Tim Rowse Awarded Title of Emeritus Professor

Professor Tim RowseThe Institute for Culture and Society congratulates Professor Tim Rowse who has been awarded the title of Emeritus Professor for his major contribution to his fields of enquiry and to the University.

Professor Rowse's teaching and research, from his first full-time academic appointment in 1978 at Macquarie University, teaching Sociology, to his retirement in 2016 have encompassed several themes in the history of Australia, with emphasis on intellectual and cultural history – and will continue to do so. He is without doubt a major figure in two related fields of Australian History and Australian Studies, with an emphasis on Indigenous and postcolonial history.

His first book Australian Liberalism and National Character (1978) was a study of a tradition of Australian non-fiction writing. It was an early contribution to the study of liberalism that became important to the field. In the early 1980s, he initiated sociological commentary on Australian cultural policy with Arguing the Arts (1985), again an early intervention into a field that was about to emerge as important to Australian scholarly life – this time the 'arts industries' field.

His career has been remarkable.

In the early 1980s, Tim began to consider Australia from its colonising edge, in particular the twentieth-century history of Central Australia and the colonial inclusion of Aboriginal people. He subsequently resigned his tenured Lectureship at Macquarie University to enrol in a PhD in Anthropology at the University of Sydney (1986–1989). The fruits of this turn included White Flour, White Power (1998) on the transition from a rations-based to a cash-based welfare system for Aboriginal people in Central Australia. While employed by the Menzies School of Health Research (1989-1994) he synthesised ethnographic studies of Aboriginal governance to produce Remote Possibilities: The Aboriginal Domain and the Administrative Imagination (1992) and Traditions for Health (1996). From a Fellowship at the University of Melbourne (1992–1993) he wrote After Mabo.

From 1995 to 2000, an ARC Fellowship at the University of Sydney supported Tim to write two books on the public life of Dr H.C. Coombs. In Obliged to be Difficult (2000) he continued his interest in 'Indigenous Affairs' policy by studying Coombs' ideas and impact in that field. Coombs' work as an economist was the principal theme of his Nugget Coombs: A Reforming Life (2002).

In 2000-2001, the ANU's Centre for Aboriginal Economic Policy Research (CAEPR) employed Tim to write a critical synthesis of the first ten years of CAEPR's research: Indigenous Futures (2002).

By then Tim was recognised as one of the most important writers on Indigenous Affairs in Australia. He was elected a Fellow of the Australian Academy of Humanities in 2000 and awarded a Centenary Medal in 2003. In 2003-2004 he served as the Professor of Australian Studies at Harvard University. This appointment is only made to Australians who are central to the field of Australian Studies.

During his appointment (2001-2008) in History in the Research School of Social Sciences at ANU, Tim edited a collection of papers about 'assimilation' policy in Australia (Contesting Assimilation 2005) and co-authored with Murray Goot a study of the role of 'public opinion' in Divided Nation?: Indigenous Affairs and the Imagined Public (2007). He also taught units in Australian Indigenous History and supervised four PhDs to completion. The Academy of Social Sciences in Australia elected him as a Fellow in 2007. Very few Australians are members of both academies, and this is testament to his cross-disciplinary standing.

In January 2009 Tim took up a professorial appointment in the Centre for Citizenship and Public Policy, University of Western Sydney (now Western Sydney University), and helped to found that Centre's PhD program. Since the termination of that Centre (at the end of 2011), he has worked with other historians in the School of Humanities and Communication Arts, helping to deliver the Major in History and Political Thought. He has been an active and productive member of the Institute for Culture and Society. He produced Rethinking Social Justice in 2012, and (inspired by his time at Harvard) he began to harvest his research on Canada, New Zealand and the USA in a series of papers about the history of the colonial enumeration of colonised Indigenous populations. The last of this series is due to be published in 2016.

In the background he has been working on one of the volumes of a commissioned two-volume history of Australia's Indigenous relationships for Oxford University Press. At the same time, he has been collaborating with colleagues from the Institute for Culture and Society in an ARC-funded study (2014-2017) of 'Australian Cultural Fields', a return to some of the 'Sociology of Culture' questions that he pursued in the late 1970s and early 1980s.

Tim's interest in research and academic publication is ongoing. His will be an active 'retirement'.

In short, Professor Tim Rowse is a major Australian scholar whose publications have changed the fields of Indigenous History and Australian Studies, while contributing to a number others. We are honoured that he has agreed to be an Emeritus Professor with us.

Adapted from a congratulatory message from Institute Director Professor Paul James.

Posted: 10 November 2016.