Career (last few roles/organisations, or your main or favourite):
Associate Historian at Way Back When: Consulting Historians; Curatorial Assistant at the State Library of Victoria.
Working as a professional historian, I get to experience something new and exciting in almost every new project I undertake, so picking a particular highlight is a challenge. However, one project that left a lasting impression on me and on my colleagues was writing the history of the Victorian AIDS Council in 2013. In researching this history we got to talk to and hear about the experiences of many of the men and women who fought, and continue to fight for themselves and their friends, not only against this infection but also against the fears, prejudice and discrimination that accompanied HIV/AIDS. Being charged with the task of capturing and recording this emotional and inspiring history was a great privilege.
What was your first job?
My very first job was working Saturday mornings in a pie shop in Yarraville. It was a great first job. I had a lovely boss and as many pies and cakes as I could eat!
How have the humanities helped you in your career?
In a nutshell, my job wouldn’t exist without the humanities. After leaving school I took a while to figure out what I wanted to do, and I chose to do a BA because all I knew for certain was that I enjoyed studying, reading and writing. Communication is absolutely key in my job as a professional historian. Every day I work with individuals, community groups, organisations and large corporations to try to tell their stories in a way that is meaningful and relevant both to them and to the wider community. In studying literature, creative writing, history and Indonesian language at university, I was able to hone my written and oral communication skills, to the point where I can now comfortably switch from talking to academics, to community groups; to council steering committees and to school kids; to migrant communities and refugee groups.
I also developed strong research and analytical skills – essential in constructing coherent and relevant histories. Critical thinking along with the ability to ask questions have meant that I am much more aware of how what I do in my day to day life – whether it is the projects I’m working on or the products I’m buying – impacts the world around me. But most of all, being able to study subjects that I enjoyed studying for no other reason than enjoyment, showed me that following whatever you are passionate about will always end in job satisfaction – even if at the time you don’t know what that job might be.
Why do you think the humanities matter today?
The humanities teach us how to communicate, and how to think critically, independently and creatively. They teach us not only how to learn from our past, but how to understand it and find our place in the present and the future. They teach us how to ask questions and where to look for answers. How to think outside ourselves, how to question ourselves and how to understand ourselves. In short, the humanities teach us everything about what it is to be human. Without humanities, we are nothing.
What are you reading now?
At Home: A Short History of Private Life, Bill Bryson
An Officer and a Spy, Robert Harris.