Part of a podcast series

The Fifth Estate

View all episodes in this series

Past Imperfect: Writing Australian History

Listen to Past Imperfect: Writing Australian History

For this Fifth Estate discussion, we're joined by two prominent historians for a conversation about their careers, and how they have each navigated the changing tropes and traditions of Australian history writing. What role do contemporary historians play in shaping the way all Australians remember – and reckon with – the past?

Photo of Sally Warhaft, Clare Wright and Geoffrey Blainey

From left to right: Sally Warhaft, Clare Wright and Geoffrey Blainey

Geoffrey Blainey is the author of more than 40 books, including The Rush That Never EndedThe Story of Australia’s People, and, perhaps most famously, The Tyranny of Distance, which has been in print since 1966. Clare Wright is an eminent academic and broadcaster and the Stella Prize-winning author of The Forgotten Rebels of Eureka and You Daughters of Freedom. Both writers have brought their research to large and enthralled readerships.

How does writing about the past shape the possibilities of the future? Blainey and Wright join Sally Warhaft to discuss their approaches to writing Australian history: warts, beauty spots and blind spots.


Portrait of Clare Wright

Clare Wright

‘I am a feminist therefore I commit feminist acts. I’m not going to undermine the political importance of what I do.’

La Trobe University historian Professor Clare Wright has worked as an author, academic, political speechwriter, historical consultant, and radio and TV broadcaster. Her latest book, You Daughters of Freedom: The Australians Who Won the Vote and Inspired the World, has been praised by Senator Penny Wong and Anne Summers. Her earlier book, The Forgotten Rebels of Eureka, won the 2014 Stella Prize and the 2014 NIB Award for Literature.

Portrait of Geoffrey Blainey

Geoffrey Blainey

Professor Geoffrey Blainey's first book was completed when he was in his early twenties. Since then he has written another thirty-five, including Triumph of the Nomads, The Rush That Never Ended, The Tyranny of Distance and other well known books on Australia's history. His more recent books on global history, including a Short History of the World, have been translated into many foreign languages and published in places as far apart as Brazil, India, Spain and Turkey. 

Portrait of Sally Warhaft

Sally Warhaft

Sally Warhaft is a Melbourne broadcaster, anthropologist and writer. She is the host of The Fifth Estate, the Wheeler Centre’s live series focusing on journalism, politics, media, and international relations, and The Leap Year, a Wheeler Centre podcast about Australians' lives in the fog of the Covid-19 pandemic. She is a former editor of the Monthly magazine and the author of the bestselling book Well May We Say: The Speeches that Made Australia.

Sally is a regular host and commentator on ABC radio and has a PhD in anthropology. She did her fieldwork in Mumbai, India, living by the seashore with the local fishing community.

The Fifth Estate

The important stories of the day – off the front pages.

Sally Warhaft hosts a dizzying array of guests from the worlds of politics, culture, international relations and beyond, in a witty and revealing analysis of current affairs.