Recipients of our summer scholarships, funded through the generosity of the family of the late Norman McCann (a former National Library Council Member), John and Heather Seymour, and Carol Mills. Since the inception of the Summer Scholarships program in 2002, over 50 young Australian scholars have been supported to undertake six weeks of immersive postgraduate research, with special access to the Library’s collections.


Shastra Deo, Rosie Stevens, Cassie Byrnes, Luke Forbes and Paul Taucher (L-R) sitting in orange chairs in oral history zone in gallery foyer.

Shastra Deo, Rosanna Stevens, Cassandra Byrnes, Luke Forbes & Paul Taucher

Carol Mills Summer Scholar

Paul Taucher (Murdoch University): Australian Command Responsibility Trials of Japanese Officers in WWII

Paul is examining the doctrine of command responsibility – an officer’s liability for crimes committed by subordinates – at Australian trials of Japanese war criminals, including instances of political influence on prosecutions and judgments.  His investigation focuses on the papers of David Sissons, the noted historian of Australian war crimes trials, and the correspondence of Sir William Webb, an Australian war crimes prosecutor.  Paul’s project also draws on oral histories and photographs which document Japanese soldiers and prisoner of war camps, together with a long sequence of detailed Attorney-General’s Department reports on the War Crimes Act, 1945.

Seymour Summer Scholar

Rosanna Stevens (ANU): The Conflict of Colonialism in the Life and Work of Peter Sculthorpe

Rosanna is exploring the extensive archive of Australian composer Peter Sculthorpe to gain insights into his mode of creative production and views on colonisation.  Approaching her project as a writer (rather than music specialist) Rosanna is using Sculthorpe’s letters, interview transcripts, scores and essays on Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander culture to understand his impulse for incorporating Indigenous songs in his compositions.  By working closely with his manuscripts, Rosanna is eager to reveal new understandings of Sculthorpe’s preoccupation with traditional landscapes, as reflected in musical works such as Djilie, Elcho Island Lament and the orchestral arrangements Kakadu, Mangrove and Port Essington.

Norman McCann Summer Scholars 

Cassandra Byrnes (University of Queensland): Abortion Law Reform the 1970s and 1980s: The National Context

Cassandra is investigating the national abortion law reform movement of the 1970s and 1980s, to contextualise the Queensland Pregnancy Termination Control Bill, 1980 and its impetus to restrict the termination of pregnancies.  She is casting a wide net across the Library’s manuscript collections which document the abortion and pro-life campaigns, by consulting the records of the Right to Life Association, Women’s Electoral Lobby and the Oral Contraceptive Information Centre, and the personal papers of individuals prominent within the opposing factions.  Cassandra’s research is further guided by transcripts of the many major inquiries and reports on abortion law reform issued in the period, and submissions made by lobby groups such as the Australian Catholic Social Welfare Commission and other medical and social justice entities.

Luke Forbes (Monash University): Indigenous Australian Contemporary Dancescapes 

Luke is reviewing the production and reception of Indigenous dance performance on stage from the 1970s through to the present day, as part of a wider critical historiography of contemporary Indigenous dance which is the focus of his doctoral thesis.  He is delving into the Library’s rich oral history collection, and listening to recordings of Indigenous dance professionals captured as part of the Keep Dancing Oral History Project, to locate these artists within an established community of dance practitioners, organisations and advocates.   Luke’s research is being further informed by the archival records of the National Aboriginal and Islander Skills Development Association (NAISDA), and the personal papers of Indigenous dancers such as Dennis Newie.

Shastra Deo (University of Queensland): Body as Battleground: The First World War and the Medical Body

Shastra is analysing the medical history of World War I, with a particular emphasis on field surgery and operating theatres located at or near the front.  She is comparing descriptions of battlefield medical services provided by doctors, nurses, stretcher bearers and hospital personnel, to consider how these personal accounts differ from official reports and fictional narratives.  As well as consulting the Library’s many published histories of infantry battalions, medical units and hospitals to provide context to her research, Shastra is using the first-hand recollections contained in the wartime diaries, journals and letters of participants (including Nursing Sister Anne Donnell and Field Ambulance officer Frank Piferrer) to understand the role that confession and witnessing play in the broader narrative of World War I.



2017 Summer Schoalrs in Main reading Room near Boab nut display, L-R Averyl Gaylor, Lucas Smith Samuel Cottell and Sadie Heckenberg

Averyl Gaylor, Lucas Smith, Samuel Cottell & Sadie Heckenberg

Seymour Summer Scholar

Lucas Smith (Monash University):  Barbara Baynton: Becoming an Australian Briton

Lucas is undertaking a biographical study of Australian author and philanthropist Barbara Baynton (1857-1929). By the time of her death in 1929 Baynton had become a British noblewoman and crucial figure in the burgeoning life of Australian politicians, artists, soldiers and businesspeople in London. Lucas’s research at the Library explores the nature of Barbara Baynton's British-Australian identity and her transnational journey by examining not only family papers but also the personal papers of prominent Australians, including Prime Minister Billy Hughes, Martin Boyd, Vance Palmer, the Chomley family and others, whom Baynton associated with in London.

