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The Australian National University

Dr Maria Nugent

BA, ANU; MA, Sydney University; Grad Dip (Adult Education) UTS; PhD University of Technology, Sydney
ARC Future Fellow
ANU College of Arts and Social Sciences

Areas of expertise

  • Australian History (Excl. Aboriginal And Torres Strait Islander History) 210303
  • Aboriginal And Torres Strait Islander History 210301
  • Heritage And Cultural Conservation 210202

Research interests

Australian Aboriginal History, public history, history, memory and oral history, and cross-cultural history.


I hold an ARC Future Fellowhip in the Australian Centre for Indigenous History in the School of History. Before coming to ANU, I held fellowships at the State Library of New South Wales, Monash University, and the National Museum of Australia. I also have professional experience as a public historian, including with the NSW National Parks and Wildlife Service and the Australian Heritage Commission. My research focuses on Aboriginal people's historical narratives and remembrance under colonial conditions; landscape and spatial approaches in history and heritage; Aboriginal women's craft production; and cross-cultural relations and encounters in Australian exploration and settlement.

Researcher's projects

I am currently involved in four ARC funded projects.

Remembering Dispossession: Interpreting Aboriginal Historical Narratives (FT100100073)

This project grapples with the challenge to produce Australian historical studies that have Aboriginal people's own interpretations and moral reasonings at their core. The notion of 'remembering dispossession' is offered as a means for exploring the ways in which Aboriginal people have used historical storytelling and other modes of remembrance to make sense of their experience, and of themselves and others, under radically altered condition. The project entails fresh critical engagement with 'dispossession' as a key theme and concept in Australian history.

'The Queen Gave Us The Land': Aboriginal people's histories and memories of Queen Victoria (DP110100230)

Queen Victoria is a potent figure in Aboriginal people's histories and memories. This project examines Aboriginal people's interactions with and interpretations of her as a means by which to chart their changing understandings about such matters as sovereignty and the authority and morality of the British Crown. By examining both interactions (i.e. petitioning) and interpretations (i.e. narratives), a key aim is to explore and theorise the relationship between historical experience and historical remembrance. This is one of a series of case studies within my larger "Remembering Dispossession" project.

Exploring the Middle Ground: New Histories of Cross-Cultural Encounters in Australian Maritime and Land Exploration (DP110100931)

This is a collaborative research project with Dr Shino Konishi (ANU) and Dr Tiffany Shellam (Deakin University).

The study proposes the concept of the middle ground to describe and represent the nature of cross-cultural encounters and relations within the history of Australian maritime and land exploration. Through as series of detailed cross-cultural historical studies of key exploration expeditions, the study seeks to re-establish the critical importance of exploration as a 'site' in which relations between Indigenous people and others developed, including in ways that were influential in shaping later race relations within the context of occupation and settlement. In this way, the concept of the middle ground is also presented as a means by which to unsettle Australian history's conventional periodisation into pre-settlement and settlement phases.

Engaging Objects: Indigenous communities, museum collections and the representation of Indigenous histories (LP110100623)

This an ARC Linkage project involving the ANU, the National Museum of Australia and the British Museum. The research team includes Professor Howard Morphy (ANU), Dr Maria Nugent (ANU), Dr John Carty (ANU), Dr Lissant Bolton (BM), Dr Ian Coates (NMA) and Dr Michael Pickering (NMA).

This partnership between ANU, the National Museum of Australia and the British Museum, in collaboration with Indigenous research participants and communities, centres on the research process leading up to a major exhibition of the British Museum's Australian Indigenous collections, and the post-exhibition impacts. it analyses historical and representational issues evoked in researching and creating the exhibition. It will result in new understandings of foundational Australian Indigenous collections and their historical and contemporary significance for scholars, Indigenous peoples and museums. It will contribute to the development of new museological paradigms about the display of Indigenous collections.





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Updated:  22 October 2016 / Responsible Officer:  Director (Research Services Division) / Page Contact:  Researchers