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Sources for the mobility of ideas that explain the strength of working class culture in Australia are scarce. Traditionally, historians have focused on educated and mainly middle class Irish rebels, English Chartists, and Scottish martyrs to interpret the rise of working class culture in Australia.

By shifting historical focus away from these sources and the ‘crime’ convicts had committed, Babette Smith instead argues that Australia’s penal conditions, and the prisoners’ reactions to them, were the crucial factors behind the making of the Australian working class. This special event is presented by the History Council of NSW and hosted by Ashfield Library.

Babette Smith OAM is a historian and writer who also holds the position of Adjunct Lecturer to the University of New England. She is well known for her book A Cargo of Women (Allen & Unwin, 1988), which transformed public understandings of Australia’s female convicts. In 2008, Babette published Australia’s Birthstain (Allen & Unwin), which explored how shame about Australia’s penal history has distorted individual’s understandings of their past. Her recent book, The Luck of the Irish (Allen & Unwin, 2014), won the NSW Premier’s History Prize for Community and Regional History in 2015.

Proudly presented as part of the History Council of NSW’s Speaker Connect program for 2017, supported by Arts NSW.

When: Thursday 8 June 2017, 11:00am-12:00pm.
Where: Ashfield Library, 260 Liverpool Road, Ashfield NSW 2131
Cost: Free – BOOK NOW
Contact: or 02 9716 1821


Image: Splitters, by S. T. Gill, 1864, courtesy National Library of Australia.