National History Challenge

Special category – using primary sources

The National Archives' special category prize is for excellence in the use of primary sources (archival records) from our collection.

Explore this year's National History Challenge theme of Crisis and Response using primary sources from National Archives' collection.

For more information on the special category and how to enter, visit the National History Challenge website.

Previous winners

The Torch of Tradition (2023)

2023 winner: Olivia Tsigaropolous, year 10, Casimir Catholic College, NSW

Website: NHC – The Torch of Tradition

Olivia used evidence from the national archival collection alongside records from her family archives to tell a compelling story about how migrants have changed and been changed by Australia. Primary sources are used throughout this creative and user-friendly website to immerse the user in the story of one family's life in Australia, which is a story of change and continuity.

Pink Shorts for Social Reform – The Legacy of Don Dunstan (2022)

2022 winner: Emma Choi, Year 9, Loreto College Marryatville, SA

Essay: Pink Shorts for Social Reform – The Legacy of Don Dunstan (PDF  5.7 MB)

Emma used records from the national archival collection to produce a thoughtful and thorough analysis of the consequential life of South Australia Premier Don Dunstan. She made excellent use of her source material to highlight the many reforms associated with the 'Dunstan Decade.'

Significance: History matters (2021)

2021 winner: Emma Choi, Year 8, Loreto College Marryatville, SA

Essay: The Sym Choon family: success against the odds of the White Australia Policy (PDF 751 KB)

Emma investigated the challenges and experiences of the Sym Choon family in Australia prior to the dismantling of the immigration legislation known as the White Australia Policy. Emma has written a logically structured essay that allows critical thinking and understanding of the Choons' legacy. Her bibliographical work used a range of archival records and primary and secondary sources purposefully to create an excellent entry.

Contested History (2020)

2020 winner: Ella Bibby, Year 12, Mount Saint Josephs Girls' College

Essay: War crimes against Australian prisoners of war – the Second World War (PDF 840 KB)

Ella has exceeded herself and presented a creative and historically accurate essay, which included an extensive 13-page bibliography. The essay clearly related to the theme and constantly returned to the topic's main argument. The essay is very well structured and presented a creative approach. It included well-thought arguments and there was evidence of critical thinking.

People and Power (2019)

2019 winner: Olivia Nolan, Year 11, St Mary's Anglican Girls School, WA

Essay: B. A. Santamaria (PDF 1613 KB)

In addressing the topic BA Santamaria, an individual who is central to the exercise of informal power in Australian political history, Olivia used a range of primary sources. The work looks at the wider context of a fascinating individual and incorporates contemporary politics into the response.

Turning Points (2018)

2018 winner: Olivia Nolan, Year 10, St Mary's Anglican Girls School, WA

Essay: The Beginning of the End of White Australia (PDF 766 KB)

Olivia explores how Annie O'Keefe's successful challenge against deportation marks a turning point because it ignited popular support against prevailing immigration policy. Drawing on original documents from the National Archives' collection and other sources Olivia argues that O'Keefe is a protagonist for the abolition of the White Australia Policy and the creation of multicultural Australia.

Making a better world? (2017)

2017 winner: Olivia Nolan, Year 9, St Mary's Anglican Girls' School, WA

Essay: Charles Perkins – Australia’s Martin Luther King (PDF 1632 KB)

Olivia Nolan's use of a wide range of archival records and other primary sources provides insight into the life and achievements of Charles Perkins. Olivia's appropriately chosen sources highlight how Perkins' peaceful protests, controversial commentary and fearless campaigning changed the course of Aboriginal affairs in Australia.

Triumph or Tragedy? (2016)

2016 winner: Beatrice Thurston-Regan, Year 9, Taroona High School, Tas.

Video: The Franklin River Dam Proposal 1978-1983 (PDF 65 KB)

Beatrice has used a range of images, moving footage and documents in her video to explore the case of the Franklin Dam. She investigates how the campaign of the Tasmania Wilderness Society, against the damming of the Franklin River for hydro-electricity, 'saved a place of natural beauty' and was 'a triumph of people power and an environmental revolution'.

Leadership and Legacy (2015)

2015 winner: Phoebe Blaxill, Year 9, St Mary's Anglican Girls' School, WA

Essay: Flynn of the Inland (PDF 2.3 MB)

Phoebe wrote a detailed essay on the life and work of the Very Reverend John Flynn, OBE DD. Her bibliographical work used an array of primary and archival sources diligently and valuably to create an excellent entry.

Changing Perspectives (2014)

2014 winner: Rachel Li, Year 10, Pymble Ladies' College, WA

Essay: Multiculturalism – becoming part of Australia's identity (DOCX 119 KB)

Rachel has conducted an investigation, with appropriately chosen sources to develop and support her argument, regarding the changing perspective of the government towards migrants and migration. She has written a clear, concise and logically structured essay that synthesises the range of arguments.

Please contact us for details of winners before 2014.