Dr Malcolm Allbrook

BA Hons (1977) University of Western Australia PhD (2008) Griffith University
Managing Editor, Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, School of History, Research School of Social Sciences.
ANU College of Arts and Social Sciences
T: 02 6125 4455

Research interests

Malcolm Allbrook’s research interests include:

Australian history

Colonial and transnational histories in the Indian Ocean region, the formal and informal networks connecting individuals and families around the oceanic sphere, and the diverse contexts in which they functioned and were sustained;

Indigenous histories, including collaborative ways to research and present community histories using voice, sound, photographic and filmic imagery.

Biography and life writing, particularly of those less visible in national and landscape narratives, and the use of the range of documentary source materials, including letters and journals, paintings and photographs, and oral histories.

Landscape history and the deep past, particularly issues connected with biography and life writing of ancient lives.


Malcolm Allbrook is Managing Editor with the Australian Dictionary of Biography and a Research Fellow in the National Centre of Biography. He joined the NCB in 2014 after working as a Research Associate in the School of History at the ANU between 2011 and 2014. His first degree was in Classics and Ancient History, followed by employment in the public sector in Western Australia and then senior research and management positions with Aboriginal organizations, firstly the Kimberley Land Council in Derby (1993 – 1998) and then the Yamatji Marlpa Land and Sea Council, the native title representative body for the Murchison, Gascoyne and Pilbara regions.

He completed a PhD at Griffith University in 2009 with a thesis ‘Imperial Family: the Prinseps, Empire and Colonial Government in India and Australia’ which was published as Henry Prinsep's Empire: Framing a Distant Colony by ANU Press in 2014. Before joining the ANU, he worked as a historian and exhibition curator, chiefly with Aboriginal organizations throughout Western Australia. In 2013, with the Kimberley Aboriginal elder John Darraga Watson, he published Never Stand Still: Life, land and politics in the Kimberley. He was part of a team that curated ‘Burlganya Wanggaya’, an exhibition of Aboriginal history and culture in Carnarvon, Western Australia, which was awarded the MAGNA award for best permanent exhibition in 2012. in 2017 he co-authored a collaborative community history of the Worrorra people of the Dambimangari native title lands: Barddabardda Wodjenangorddee: The creation, history and people of Dambeemahgaddee country (Fremantle Press, 2017). The same year, with Mary Anne Jebb, he published Carlotta's Perth: Memories of a Colonial Childhood (City of Perth, 2017). He is also the author of numerous articles and ADB biographies, notably of the former governor-general and cabinet minister Sir Paul Hasluck, and the historian and writer Dame Mary Durack.

Researcher's projects

Malcolm Allbrook is currently engaged on a number of research and writing projects:

He is a chief investigator on the ARC Indigenous Discovery project 'An Indigenous Australian Dictionary of Biography.' The project, which will publish 190 new biographies of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, and explore new biographical methodologies, started in 2017 and will run until 2020. An international conference, 'Reframing Indigenous Biography' will take place at the ANU in November 2018.

With historian Mary Anne Jebb, since 2008 he has been associated with the Wangka Maya Pilbara Aboriginal Language Centre in Port Hedland, Western Australia, on a project entitled 'Hidden Histories of the Pilbara.' He was awarded AIATSIS research grants in 2008 and 2011, the first to prepare a historical report using archival evidence on nineteenth and early twentieth-century colonial contacts, the second to record oral histories with Aboriginal people. He is currently finalising a mss for publication on this collaborative project, with the working title 'Blood Shadow: Hidden Histories of the Pilbara.'

His larger project on the Pilbara, which he intends to develop into a book, is driven by his interest in the interaction of people with the environment. His principal area of interest - the Burrup Peninsula and hinterland - is known for its extraordinarily rich rock art and other archaeological evidence of ancient and precolonial occupation and land use, and for its modern history as one of Australia's premier industrial regions, as well as a postcolonial history of pastoralism and pearling. How Aboriginal people negotiated, responded to and survived the impact of colonialism, including industrial development, is the central question of the project.

Allbrook is also editor of the National Centre of Biography (School of History) journal Using Lives: Biography and History, published by ANU Press. The first number of the journal is due to appear late in 2018; two issues each year are scheduled. He has also played a central role in the formation of a family history network, which seeks to build collaboration between the academy and community-based family history researchers. He co-convened an international conference 'Related Histories' at the National Library of Australia in November 2017, and is currently preparing, with Dr Sophie Scott-Brown, an edited volume of papers from the conference.





Current student projects

HDR Supervision:

  1. Chair, Supervisory Panel, Stephen Kinnane (APA, commenced 2017): Topic: ‘Beyond the Land of Promises: Indigenous visions and development narratives in the East Kimberley.’
  2. Chair, Supervision Panel, Anthony MacGregor (APA, commenced 2017): Topic: ‘”Mouthless Gods”: Kimberley Rock Art in the Australian imagination, 1929-2000’. Completed TPR March 2018.
  3. Member, Supervision Panel, Julia Torpey-Hurst (APA commenced at University of Sydney, 2011, transferred to ANU, 2017, submitted thesis for examination, June 2018: Topic:  ‘Re-imagining identity of Aboriginal people living on Darug and Gundungurra lands.’
  4. Member, Supervision Panel, Les Hetherington (part-time, commenced 2011, completed MTR July 2015): Topic: ‘Vaillante Soeur: Marie Caroline Niau and her family in France, England and Australia, 1870 to 1933.’
  5. Member, Supervision Panel, Susan Priestley (commenced 2017): Topic: ‘Threads in the Tapestry: Federation-era Migrants and Australian Identity.’
  6. Member, Supervision Panel, Nichola Garvey (APA commenced 2018): Topic: ‘Second Fleet Women, First-Rate Survivors.’
  7. Member, Supervision Panel, Jenni Bird (APA commenced 2018): Robert Edward Knox – The ‘Flash Fighting Man’: One infamous convict’s journey through the New South Wales colonial penal system, 1829-1869.’
  8. Member, Supervision Panel, Rebecca Collard (APA commenced 2018): Topic: ‘An investigation of Gender, Race and Sexuality within the policy of Biological Absorption in Western Australia, 1920s -1940s.’
  9. Member, Supervision Panel, Aileen Walsh (ARC Laureate Scholarship Holder, commenced 2018): Topic: ‘The European naming of Aboriginal people in Western Australia: Names, Language and Colonial Ideology.'



Projects and Grants

Grants information is drawn from ARIES. To add or update Projects or Grants information please contact your College Research Office.

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Updated:  14 July 2024 / Responsible Officer:  Director (Research Services Division) / Page Contact:  Researchers