LTU academic appointed Harvard Chair

A La Trobe University history professor has been appointed by Harvard University as the Gough Whitlam and Malcolm Fraser Visiting Professor of Australian Studies for the 2023-2024 academic year.

Professor Katie Holmes is Director of the Centre for the Study of the Inland at La Trobe University and Lead for the University’s ‘Social Change and Equity’ Research Theme.

An internationally renowned environmental historian and humanities scholar, Professor Holmes is known for her transformative research into the experience of Australian settlement and how individuals interact with their culture, society and the environment.

Professor Holmes will Chair alongside artist and curator Professor Brenda Croft, from the Australian National University.

“I’m very honoured to have been given this wonderful opportunity to represent Australia in a global academic role and introduce Harvard students to Australia’s long and dramatic environmental history – which, in the context of climate change, carries an added urgency,” Professor Holmes said.

“I’m also looking forward to working with some of Harvard’s leading scholars to mutually enhance our understanding of our unique environmental legacies.

“History has so much to offer in helping us identify the paths that have led to our current environmental crisis and the possibilities open to us as we build a different future,” Professor Holmes said.

“The opportunity to build collaborations and engage in transnational dialogue around these issues is very exciting.”

La Trobe University Deputy Vice-Chancellor (Research and Industry Engagement), Professor Sue Dodds, said Professor Holmes is well deserving of the prestigious appointment.

“I want to extend my congratulations to Katie – this appointment is a true testament to her extraordinary dedication to the field of environmental history, passion for Australian environmental relations, and wider contribution and impact on global environmental issues,” Professor Dodds said.

“The Chair was designed to promote awareness and understanding of Australia and our unique strengths and challenges, in America. It’s no small thing to represent Australia in this important way, and I look forward to seeing the impact Katie has when she assumes the appointment in 2023.”

Professor Holmes is the third La Trobe University academic to hold the position, following Professor Marylin Lake in 2001 and Professor Dennis Altman in 2005.

The Chair was established through a gift of the Australian Government to Harvard University in 1976 in recognition of the bicentenary and to further the understanding of Australia in the United-States and strengthen bilateral relations. Other outstanding scholars who have occupied the chair include Raewyn Connell, Mick Dodson, Tim Flannery, Katherine Gibson, Timothy Rouse and Alison Bashford.

About Professor Katie Holmes:

Katie Holmes is Professor of History and Director of La Trobe University’s Centre for the Study of the Inland. She is a leading environmental historian and environmental humanities scholar with a particular interest in how people make sense of the world around them, and how this changes over time.

Her work in environmental history has been instrumental in bringing interdisciplinary methodologies and approaches to the field, including those of gender, oral history, mental illness, emotions and the history of gardens. Her collaboration with scholars from other disciplines including ecology, geography, business, communications, visual art, literature, sociology and anthropology, has led to successful collaborative environmental humanities research teams.

Some of Katie’s key books include Mallee Country: Land, People, History (co-author, 2020); Between the Leaves: Stories of Australian women, writing and gardens (2011); Reading the Garden: the settlement of Australia (co-author, 2008); and Spaces in her Day: Women’s Diaries of the 1920s and 1930s (1995).

Katie is the Theme Lead for La Trobe’s Research Theme ‘Social Change and Equity’. She is also the co-convenor of La Trobe’s Climate Network and a member of the Climate Cluster in the School of Humanities and Social Sciences. In 2010 Katie held the Keith Cameron Chair in Australian History at University College Dublin and is a Fellow of the Academy of Social Sciences in Australia (FASSA).

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