The National Centre of Biography has embarked on an exciting new project to chart one of the most prominent groups largely missing not only from the Australian Dictionary of Biography, but also from the wider annals of Australian history — the men and women who held the position of Speaker, Deputy Speaker or Clerk of the House of Representatives since Federation.
The Department of the House of Representatives has engaged the Centre to commission, research-edit and publish online biographies of these individuals. The results will appear on both our website and the parliamentary website in 2020. The Department will add thematic articles on the roles of these three closely related offices.
Project biographies will not form part of the ADB, but are likely to be used later to inform ADB revisions and new entries. The core of each will be the subject’s service as Speaker, Deputy Speaker or Clerk, but will also provide a balanced account of the whole person.
The current Clerk of the House, David Elder, has rightly observed that ‘Australians are used to seeing the day to day political struggle of the House on the news but this project will tell us a much more reflective story about the role of the House and how it works. As an institution it is absolutely central to our democratic framework. The project will help explain three of its key offices’.
Issues that this project is expected to explore include the relationships Speakers had with governments and their party; how they contributed to changes in parliamentary procedures; and the Speaker-Clerk relationship.
The project is being guided by an expert Project Advisory Group chaired by Catherine Cornish, Clerk (Procedure) in the Department of the House of Representatives. Other members include Emeritus Professor Judith Brett, La Trobe University; Emeritus Professor Geoff Gallop, University of Sydney; Mr Ian Hancock, School Visitor, National Centre of Biography, ANU; and Associate Professor Paul Strangio, Monash University.
For further information, contact Dr Stephen Wilks, firstname.lastname@example.org or (02) 6125 2349.