Current projects

Transnational Media Histories

The CMH is part of a 2015-18 strategic partnership between the University of Hamburg and Macquarie University, funded through DAAD, the German Academic Exchange Service. Our research and teaching project, ‘Transnational Media Histories’, is in collaboration with the Research Centre Media History at the University of Hamburg. It enables exchanges of senior and junior researchers, including postgraduates, to discuss and explore research and teaching in media history beyond national boundaries and through the prism of 'entangled media histories'. It involves joint conferences, workshops and research projects, and reciprocal visits.

Contact: Professor Bridget Griffen-Foley

Cultural Conversations: A History of ABC Radio National

This study offers the first history and appraisal of ABC's national ideas and cultural radio network, Radio National, mapping practices, programs, reception and ideas  generated around a unique broadcasting institution over 70 years of evolution. From old media to the digital, this project offers a detailed study and critical assessment of this singular cultural and media institution in Australia. Identified within wider traditions of public service broadcasting and 'cultural radio', this project also explores an underestimated platform of public media internationally, while also aiming to understand this specific media outlet's contribution to Australian public life, media and culture, whether through fostering the arts or contributing to the national conversation around science, politics, art or religion. Hear Chief investigator Dr Virginia Madsen talk about the scope of the project and why the network is uniquely suited to the digital age on ABC radio.

ARC Discovery Project 2014-2018, led by Dr Virginia Madsen, with Professor Bridget Griffen-Foley and Professor John Potts (Macquarie), and Dr John Tebbutt (Monash University). Contact: Dr Virginia Madsen

Switched-on Audiences: Australian Listeners and Viewers

Based on substantial primary research across Australia, Switched-on Audiences will map and interrogate the voices of media audiences since the rise of the pervasive new medium of radio in the 1920s. Tuning in to radio and television, both public and commercial, this project will explore audience engagement with broadcasting over nearly a century. Representing a major shift from the study of media production to reception, Switched-on Audiences will produce new understandings of Australian media users and digital citizens in a rapidly changing and converging media landscape. Early publications to appear from the project, supported by an ARC Future Fellowship (FT130101677), include: Public Opinion, Campaign Politics & Media Audiences: New Australian Perspectives, Melbourne University Press, 2017 (co-edited with Sean Scalmer);  ‘The “fireside chat” on Australian radio’, in Public Opinion, Campaign Politics & Media Audiences: New Australian Perspectives, eds Bridget Griffen-Foley and Sean Scalmer, Melbourne University Press, 2017, pp. 142-73. ‘Diary of a television viewer’, Media International Australia, vol. 162, no. 1, February 2017, pp. 33-48. ‘Listeners’, in A Companion to the Australian Media, ed. Bridget Griffen-Foley, Australian Scholarly Publishing, Melbourne, 2014, pp. 245-46.

Contact: Professor Bridget Griffen-Foley

Making Airwaves: A History of Women in Australian Broadcasting

This history of women in Australian radio and television production will examine the identity, opportunities, career mobility and occupational status of women media workers from the 1920s to the present. The project will examine the ways that changes in technology, industrial practice and economies have affected women’s roles. It will uncover the long-term gender barriers and imbalances that are still operating today–which have resulted in many women failing to reach positions of influence, and led to a lack of diversity on our screens and on radio. Based on oral history interviews, extensive primary research and engagement with the media industry, the project will greatly increase knowledge about the breadth and nature of women’s participation in broadcasting, and inform industry initiatives around gender equality and diversity.

Contact: Dr Jeannine Baker

The Skin of Others

In the year 1887 Scottish-born naturalists, Robert and Elizabeth Grant, were collecting specimens for the Australian Museum in the rainforests of the Atherton Tablelands in Far North Queensland. The colonial frontier had arrived there just a few years earlier with the discovery of precious metals. And it came with a vengeance. This is the moment where an Indigenous boy of the Rainforest Nations of Far North Queensland became Douglas Grant.

Douglas Grant was a draughtsman, a writer, a joker, an ANZAC veteran and POW, an activist and Indigenous campaigner – and he lived many lives in the public eye. The Skin of Others is an audio podcast and radio documentary that explores Douglas Grant’s remarkable life. In doing so it interrogates the historical record and the politics sustaining historical storytelling, and documents the dangerous legacy of Australia’s racist ideologies and the toll they’ve taken on Indigenous communities, traditional culture, language, and on individuals.