Norman McCann Summer Scholars

Averyl Gaylor (La Trobe University): ‘The Body at its Best’: European Modern Dance and Medical Ideals in Twentieth Century Australia

Averyl is exploring the intersecting histories of medicine and modern dance in twentieth-century Australia. Her research focuses on the way European traditions of dance articulated utopian ideals of the healthy, hygienic, perfectible body, which came to inform popular body-cultures in Australia. Averyl is examining the Library’s rich dance archives to find expressions of medically informed ideals of corporeality in both written and visual sources. Her research is focused on material relating to the influential dancer and choreographer, Gertrud Bodenwieser, and her students who can be associated with the Ausdruckstanz style. These dancers came to Australia with the rise of Nazism in Europe, bringing with them embodied traditions of the European avant-garde, which became the catalyst for the development of modern dance in Australia. 

Sadie Heckenberg (Swinburne University): Continuing our Voices: Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Oral Histories in the National Library

Sadie is investigating Indigenous knowledge creation, storytelling and communication through oral history, as well as its theoretical framework, using the Library’s significant Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander oral history projects, such as ‘Bringing Them Home’ and ‘Seven years on - continuing life histories of Aboriginal leaders’. In particular she is examining oral histories that relate to her Wirradjuri Elders. She says: “Australian Indigenous oral history brings to life our community narratives and portrays so well the customs, beliefs and values of our old people. Spiritually our Elders live on through story.” Sadie’s project, in reflecting an Indigenous value system, aims to create a dialogue for knowledge protection and culturally safe research practice within Indigenous knowledge systems.

Samuel Cottell (University of Sydney): Tommy Tycho: A Biographical Portrait

Samuel is researching the life and work of Tommy Tycho, a Hungarian migrant who arrived in Australia in 1951 and became a leading pianist, arranger composer, and musical director in Australian radio, television and popular entertainment from the 1950s. Samuel is especially using collections of unpublished scores and arrangements, such as The Geoff Harvey Collection created for Channel 9 over 50 years, to analyse music scores that were arranged and composed by other musicians for television or radio during the same period. He is also examining the broader social and historical contexts in which Tommy Tycho worked to shed light on the ways musicians forged careers for themselves in a post-World War II Australia. 



Four summer scholars standing on lawn in front of NLA, Gretel, Talisha, Meg and Morgan

Gretel Evans, Talisha Goh, Meg Brayshaw and Morgan Burgess

Seymour Summer Scholar

Morgan Burgess: The Literary Campaign for Women’s Suffrage in Australian Newspapers and Magazine

Morgan is examining suffrage literature published in key colonial newspapers and magazines.  Arguments for and against women’s suffrage and enfranchisement were played out through literary accounts, poetry and fiction published in The Bulletin, The Australian Journal, The Australian Radical and The Lone Hand, amongst others. The obscurity of such literature, much of which is not indexed or digitised, means that important parts of the debate about women’s enfranchisement have been overlooked and the full literary discourse that engaged with the politics of women’s suffrage in Australia has not been studied.

Norman McCann Summer Scholars

Talisha Goh: Three Australian Women Composers on the World Stage: the Early Works and Careers of Ros Bandt, Liza Lim and Kate Moore

Talisha is undertaking a study of three active Australian women composers who have made substantial contributions to music in Australia and overseas. These composers are the sound artist Ros Bandt (born 1951), orchestral and operatic composer Liza Lim (born 1966) and ensemble composer Kate Moore (born 1979.) Talisha is considering the impact of gender in the careers and works of Australian women composers and investigating how the composers’ own response to their early works informs their current musical style and practice.  

Meg Brayshaw: Watery Bodies: Water as Matter and Meaning in Christina Stead's ‘Seven Poor Men of Sydney’

Meg is undertaking a close reading of Christina Stead’s personal archive, informed by contextual understanding of the writer's background, ideas and situation. She is particularly interested in the place-based, eco-critical nature of Stead’s writing, exemplified by the use of water as matter and meaning in the first novel  ‘Seven Poor Men of Sydney’ (1934). She aims to discover if Sydney and issues of an ecological, naturalist slant feature in Stead’s personal papers.

Gretel Evans: The Scattered Memory of Disaster: Fires and Floods in Australia

Gretel is investigating how Australians, and in particular migrants, remember Australia’s history of natural disasters focusing on floods in NSW and bushfires in Victoria. Her PhD project examines the long term impact of natural disasters, considers how these experiences feature in the lives of Australians and how people remember them. She is especially interested in how migrant experiences of fires and floods illuminate the impact of natural disasters on their sense of home, community and identity.