Winners of 2022 John Barrett Award for Australian Studies


Dr John Barrett (1931-1997) established this award by way of a bequest to La Trobe University in 1987. Dr John Barrett was a lecturer and reader at La Trobe University from 1969 until his retirement in 1990. His research specialisation was 20th century Australian history, particularly national involvement in the world wars. Dr Barrett was a member of the Journal of Australian Studies editorial board from 1979-1990.

The John Barrett Award for Australian Studies is awarded annually for the best written article published by the Journal of Australian Studies (JAS). The award is administered by the International Australian Studies Association (InASA).

Two prizes are awarded each year:

the best article by a scholar (open)

the best article by a scholar (post-graduate).

The award comprises a cash prize of AUD$500 plus a two year membership to InASA (including a subscription to the Journal of Australian Studies).

A prize committee established by the International Australian Studies Association (InASA) executive makes the award each year. The prize committee for the 2022 awards comprised:

Associate Prof. Anthea Taylor  (University of Sydney), Dr Benjamin Mountford (Australian Catholic University), Prof. Porscha Fermanis (University College Dublin)

The judges were highly impressed by the quality of the research across the 4 issues of the Journal of Australian Studies for 2022. They would like to congratulate the editors and contributors on another year of outstanding work.

Barrett Prize Winner 2022

Michelle Arrow (2022) ‘“Smash Sexist Movies”: Gender, Culture and Ocker Cinema in 1970s Australia’, JAS,46:2, 181-195.

Situating the white masculinist archetype of the ocker and women’s liberation within the same historical frame, Michelle Arrow offers a compelling argument about the filmic ocker figure as a form of contestation against the Australian women’s liberation movement in the 1970s. The ocker figure is linked to other ‘egalitarian’ Australian character types such as the larrikin and the bushman, which originated in the racialised crucible of white nineteenth-century labour. Yet while the ocker is understood as a manifestation of state-sanctioned 1970s ‘new nationalism’, Arrow moves beyond questions of national identity to make a significant contribution to ongoing debates about the history of Australian gender relations. More specifically, she argues that new nationalist popular culture was a key site of gendered cultural contest during a time of radical feminist challenge to Australian cultural, social, and political norms. If the afterlife of the (toned-down) ocker suggests that ‘ockerdom’ emerged victorious in the 1980s as a way of representing Australia to the world, Arrow convincingly recuperates the 1970s as a transformative decade of feminist challenge in Australia, noting the resurgence of touchstones of popular 1970s feminism today.

Highly Commended

Noah Riseman (2022) ‘Transgender Activism and Anti-Discrimination Reform in 1990s New South Wales and Victoria’, JAS,46:3, 321-338.

Noah Riseman provides an important overview of the emergence of pioneering transgender organisations in Australia in the 1980s and 1990s, demonstrating the extent to which internal divisions about ‘passing politics’ impacted on state campaigns for anti-discrimination legislative reform in New South Wales (1996) and Victoria (2000). Drawing on an impressive array of oral history interviews, media reports, parliamentary debates, and the personal archives of transgender activists, Riseman argues for the importance of the term ‘transgender’ in enabling a shift from passing to visibility in Australian transgender advocacy. In particular, the article demonstrates the ways in which campaigns for legal recognition broke away from medical and identity politics models of gender, increasingly campaigning for transgender rights in tandem, rather than in opposition, to LGB organisations.

Postgraduate Award

Pete Walsh (2022) ‘The Blurred Space: Reading the Body Politic in Christos Tsiolkas’s The Slap and The Jesus Man’, JAS,46:1, 31-44.

Pete Walsh’s article insightfully engages with the ‘transcultural’ character in Christos Tsiolkas’s novels to demonstrate how the Howard-era culture wars continue to haunt those marginalised by Anglo-Australian culture. Wearing its impressive theoretical engagement lightly, the article offers what essentially amounts to a biopolitical reading of the multicultural body politic. While Tsiolkas’s politics of affect ensures that ‘no body is left depoliticised’, Walsh demonstrates that in the novels’ ‘blurred space’ cultural syncretism can triumph over the cultural segregation of multiculturalism, suggesting that the transcultural subject can, if only momentarily, assert agential power and overcome the oppression of xenophobic ideologies.