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Online Event

"So, where are we now? Statue Wars: Protests, Public Histories and Problematic Plinths"

Launching a Public History Review Special Issue

In this seminar, we will launch a brand-new special issue of Public History Review which is devoted to the Statue Wars and based upon a two-part seminar series hosted by the History Council of NSW shortly after the Black Lives Matter protests of 2020.

12 July 2021 at 6:30 pm – 7:30 pm


Statue Wars

Several contributors will reflect upon their contribution to this issue and where we are now, a year after those dramatic protests resulted in the destruction and defence of so many deeply contested statues across the world. 

Artwork – The cover image for this special issue is Travis De Vries ‘Tear it Down (Cook Falling)’ (, 2019, a print of which was acquired by the Australian Museum for the Unsettled exhibition (2021). The work is reproduced with permission.

The special issue has been co-edited by the convener of the 2020 series, Dr Kiera Lindsey, who will chair the launch. Co-editor and presenter from the second seminar, Dr Mariko Smith, will consider this question from the perspective of her recent curatorial work of the critically acclaimed ‘Unsettled’ exhibition at the Australian Museum.

Other contributors include Dr Paul Kiem, who has been tracing the contested Confederate statues of the American South, and, Christine Yeats, who has offered a detailed survey of various strategies used to deal with difficult forms of public commemoration, consultation and collaboration.

Credit to Right: ‘Police officers stand guard around the statue of British explorer Captain James Cook as they deter demonstrators from taking part in a protest against police brutality and the death in Minneapolis police custody of George Floyd, in solidarity with the Black Lives Matter protests in the United States, in Sydney, Australia, June 12, 2020’ REUTERS/Loren Elliott

Our Speakers

Session Chair – Dr Kiera Lindsey

Dr Kiera Lindsey is a Senior Research Fellow conducting an Australian Research Council Discovery Early Career Research Award on speculative biography and historical craft at the University of Technology Sydney.

She has published book chapters and journal articles on nineteenth-century history, historical craft and biography as well as creative histories. Her first speculative biography, The Convict’s Daughter was published with Allen & Unwin in 2016 and described as ‘fearlessly carving a new path between history and fiction’.

Her second is concerned with colonial artist and republican, Adelaide Ironside, and will be published with Allen & Unwin in 2022. Kiera has been an on-camera historian and a regular guest on ABC Radio National.

She is currently the Vice President of the History Council of New South Wales and a member of the Sydney Living Museum’s Curatorial and Public Engagement Committee.

Dr Mariko Smith

Dr Mariko Smith is a Yuin woman with Japanese heritage. She undertakes an interdisciplinary practice that encompasses museology, contemporary art, visual sociology, research methodology, epistemology, and history.

Mariko has worked in the museum and tertiary sectors in Sydney, specialising in Aboriginal cultural heritage, community-based cultural resurgence projects, and incorporating Indigenous ways of knowing into museum and artistic practices.

She has a PhD from the University of Sydney (Department of Sociology & Social Policy) in Aboriginal tied-bark canoe making practice through cultural resurgence, which utilised documentary photography and photo-elicitation interviewing. Mariko is the First Nations Curator at the Australian Museum, and also an Honorary Associate in the School of Literature, Art & Media at the University of Sydney.

In her spare time, Mariko has been involved in public history networks: exploring creative engagements with history in the public space such as through museum exhibition curation and the memorial landscape, and representations of historical figures and events in popular films.

Dr Paul Kiem

A former secondary school history teacher and President of the History Teachers’ Association of Australia, Paul Kiem recently retired as Professional Officer of the History Teachers’ Association of NSW.

He is the author of several popular history texts, was a long-term editor of Teaching History and has presented extensively on history and education to teacher and student groups throughout Australia. He is currently an associate lecturer in history education at the University of Sydney and an independent researcher, with upcoming publications including book chapters in Revisiting the British World: New Voices and Perspectives and The History Industry in Australia, both due to be published in late 2021.

Christine Yeats

Christine Yeats is an archivist and professional historian with a particular interest in women’s history. She is the former President of the Royal Australian Historical Society, Immediate Past President of the Independent Scholars Association of Australia (ISAA), Immediate Past Chair of ISAA NSW. Christine currently convenes the Assessment Sub-Committee of the UNESCO Australian Memory of the World Committee.

Over the course of her career, Christine has contributed to a wide range of publications and spoke at national and international conferences. Since retiring from full-time employment she has been engaged in a number of research projects.

These include the Romani people in Australia, attempts to introduce a silk growing industry into Australia and the pioneer botanist Sarah Hynes. Christine has published articles and papers based on this work. She has also written book reviews and notes for a wide range of publications and continues to speak at conferences, seminars and workshops.

Professor Bruce Scates

Professor Bruce Scates FASSA is based in the Department of History at the Australian National University and a founding executive member of the History Council of NSW. 

He is the author/ co-author of several books on war and memory, and the writer and producer of ‘Australian Journey’, a documentary series exploring the history of Australia through objects and featured on the National Museum of Australia’s website.  His other public history engagements include the 100 Stories project (also based at the ANU) and extensive media commentary. 

In 1988, he initiated research exploring the history of frontier violence in North-West Australia.  This involved extensive community liaison and culminated in a counter commemoration at the base of the Explorers’ Monument in Fremantle. 

A successful instance of dialogical memorialisation and an early skirmish in the Statue Wars, this partnership with Indigenous communities was commended in the First Report for Aboriginal Reconciliation. 

Dr Kiera Lindsey

Dr Paul Kiem

Dr Mariko Smith

Christine Yeats

Professor Bruce Scates