Three Griffith University scholars are shining a light on the state’s untold stories after receiving prestigious fellowships at the State Library of Queensland.
The State Library’s Queensland Memory Awards have awarded a total of $60,000 to researchers to provide new insight into the library’s archival collections and further knowledge about the state’s history.
Honouring female guardians of the Great Barrier Reef
The $20,000 John Oxley Library Fellowship was awarded to Griffith University Associate Professor Kerrie Foxwell-Norton and Monash University’s Dr Deb Anderson for their joint project, The Women of the Great Barrier Reef: The Untold Stories of Environmental Conservation in Queensland.
The project will highlight the significant role women have played in the conservation of the Great Barrier Reef in Queensland.
Associate Professor Foxwell-Norton was inspired after stumbling across an archival newspaper story about 19-year-old Terri Ridgway, who left her secretarial job in Brisbane in the 1960s to live on a remote island off the North Queensland coast, where she documented local marine species.
“This fellowship is about investigating these stories of the passionate, fierce, intelligent women who have been influential and who have cared for the reef,” she said.
“It really does matter how we remember these important nature superstars in Australia.
“We are so excited to discover what stories we will find and to tell those stories of women and their contribution to Queensland.”
The pair hope to produce a series of oral histories, a podcast and book.
Associate Professor Foxwell-Norton said it was important to elevate and amplify women’s role in the conservation movement as the world faced unprecedented ecological and climate crises.
Revealing Queensland’s forgotten Indigenous history
The fellowship is named for political activist and author Monica Clare, who was the first Aboriginal woman to publish a novel. It is designed to explore Queensland’s Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander cultures using the State Library’s collections.
Dr Foley, who will join the QCA’s fine art faculty in August, intends to use the fellowship to explore the Queensland’s first experiment in racial segregation.
She will research the stories of 52 Badtjala people taken from Maryborough to Fraser Island’s Bogimbah Creek Mission in the late 1800s and hopes to publish a series of essays and create a new photographic series, The Magna Carta Tree.
“I feel very honoured to be the first recipient of this fellowship, and it’s important acknowledgement that my research is important and valued,” she said.
“There is a need to bring this hidden history to the fore – the Badtjala people are missing from this Queensland narrative.”
Celebrating a distinctly Queensland voice
Ms McCoy will use the State Library’s collections to research Queensland-born composer Letty Katts, the first Australian to have an original song in the pop hit parade in the 1950s.
“Her music provided a distinctly Australian voice to a scene dominated by American culture,” Ms McCoy said.
“This project aims to reclaim her position as a successful creator of popular music in an era when female composers were rare.
“Letty often said that musicians should be heard and not seen, but this belies the determination and tenacity she showed in her dealings with the predominantly male music industry.”