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The Australian National University

Professor Ann McGrath

Position: Professor of History and Director of the Australian Centre for Indigenous History

School or Centre: Australian Centre for Indigenous History


Phone: 61254850

Location: HC Coombs Building, Australian Centre for Indigenous History

Website: My profile website


Bachelor of Arts (Honours) (University of Queensland, 1976)

Doctor of Philosophy (LaTrobe University, 1984)


The hidden history of Australian race relations is something that I wanted to learn more about. So I researched the history of Asian workers in Australia for my honours thesis at the University of Queensland. A scholarship to LaTrobe University enabled me to research the role of Aboriginal people in the cattle industry in the Northern Territory.  My oral research amongst Aboriginal people who worked in the cattle industry, with pastoralists and other workers convinced me of the value of talking with relevant historical participants wherever possible. I have worked in academic positions in Darwin, at Monash, the University of New South Wales and since 2003 at the Australian National University, where we set up the Australian Centre for Indigenous History. In recent years I have been a Member at the Institute for Advanced Study, Princeton, US and a Rockefeller Scholar at Bellagio, Italy.  I have conducted intensive archival research on gender and colonialism in Australia and the United States. My interest in reaching out to wide audiences has led me to work at the National Museum of Australia, in a Royal Commission into Aboriginal Deaths in Custody, as an expert witness in land claims, a stolen children test case and in documentary film making. I have also led digital history projects. My latest work attempts to stretch Australian history into the deep past, including the history of Lake Mungo. Such research relies upon strong community and interdisciplinary collaborations.

Research Interests

Lake Mungo and the Deep Human History of Australia; Scale and History; Gender and Colonialism in Australia and North America; Film making and Digital History

Deepening Histories of Place: Exploring Indigenous Landscapes of National and International Significance            

ARC Linkage Project with National Parks, Australia, Dept Environment, Climate Change and Water, NSW, Ronin Films, National Film and Sound Archives, AIATSIS and University of Sydney.

Through researching the Indigenous histories of selected sites in New South Wales and Northern Territory landscapes, this project will investigate the social and environmental links that create historical 'highways' of understanding, including song-lines, tracks, exploration, trade, pastoral and tourism routes.  By researching written texts, art, film and sound evidence, this project will develop innovative models for comprehensive, indigenous and landscape-focused historical interpretation.  Bringing together a unique interdisciplinary and industry team, its publications, pod-streaming and other history delivery strategies will deepen understandings of internationally significant Australian landscapes.


McGrath, A.  Illicit Love: Interracial Sex and Marriage in the United States and Australia.  Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 2015.

McGrath, A. and Jebb, M. (eds).  Long history, deep time: deepening histories of place.  Canberra: ANU Press, 2015.

McGrath, A. and Curthoys, A.  How to Write History That People Want to Read.  New York: Palgrave, 2011.

McGrath, A., Grimshaw, P., Lake, M. and Quartly, M.  Creating a Nation.  Melbourne: McPhee Gribble, 1994 (republished 2006). 

McGrath, A., McCalman, I. (eds).  Proof and Truth: the Humanist as Expert.  Canberra: Australian Academy of the Humanities, 2003.

McGrath, A. and Curthoys, A. (eds).  Writing Histories: Imagination and Narration.  Melbourne: Monash Publications in History, 2000 (republished 2009).

McGrath, A. (ed.).  Contested ground: Australian Aborigines under the British crown.  Sydney: Allen & Unwin Pty Ltd, 1995.

McGrath, A., Huggins, J., Saunders, K. (eds).  Aboriginal Workers.  Sydney: Australian Society for the Study of Labour History, 1995.

McGrath, A. Born in the Cattle': Aborigines in Cattle Country.  Sydney: Allen & Unwin, 1987 (republished 2012).


2014                    United Nations Association of Australia, Media Award.

2014                    Scholarly Residency, Rockefeller Foundation, Bellagio Center, Italy.

2013 - 2014         Louise and John Steffens Founders Circle Membership, Institute for Advanced Study, Princeton.

2011                    Hedersdoktorer, Honorary Doctorate, Linnaeus University, Sweden

2007                    Order of Australia Medal for distinguished service to Indigenous studies

1998 - 2000         Senior Fellowship, Centre for Cross Cultural Research, Australian National University

1997                     Archibald Hanna Jr, Fellowship in American History, Beinecke, Yale University

1995                     NSW Society of Women Writers – Non-fiction prize

1994                     Human Rights Award, non-fiction (for Creating a Nation, co-authored)

1994                     John Barrett Prize for Australian Studies (shared)

1988                     W.K. Hancock Prize for history- Inaugural Award of the Australian Historical Association.

1982                     Northern Territory Annual History Award


2004 - present       Fellow of Australian Academy of Social Sciences
1987 - present       Member Australian Institute of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Studies.

Updated: 15 May 2017/ Responsible Officer:  Head of School / Page Contact:  Web Publisher