Research grants for Australia's South American refugee program and Commonwealth Aboriginal policy

Media release: Wednesday, 26 February 2014

The National Archives of Australia has announced the winners of its 2013 research grants, worth a total of $25,000.

The winning topics include Australia's little known refugee program in Latin America in the 1980s and Commonwealth Aboriginal policy in the Northern Territory from 1930 to 1950.

'We are delighted that our grants have gone to such talented researchers and that their efforts in delving into the National Archives' collection will provide all Australians with a wider knowledge of our nation's history,' said Director-General David Fricker. 'We are proud to support their work with these grants.'

The $15,000 Frederick Watson Fellowship for established scholars was awarded to Dr Alison Holland, Department of Modern History, Politics and International Relations at Macquarie University for her project Exploring Commonwealth Aboriginal Policy in the Northern Territory, 1930–1950.

By exploring Commonwealth Aboriginal policy at this time, the project will refocus national attention on a formative period of Commonwealth control in the Northern Territory. The 20 years leading up to the post-war period saw a potent mix of issues including justice, policing and the law, health and disease, Aboriginal labour, the status and condition of Aboriginal girls and women, inter-racial conflict, humanitarian critique and even national defence.

Dr Claire Higgins, Research Associate at the Andrew and Renata Kaldor Centre for International Refugee Law at the University of NSW, received the $10,000 Margaret George Award for emerging scholars to research Australia's little-known refugee program in Latin America.

During the 1980s the Australian government ran a discreet in-country refugee program out of Chile and El Salvador, resettling several hundred people each year who were at risk of persecution or death at the hands of their own governments. Former Immigration officials have described this work as 'life-saving' and a genuine 'rescue mission' yet there is little reference to the program in government publications.

The National Archives' research grants program is currently under review.

Contact information

  • Elizabeth Masters (Media Officer)
    t (02) 6212 3957 m 0417 247 157 e elizabeth.masters@naa.gov.au
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