30 October 2008

The contraceptive pill, the opening of the Australian Institute of Sport and the global effects of 9/11 are some of the Turning Points in Australian History featured in UQ historian Dr Martin Crotty's new book.

Following on from the controversial Great Mistakes in Australian History, Dr Crotty, in collaboration with Dr David Andrew Roberts from the University of New England, has edited an insightful series of papers by leading authors, including two UQ historians.

Dr Crotty said the aim of the book was to stimulate discussion about Australian history and provide more than just a list of important historical events.

"We got on board some of Australia's best historians and asked them to write about these particular moments in our history - not just in terms of describing what happened, but to tease out the way in which these moments constituted turning points in Australian history," he said.

The publication focuses on the effects of the turning points in question, which range from the separation of Tasmania from the mainland 16 thousand years ago to the beginning of the women's liberation in Australia and the current War on Terror.

Dr Crotty said he hoped the book made Australians re-examine certain events and re-evaluate their idea of a turning point.

"In some instances, the effects of these events have been greatly exaggerated and the iconic moment isn't actually as important as popularly thought," he said.

"Some of these events are very important in their own right, but the long term effects they had on Australian history may not be that important."

By contrast, Dr Crotty said some of the turning points the book covered were not greeted with much fanfare at the time, but in hindsight had revealed just how influential they had been.

"The pill, for example, did not arrive in the 1960s in a great blaze of publicity, but it is hard to imagine our society now without access to easy and reliable contraception," he said.

"These types of moments aren't always the types people might recall if you ask them to sit down and write a list of the dozen most important moments.

"We hope people will look at them and realise they have actually had a significant effect on our country."

Dr Crotty said history played a vital role in shaping the future and encouraged students to study history at universities like UQ.

"Paul Keating once said that history gives you your bearings and I think that's quite true," he said.

"If you know where you come from, the present and the future can make a lot more sense."

Media: Dr Crotty (0401 860 094, 07 3365 6388, m.crotty@uq.edu.au) or Jason Tin or Eliza Plant at UQ Communications (07 3365 2619)