Awards and recognition for Australian environmental history

In addition to the awarding of the AANZEHN’s inaugural Public Environmental History Prize, the recent annual conference of the Australian Historical Association in Geelong also saw several environmental historians receiving national awards for their path-breaking scholarship. The Network congratulates and celebrates Karen Twigg, Nancy Cushing, Luke Keogh, and Daniel May.

Karen Twigg, Nancy Cushing, and Margaret Cook – award-winning environmental historians

Karen Twigg receives Serle Award and Mary Bennett Prize

Dr Karen Twigg, a recent PhD graduate from La Trobe University, was recognised with two major awards.

Karen received the Serle Award, which the Australian Historical Association awards biennially to the best postgraduate thesis in Australian History conferred during the previous two years. The judges – Ian Hesketh (Uni. Queensland), Tiffany Shellam (Deakin), and Leigh Boucher (Macquarie) - made the following citation for her thesis Along Tyrrell Creek: An Environmental History of a Mallee Community:

This thesis is an exceptional historical account of a small farming community along Tyrell Creek in the Victorian Mallee. Karen Twigg tells the stories of farming families and their engagement with the land, chronicling their struggles and victories, hopes and fears, spanning six generations. It challenges previous histories that view this life through the binary trope of heroes and victims, while presenting a much more complicated picture of farming families trying to live off the land. It is, fundamentally, an environmental history but it is also informed by the approaches of microhistory and oral history. It is in this way that Twigg masterfully weaves a deeply nuanced analysis of memories discerned from oral interviews with a wide array of historical and environmental records to present a history that is at once personal and at the same time focussed on the deep history of the landscape. The thesis is also beautifully written and deeply moving; it challenges readers to thoroughly understand the relationship between farming practices and agricultural landscapes in the past in order to imagine new relationships in the future. 

Karen also received the Mary Bennett Prize of the Australian Women’s History Network. The prize is awarded every two years to an early career historian for the best article or chapter in any field of women’s history, in any published journal (including e-journals) or edited collection. The award committee recognised Karen’s article: ‘The Green Years: The Role of Abundant Water in Shaping Postwar Constructions of Rural Femininity’, Environment and History, Volume 27, Number 2 (2021), 277-301.

This fascinating article applies a microhistory approach to an innovative blend of environmental, technological, scientific, regional and gender history to offer unique insight into rural women’s experiences in postwar Australia. In compelling detail, and based on a sophisticated interpretation of oral histories, personal archives and press coverage, it argues that the plentiful rainfall of the 1950s produced a new discourse and atmosphere of vitality which enabled women to reimagine their place in regional society. Written with flair, it is evocative of optimistic times.

Nancy Cushing receives the Marian Quartly Prize

The editors of History Australia awarded the Marian Quartly Prize for 2021 to Associate Professor Nancy Cushing (Uni. Newcastle). The Quartly Prize is awarded annually for the best article published in the Australian Historical Association’s journal History Australia in that year.

Nancy was recognised for her innovative and stimulating article “#CoalMustFall: Revisiting Newcastle’s coal monument in the Anthropocene“, published in November 2021. Nancy’s article will be available for free download for the next few weeks. The judges’ citation reads:

An immediately engaging article on the history and future of the Jubilee or Coal Monument in Newcastle, New South Wales. Cushing’s work adds a critical focus on climate to recent debates about commemorative structures. It argues for the removal of the Coal Monument but not its total erasure. Instead, Cushing presents a sensitive case for the monument’s reframing elsewhere as well as for the temporary erection of a counter-monument in its place. Combining activist, archival, and theoretical approaches, her article demonstrates the multiple important uses of history – emotional, political, academic, and local.  

Luke Keogh shortlisted for Hancock Prize

Dr Luke Keogh (Deakin) was shortlisted for the W. K. Hancock Prize for his book The Wardian Case: How a Simple Box Moved Plants and Changed the World (Uni. Chicago Press, 2020). The Hancock Prize is a biennial prize that recognises and encourages an Australian scholar who has published a first book in any field of history.

Margaret Cook, Luke Keogh, and Emily O’Gorman

Daniel May shortlisted for Serle Award

Dr Daniel May, a recent PhD graduate of the Australian National University, was shortlisted for the AHA’s Serle Award for his thesis “Taking Fire: The Historical and Contemporary Politics of Indigenous Burning in Australia and the Western United States“.