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Australian Women at War: Blamey Oration

Event Name Australian Women at War: Blamey Oration
Start Date 19th Apr 2018 6:00pm
End Date
Duration N/A

Presented by Professor Melanie Oppenheimer, Flinders University

Venue: Government House, Hobart

Bookings phone Alec Young on 0402 260 298


Professor Melanie Oppenheimer is the Chair of History at Flinders University, Adelaide, and is one of Australia's leading historians of women, war and volunteering and is a highly regarded scholar of women's involvement in both wars.

Professor Oppenheimer's presentation will focus on ‘Australian Women at War’ and suggest that the roles of women in war, both on the war front and the home front have been downplayed or ignored, made invisible to history. It perhaps would not matter so much except that so much of our national identity is predicated on and around our military history, a history that has largely ignored or underplayed the roles undertaken by women through the 20th century.

Women have had an uneasy relationship with the Anzac tradition with women’s contributions marginalized as ‘watching and waiting’, passive supporters of the tradition, rather than as active participants, pushing the boundaries of history at every opportunity.

Using a range of personal narratives, this presentation will examine and explore the contributions and experiences of ordinary Australian women, both service and civilian, through wars and conflicts, and allow their stories to take centre stage in this centenary year.

Short Biography

Professor Oppenheimer is the author/co-author of seven books including:

  • All Work. No Pay. Australian Civilian Volunteers in War (shortlisted for the New South Wales Premier’s History Prize in 2003);
  • Volunteering. Why we can’t live without it (2008);
  • Oceans of Love (2006) about World War Two Australian nurse, Narrelle Hobbes; and
  • The Last Battle. Soldier Settlement in Australia, 1916-1939 (2016), with co-author Bruce Scates.

Professor Oppenheimer has also been awarded public tenders with the Department of Veterans’ Affairs to write a history of women in war (2008), and a centenary history of the Australian Red Cross that was published by HarperCollins in 2014, The Power of Humanity. 100 Years of Australian Red Cross

Professor Oppenheimer has been appointed to a range of government committees including the Anzac Centenary’s Cultural and Military History Working Party and the National Archives of Australia’s Anzac Centenary Committee.

In 2014, she was appointed an Australian Red Cross Ambassador and has chaired a working group for the South Australian Volunteering Strategy. She was appointed to the Australian Research Council (ARC) College of Experts (2016-2018), and was made a Fellow of the Academy of the Social Sciences of Australia in 2017.

Professor Oppenheimer has worked with ABC Radio National’s Life Matters program on a series, Vita Activa (2007-9), produced the radio documentary, Nursing for Empire for ABC Radio National’s Hindsight program, and provided research expertise for the TV documentary, Girls’ Own War Stories (2011).