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Australian Women at War

Ill nurses Mudros.jpg
Sick sisters of the Australian Army Nursing Service convalescing in the tent lines of No 3 Australian General Hospital (3AGH), West Mudros. Painted rocks mark the edge of their tent surrounds and paths. Australian War Memorial J01455

The roles of women in war, both on the war front and the home front have been downplayed, or ignored, made invisible to history.

Australian Women at War was the subject of the Blamey Oration, delivered by Professor Melanie Oppenheimer, at Government House, in Hobart, on 19 April 2018.

Professor Oppenheimer’s presentation explores how women have had an uneasy relationship with the Anzac tradition with women’s contributions marginalized as ‘watching and waiting’, passive supporters of the tradition, rather than as active participants, pushing the boundaries of history at every opportunity.

Professor Oppenheimer is the Chair of History, Flinders University, Adelaide, and is one of Australia’s leading historians of women, war and volunteering, and a highly regarded scholar of women’s involvement in both world wars.

Read the Blamey Oration:

About Professor Melanie Oppenheimer

Professor Melanie Oppenheimer was appointed to the Chair of History at Flinders University, Adelaide, in July 2013. Prior to this she held positions at the Western Sydney University and the University of New England.  Her PhD concerned the role of civilian volunteers in Australia during World War Two.

Professor Oppenheimer is author/co-author of seven books including:

  • All Work. No Pay. Australian Civilian Volunteers in War (Shortlisted for the NSW Premier’s History Prize in 2003);
  • Volunteering. Why we can’t live without it (2008);
  • Oceans of Love (2006) about WWI Australian nurse, Narrelle Hobbes; and
  • The Last Battle. Soldier Settlement in Australia, 1916-1939 (2016), with co-author Bruce Scates.

Professor Oppenheimer has won large public tenders such as the:

  • Department of Veterans’ Affairs to write a history of women in war (2008); and
  • a centenary history of Australian Red Cross that was published by HarperCollins in 2014, The Power of Humanity. 100 Years of Australian Red Cross.

Professor Oppenheimer’s knowledge, expertise and public profile has led to appointments to a range of government committees including the Anzac Centenary’s Cultural and Military History Working Party and the National Archives of Australia’s Anzac Centenary Committee.

Professor Oppenheimer has also produced the radio documentary, Nursing for Empire for ABC Radio National’s Hindsight program, and provided research expertise for the TV documentary, Girls’ Own War Stories (2011).