History Now: Aboriginal political histories

  • Past Event
Talks & Ideas
On Site

Heidi Norman, John Maynard and Lynda-June Coe reflect on Aboriginal political histories, activism and advocacy.

Event Information

Past Event
General Admission:  
Maps Room, First Floor, Mitchell Building

1 Shakespeare Place
Sydney NSW 2000
+61 2 9273 1414

Protestors outside Parliament House
Image caption: Protest rally outside the NSW Parliament against the changes to the ALRA, September 1990. Photo courtesy of Fairfax, provided by Professor Heidi Norman. 


History Now seminars explore current and compelling issues affecting the practice of contemporary history. It is a long-running series of public talks and discussions, bringing new perspectives to all aspects of historical practice. This year History Now is a collaboration between the History Council of NSW (HCNSW), the State Library of NSW and the Australian Centre for Public History (ACPH) at UTS.

Heidi Norman, John Maynard and Lynda-June Coe reflect on Aboriginal political histories — both in terms of activism and advocacy, as well as involvement with formal legislative change and politics.


Professor Heidi Norman researches and publishes in the areas of NSW Aboriginal history and politics. She is currently leading two research projects: (1) An ARC-funded history of NSW Aboriginal Affairs administration titled, ‘Governing Aboriginal Self-Determination in NSW’ which examines how self-determination has been enacted as a policy, mode of governance, ideology and narrative by government from 1980 until today and (2) a James Martin Policy Challenge Grant focused on enabling NSW Aboriginal landholders to participate in climate adaptation and mitigation.

Her research has included a history of the NSW Annual Aboriginal Rugby League Knockout, the influence of mining on the society and economy over Gomeroi lands, and the impact of economic change on urban Aboriginal lives. She has published a study titled ‘What Do We Want? A Political History of Aboriginal Land Rights in NSW’ (2015) and in 2019 with colleagues published a study titled ‘Does the Media Fail Aboriginal Political Aspirations? 45 years of news media reporting of Aboriginal political aspirations’.

She is an award-winning researcher and teacher. In 2015 she was awarded the UTS research excellence medal for collaboration and in 2016 the National Teaching Excellence Award for her work in Indigenous studies; in 2021 she was a finalist for the UTS Chancellor’s Medal for Research Excellence, the inaugural Gough Whitlam Research Fellowship (2017–18) and in 2018 she was announced as a ‘Top 5’ ABC humanities researcher.

She is a descendant of the Gomeroi people from northwestern NSW.


Emeritus Professor John Maynard is a Worimi Aboriginal man from the Port Stephens region of New South Wales. He has held several major positions and served on numerous prominent organisations and committees including, Deputy Chairperson of the Australian Institute of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Studies (AIATSIS) and the Executive Committee of the Australian Historical Association. He was the recipient of the Aboriginal History (Australian National University) Stanner Fellowship 1996, the New South Wales Premiers Indigenous History Fellow 2003, Australian Research Council Postdoctoral Fellow 2004, University of Newcastle Researcher of the Year 2008 and 2012. In 2014 he was elected a member of the prestigious Australian Social Sciences Academy and in 2020 made a Fellow of the Australian Academy of the Humanities. He gained his PhD in 2003, examining the rise of early Aboriginal political activism. He has worked with and within many Aboriginal communities, urban, rural and remote. Professor Maynard’s publications have concentrated on the intersections of Aboriginal political and social history, and the history of Australian race relations. He is the author of 15 books, including Aboriginal Stars of the Turf, Fight for Liberty and Freedom, The Aboriginal Soccer Tribe, Aborigines and the Sport of Kings, True Light and Shade and Living with the Locals.


Lynda-June Coe is a proud Wiradjuri and Torres Strait Islander woman, activist, academic and PhD candidate (Macquarie University) from Erambie, Cowra NSW. She hails from a strong family and kinship system of warriors on both her maternal and paternal bloodlines. Lynda-June’s grandparents Les and Agnes were Wiradjuri trailblazers, and her father, aunties and uncles are renowned activists who have contributed to the defence of Indigenous land, people, place and futures.

Lynda-June is a passionate advocate for justice, self-determination and revitalising Indigenous governance as practice, having initiated and co-created the Wiradjuri Buyaa (Law) Council in 2018. Spanning over two decades, she has also co-organised national campaigns such as Black Lives Matter, ‘Water is Life’ Climate Action, Stop Aboriginal Deaths in Custody, Stop the forced removal of Aboriginal children and condemning institutionalised systemic racism on all fronts in the settler-colonial project known as Australia. She believes that Indigenous liberation is embodied by the concept of Indigenous sovereignty and is (re)affirmed by an operationalised and defiant Wiradjuri nation-led resurgence.


Dr Cara Cross (chair) is a proud Goori dubay/galbaan (woman) from the Worimi and Biripai nations deeply committed to Indigenous education, social justice and truth-telling. As Executive Officer, DVC Indigenous UNSW, she plays a pivotal role in advancing the university's Indigenous Strategy, shaping innovative Indigenous education programs, community engagement and promoting research excellence. Cross is also an Atlantic Fellow for Social Equity 2024, focusing on the repatriation of cultural knowledges with the aim to empower Indigenous peoples to become more grounded in their culture, identity and cultural roles. She is the First Nations General Councillor with the History Council of NSW (HCNSW), an Honorary Research Fellow with Macquarie University, and a founding and continuing member of Djurali's Aboriginal Research Governance Board. 


History Now is short and sweet. The tone is conversational, and the format is two speakers, each talking for 15–20 minutes, followed by a Q&A. History Now is usually an in-person event unless otherwise stated. History Now 2024 is programmed by Jesse Adams Stein (Vice President of HCNSW / Member of ACPH).

Supporters of History Now logos