UNSW Press

Letter writing thrives on distance. Out of necessity, in the early years of European settlement, Australia became a nation of letter writers. The remoteness of the island continent gave the letter a special importance. Even those unused to writing had so much to say, and such a strong need to hear from home, that the laborious business of pen and ink and the struggles with spelling were overcome. Early letters reflected the homesickness of settlers as well as their sense of achievement and their need to hold on to a former life. It’s possible to see the emergence of a democratic tradition of letter writing in those needful times. Rich or poor, well educated or semi-literate, they all felt the urge to connect.

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Upheaval: Disrupted lives in journalism edited by Andrew Dodd and Matthew Ricketson

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November 2021, no. 437

If you have even a passing interest in the state of the Australian media, you may have come across the estimate that between four and five thousand journalism jobs were lost nationally in the past decade. This estimate suggests the scale of an industry-wide crisis in which successive rounds of redundancies became a feature of life in many newsrooms as media organisations turned to cost-cutting in their struggle to adapt to a rapidly changing landscape. The figure, which originated from the journalists’ union, the Media Entertainment and Arts Alliance, also points, albeit more obliquely, to the human impact of such cultural changes and the thousands of distinctive individual experiences that such numbers can elide.

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The Uluru Statement from the Heart was made at a historic assembly of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples at Uluru in 2017. It addresses the fundamental question of how Indigenous peoples want to be recognised in the Australian Constitution. The answer given is a First Nations ‘Voice’ to Federal Parliament protected by the Constitution, and a subsequent process of agreement-making and truth-telling. This process should be overseen by a Makarrata Commission, from the Yolngu word meaning ‘the coming together after a struggle’. Inspired by the values enshrined in the Statement, Victoria has established such a process through the Yoo-rrook Justice Commission. ‘Yoo-rrook’ is a Wemba Wemba/Wamba Wamba word meaning ‘truth’.

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International education, we are told, is Australia’s third-largest export industry; in 2019 it was valued at more than $32 billion annually. But it is now also one of the hardest hit by the pandemic. The publication of Gwilym Croucher and James Waghorne’s history of Australia’s universities, one of the principal institutional drivers and beneficiaries of that industry, is thus timely, even if it went to press before Covid-19 was detected. Government policymakers and higher-education institutions alike will need to respond to the present crisis not only with fresh thinking but also with a clear understanding of how the university sector got itself into such a vulnerable position in the first place.

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Queensland MP Charles Porter’s book, The ‘Gut Feeling’ (1981), relates the story of former prime minister Billy Hughes being pressed in the 1940s to pass judgement on a Liberal Federal Council statement on an industrial issue. ‘No bloody good,’ he pronounced. ‘Not sufficiently ambiguous!’ If, as Hughes implied, ambiguity is a key virtue needed for political survival, then by 2001 the Howard Liberal–National Party Government appeared to have embraced it. Indeed, any objective analysis of the Howard era is fraught with difficulties because of these two factors: the verbal, unrecorded nature of some political incidents, and the emotive left-versus-right culture war that marked John Howard’s prime ministership (1996–2007).

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The Somme by Robin Prior and Trevor Wilson

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August 2005, no. 273

The Somme – it is a name that still strikes dread in the ears for its carnage, ineptitude and sheer waste of life. For the English-speaking world at least, the battle of the Somme has come to symbolise all that was bad about the Great War in general, and the Western Front in particular. The 141-day battle cost the British Army alone more than 400,000 casualties, including 150,000 men killed. The first day (1 July 1916) saw the death of 20,000 soldiers – the single bloodiest day in the history of the British Army. It wasn’t quite as bad as the savage slaughter at Towton on 29 March 1461, where about 30,000 Englishmen perished in the vicious quarrel between York and Lancaster, but on the Somme the bloodshed kept going, day after day for four and a half months, and no one seemed to know how to stop it.

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Addressing Modern Slavery by Justine Nolan and Martijn Boersma

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October 2019, no. 415

When the Bill that became the Modern Slavery Act 2018 (Cth) was introduced into the federal parliament, it was accompanied by a grim message: two centuries after the abolition of the slave trade in the United Kingdom, it is estimated that there are twenty-five million victims of modern slavery worldwide. It also came with a bracing if Panglossian promise: t ...

This is an unusual book. It is, so the title indicates, about guns and firearm regulations in Australia, with some comparison to the United States. But, as a prefatory note to readers cautions, ‘this book is less about guns and more about the continuing tension between the authority and power of the state and the responsibilities and entitlements of citizens ...

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Back from the Brink is the second volume of a projected four-volume series that investigates the performance of the four Howard governments (1996–2007). The first dealt with the Liberal– National Party coalition’s election in 1996 and their first year in power. The work under review focuses on the period from ...

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State governors hold a curious role across Australia, one that will be called into question when – one of these fine days, but none too soon – our nation becomes a republic. There will be lots of fine-tuning to be done before that, from the roles of Her Majesty’s representatives here all the way down to Royal Park, Royal Melbourne Golf Club, and the RACV. But this book is the biography of a state governor, one who was also an influential minister of religion, among other things. Above all, he was Master of Ormond College, at Melbourne University.

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