The highly regarded and much loved Australian historian Jillian Isobel (Jill) Roe AO, Professor Emerita of Modern History at Macquarie University, died at her Pearl Beach home on 12 January 2017 after a long illness.
Born on 10 November 1940 at Tumby Bay in South Australia’s Eyre Peninsula and the daughter of a farmer and a nurse, she studied at the University of Adelaide and the Australian National University. In 1967 she became a founding staff member at Macquarie University, where she taught Australian, British and social policy history until her retirement in 2003. Between 1994 and 1995 she was Professor of Australian Studies at Harvard University.
Her many publications include books on Australian social policy, urban and religious history, and the Australian writer Miles Franklin. Her Franklin biography received prestigious awards. Her most recent book, which combines memoir with history, is Our Fathers Cleared the Bush: Remembering Eyre Peninsula.
She also served on many boards and committees and held office in community and professional organisations. Among her positions were chair of the Editorial Board of the Australian Dictionary of Biography, President of the Australian Historical Association, and President of the History Council of NSW.
Jill was particularly well known and respected as an encouraging and inspiring teacher, mentor, postgraduate supervisor and public lecturer. She positively influenced the lives and career paths of numerous History students and historians.
Her honours include Officer of the Order of Australia, Doctor of Letters from Macquarie University, Fellow of the Academy of the Social Sciences in Australia, Fellow of the Federation of Australian Historical Societies, and Life Member of the History Council of NSW. The latter award was partly in recognition of her significant achievements as the History Council’s Vice President and President between 2005 and 2009.
Like others who were privileged to know her, I will greatly miss Jill. We first met in the late 1970s and worked closely and harmoniously together in the Australian Historical Association and the History Council of NSW. Were it not for her encouragement, I would not have been actively involved in either organisation. I was also fortunate to join her on history based road trips in rural Australia, the most memorable of which was a 2013 journey through the Eyre Peninsula. I could not have had a better guide and travelling companion.
I am sure other History Council of NSW members and supporters will join me in extending sincere sympathy to Jill’s partner and fellow historian Bev Kingston.
Jill’s funeral will be held at the Pearl Beach Community Hall at 11.00 am on Friday 20 January 2017.
Emeritus Professor David Carment AM
History Council of NSW