became a representation of that identity.
The lifesaver became a “national type” Matthew argued. “During the interwar period because he followed same pattern of values and characteristics that previous incarnations had. Like his immediate predecessor, the Anzac, the lifesaver was defined by notions of masculinity and athleticism, was motivated by volunteer service, and performed militaristic rituals like ‘march pasts’, conducted patrols, and were distinguishable by the club colours and cotton skull-caps.”
Matthew came to ANU from Armidale in regional NSW in 2014, after being awarded a Tuckwell Scholarship. Studying a Bachelor of Arts and Bachelor of Laws, he has come to enjoy a range of opportunities across both degrees, and the advantages of living and studying in the nation’s capital.
“I love living in Canberra because everything is so accessible, especially from ANU. We have the best institutions like the National Library (which has been my second home), the National Gallery, and Parliament of course just at our doorstep.”
While studying Matthew undertook two internships, performed in the ANU Arts Revue, the Law Revue. Living at Ursula Hall, he found a welcoming and supportive environment to help him settle into University life.
“I had the greatest time at Ursula Hall for my first two years at the ANU. The culture of Ursies was fun, welcoming and really supportive. If I had any concerns I always had a friend to turn to. There were a lot of opportunities to get involved in college life as well. I had a huge among of fun representing Ursies in the interhall debating competition and I became the most flexible I have ever been by training for the interhall dance competition."
About ANU School of History
The ANU School of History is known nationally and internationally for the quality of research its staff and research students produce. This world-class research spans many regions and topics, with specialist Centres for Indigenous and Environmental history. The School is home to the National Centre of Biography, and maintains a vibrant culture through teaching, seminars, and welcoming Australian and international visitors. ANU is ranked first in Australia, and twelfth in the world for History (QS 2018 Rankings). Follow ANU School of History on Facebook and Twitter.