Biography Workshop


National Centre of Biography


The Biography Workshop was established by the National Centre of Biography in response to requests by practitioners, students and readers of biography for a forum to discuss a range of methodological issues relating to biography. The group considers recent and long-standing questions about biography.

As Ray Monk and others have pointed out, there is an expanding body of academic literature on biography which asks some of the same questions that Dr Samuel Johnson addressed in his two famous essays on biography Rambler (1750) and Idler (1759):

Is biography fiction?

Who deserves to have a biography written of them?
What details are appropriate to be included in a biography? 

Is it possible to know with certainty the inner life of another?
What are the moral or ethical responsibilities of biographers towards subjects, social sensitivities and the truth?

The Biography Workshop meets at 11 am to about 12.30 pm at the ANU and offers the opportunity for informal and relaxed discussion with some of Australia's best biographers in a stimulating environment.

If you are interested in attending any of the sessions, please contact us at

Workshops 2019

28 February 2019 - Hans Renders: Old Lives, New Questions

26 March 2019 - Rhys Williams: From Carlyle to Plekhanov: The Role of the Individual in History

11 April 2019 - Peter FitzSimons: On Biography (public lecture at 6 pm, China in the World Lecture Theatre, ANU)

30 May 2019 - Gwenda Tavan: Arthur Calwell, Ageing and the Defence of White Australia: A Psycho-Social Analysis

27 June 2019 - Ashley Barnwell: Family Secrets, National Silences: Intergenerational Memory in Settler Colonial Australia

11 July 2019 - Rachel Robertson, Mary Besemeres, and Sinead McEneaney: The Politics and Implications of Recent Life Writing

29 August 2019 - Gabrielle Carey: Katherine Mansfield’s Cousin

26 September 2019 - Patrick Mullins: Reflecting on Tiberius with a Telephone

31 October 2019 - Lawrence Goldman: Peel, One British Prime Minister and Four Personalities


Past events

In Pursuit of the Red Witch: Revising the Mythologies of Katharine Susannah Prichard

28 Oct 2020

Katharine Susannah Prichard (1883-1969) wrote thirteen novels chronicling communities and industries around Australia, including the landmarks Working Bullocks...

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Half the Perfect World: Writers, Dreamers and Drifters on Hydra, 1955-1964

12 Aug 2020

This seminar will address the story of Charmian Clift and George Johnston, a power couple of Australian literature in the mid-20th century, who are the focus...

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Cassandra Pybus: Truganini

12 Mar 2020

Australian author and historian Cassandra Pybus will discuss her soon-to-be published book Truganini: Journey Through the Apocalypse. The Indigenous museum...

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Lawrence Goldman: Robert Peel

31 Oct 2019

Peel: One British Prime Minister and Four Personalities Robert Peel was Conservative prime minister briefly in the 1830s and then again between 1841 and 1846...

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Patrick Mullins: Reflections on Tiberius with a Telephone

26 Sep 2019

Monash University academic James Walter once wrote that it is common for biographers to dive into their work, encounter the typical, everyday issues of...

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Gabrielle Carey: ‘Only Happiness Here’

29 Aug 2019

‘Only Happiness Here’: The Life and Work of Elizabeth von Arnim Born in Australia in 1866 as Mary Beauchamp, Elizabeth von Arnim was the author of 21 best-...

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The Politics and Implications of Recent Life Writing

11 Jul 2019

Life-writing is a broad genre encompassing all manner of ‘ego documents’ including autobiography, diaries, journals, letters, memoirs, and oral testimony. It...

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Ashley Barnwell: Keeping the nation’s secrets

27 Jun 2019

Keeping the nation’s secrets: ‘colonial storytelling’ within and about Australian families Recent studies of the ‘genealogy craze’ focus on how family...

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Gwenda Tavan: ‘Curse the Press!’

30 May 2019

‘Curse the Press!’: Arthur Calwell’s battles with the Australian media and the perils of resentment politics Arthur Augustus Calwell was Australia’s Minister...

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Peter FitzSimons: On Biography

11 Apr 2019

With an ear for story and talent for a good yarn FitzSimons’ particular brand brings stories to life so that we are not merely sitting around the campfire...

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Updated:  24 July 2019/Responsible Officer:  Head of School/Page Contact:  CASS Marketing & Communications