A sepia image of a woman standing up in front of a crowd and speaking.

Join Dr Alice Garner as she presents a lecture on her 2023 National Library Fellowship research on the life of Mavis Robertson. While Mavis Robertson is celebrated as a pioneer in the development of compulsory superannuation, this talk will look at her larger, even more fascinating life.

Entry is free to this event but bookings are essential.

The talk will be available to view live online via the Library's Facebook and YouTube pages. You do not need to book a ticket to watch the event online.

Dr Alice Garner is a 2023 Honorary National Library of Australia Fellow.

About Dr Alice Garner's Fellowship research

For this Fellowship, Dr Garner will draw on the Library’s collections to produce an audio documentary series about Mavis Robertson, a woman whose life story touches on many significant moments in our shared political and social history.

Mavis Robertson (1930-2015) is perhaps best known for her pioneering role in compulsory superannuation and for co-founding the Mother’s Day Classic fun run, but there is much more to her extraordinary life. Her 2003 whole-of-life interview recorded for the Library will form the backbone for an exploration of important social, political, cultural, and economic moments and developments in Australian history. A range of voices and perspectives, from both archived and newly recorded interviews, along with information sourced from Manuscripts and other Library collections, will be woven through the final production, for context and balance. 

The documentary will hear voices recounting and analysing everything from Robertson’s Catholic working-class childhood in Melbourne, to leadership in the Eureka Youth League and the Communist Party of Australia, Cold War travel to international peace congresses and youth festivals, engagement with jazz, folk music, dance and radical theatre, early anti-nuclear and anti-Vietnam War protest action, support for Chilean refugees, co-founding People for Nuclear Disarmament and the ‘Peace Bus’ national tour, collective action in early Women’s Liberation, the creation of Emily’s List, the Jessie Street Trust, and the Mother's Day Classic. When Robertson stepped away from Party politics and into the world of finance and investment in the last part of her life, she took with her the lessons of earlier radical experiences. This project explores the resonances of Robertson’s life and times, in a rich sonic portrait. 

About Dr Alice Garner

Dr Alice Garner is a historian, performer and teacher based at the University of Melbourne’s Graduate School of Education. Alice has a PhD in History from the University of Melbourne and has published books in French social history and Australian and US educational history: A Shifting Shore: Locals, Outsiders and the Transformation of a French Fishing Town (1823-2000) (Cornell University Press, 2005), Academic Ambassadors, Pacific Allies: Australia, America and the Fulbright Program (Manchester University Press, 2019) and The Student Chronicles (MUP, 2006). 

Alice has recently been engaged in projects on union education, mentoring, and diversity in the teaching workforce. She is currently researching the life and times of Mavis Robertson AM (1930-2015) for an audio documentary series and was able to consult Robertson’s papers at the ANU on an Australian Studies Institute fellowship in 2022. She is also a participant in the Signal Boost podcast mentoring program, building her audio documentary production skills for the Mavis Robertson project. 

Alice has worked as an actor since childhood and is probably best known for her roles in Love and Other Catastrophes, SeaChange and Secret Life of Us. Most recently she has performed as her ancestor Fanny Finch in the historical play, Finding Fanny Finch. The play was recognised in the 2021 Victorian Community History Awards and will feature on ABC RN’s History Listen. She also plays cello in several bands, including the Endlings, Xylouris Ensemble, and Sally Ford and the Idiomatics. 

About National Library of Australia Fellowships

The National Library of Australia Fellowships program offers researchers an opportunity to undertake a 12-week residency at the Library. This program is supported by generous donors and bequests.

Image credit: Mavis Robertson addressing a meeting in China, c.1958, courtesy Peter Robertson collection

Type Fellowship presentation