About me

helen 1

My passion for history was ignited as a young child at primary school, when I first learned about the Gold Rushes in Australia. I was captivated by this exciting period in Australia’s history when, enticed by the lure of prospective riches from gold,  people came from all over the world to test their fortunes at the various Australian goldfields. Our lessons at the time were specifically based on the fields at Ballarat and Bendigo and these cities have retained a fascination for me ever since. At high school, Year 7 ‘Ancient Civilisations’ drew me into the past with its pyramids and sarcophagi and boy-princes bejeweled even in death! The history bug was biting! Year 11 History was British History and a gifted young teacher, Miss Pitt, brought to life the Tudors and Stuarts followed by a more in-depth study of Australian History at Year 12.

An Arts Degree at the University of Melbourne included a Major in History. It was then that I developed a fascination with the use of primary sources in the archive. I experimented with oral history, still in its infancy in academic institutions at the time, although it had been a hallmark of indigenous societies for time immemorial. In my Diploma of Education, my main teaching method was History and the highlight of my teaching career was taking Year 12 students through the Australian History course.

Since 2005, a growing awareness of my passion for history led me to pursue further study. In 2010 I was awarded my Master of History degree from the University of New England. It was then that I rediscovered my love of ‘the archive’ which was central to my research. There is a special appeal for me in studying original documents and trying to, in a sense, experience something of others’ lived experiences from long ago.  My Research Project based on the lock/weir construction gangs along the River Murray in South Australia using my original research at the State Records of South Australia led to ongoing research which in 2015 has culminated in the publication of my long-awaited book, Harnessing the River Murray: stories of the people who built Locks 1 to 9, 1915-1935, available now from me via the order form on this website.

My interests are predominantly in the areas of Australian History and Public History.I have become interested in giving voice to minority groups including women, children, ordinary workers and other under-represented groups in the historical record.  In addition, I am an avid genealogist and am painstakingly piecing together my family tree despite having a ‘very popular’ family name!