Contact: Dr Tom Murray

Australian Literary Journalism

Literary Journalism—factual stories written immersively, using the techniques of imaginative literature—is one of the few areas of newspaper and magazine culture thriving in the digital age. This study aims to investigate the history of literary journalism in Australia, beginning with the long, magazine-style articles produced in colonial Australian newspapers and journals. An initial database has been completed of authors and their publications, which will soon be accessible via Austlit, Australia’s premier humanities e-resource. Other early research publications from this study include a radio documentary on the work of the colonial journalist John Stanley James (the Vagabond) and several peer-reviewed journal articles.

Contact: Dr Willa McDonald

Gender and transnational broadcasting

This project is a collaboration between the CMH and the Centre for Media History at Bournemouth University. An interdisciplinary workshop held at the University of Bournemouth in July 2017 was co-convened by Dr Kate Murphy (Bournemouth), Dr Jeannine Baker & Dr Justine Lloyd. Participants at the workshop explored themes such as audiences and consumption; intimacy; feminisation of broadcasting; women as media workers; migration and diasporas; and cultural and national identity. This collaboration builds on Dr Murphy’s visit to Macquarie in early 2016. The project seeks to document and highlight the role of transnational connections in broadcasting histories from a gendered perspective. The co-convenors are preparing two special issues of leading media studies/history journals and are in negotiation with journal editors. The themes will also be explored in future conference panels and through existing international research networks such as Women’s Radio in Europe Network (WREN).

Contact: Dr Jeannine Baker

The documentary imagination in radio: an international history of the 'radio eye', film sonore and 'acoustic film'

This project will produce the first international history of the ‘documentary imagination’ in radio and spans 3 continents: Europe, Australia and (North) America, commencing with the BBC. It charts the rise of documentary and ‘feature’ forms from the early 1920s BBC in the Talks, and Drama and Features Departments of this first public service broadcaster, and explores both the influence of the BBC on other broadcasting traditions such as that in Germany, Australia and Denmark, and the emergence and flowering of more separate developments especially in the post war period, for eg in France, Italy and the USA. Specific programs will be addressed, egs the atelier de création radiophonique of ORTF/Radio France’s France-Culture and the foundational BBC Features department. The project has a strong focus on historically influential centres of production and creation (eg London, Manchester, Hamburg, Berlin, Paris) while also engaging with the work of a range of significant producer-authors who contributed innovative audio-visionary ideas, ‘essays’ and practices to establish powerful new and expressive ‘reality forms’ for the ear. From radio’s golden age to the present digital 'new wave', the project charts an enduring and important strand of documentary media and ideas culture which developed alongside that of the better known cinema documentary. Hear Dr Virginia Madsen discuss the history of the radio documentary in relation to the popular podcast "Serial" on BBC Radio 4.

Contact: Dr Virginia Madsen


Australian opera singer Tiriki Onus sets out to uncover the mystery surrounding a 70-year-old movie discovered inside a vault - believed to be made by his larger-than-life grandfather William ‘Bill’ Onus. Bill was a fiery, charismatic Aboriginal leader, theatre impresario, television host and cultural trailblazer. As Tiriki journeys across the continent and pieces together clues to the film’s origins, he unearths dark intrigues that shape the story into a real life thriller. He discovers how closely his own life journey in music and performance and that of his grandfather intertwine. Through never-seen-before archival footage, reimagined events, animation and eyewitness accounts, Ablaze is a feature-length documentary that weaves a compelling story – part detective story, part contemporary opera - of passionate belief that resonates across generations. By interrogating the politics of storytelling and the historical record, this media project will widely expand knowledge about Indigenous creativity and cultural resilience.

Contact: Dr Alec Morgan

Completed projects

A Companion to the Australian Media

At this time of rapid and revolutionary change in modes of communication, A Companion to the Australian Media provides the first comprehensive, up-to-date historical account of Australia’s press, broadcasting and new media sectors. Arranged in an accessible A–Z format are nearly 500 articles focussing on both the history and contemporary practice of media corporations, individuals, industries, audiences, policy and regulation since the launch of Australia’s first newspaper in 1803. Supported by ARC Discovery Grant (DP0877911), the print version was published by Australian Scholarly Publishing in late 2014 and is still available for purchase. Each article, contributed by leading media scholars and practitioners, became available via AustLit in late 2015. The Companion is essential reading, as well as a ready reference, for everyone interested in the dynamic world of the media, including practitioners, entrepreneurs, investors, lawyers, commentators, bloggers, historians and students.

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