Posted by: Lisa Hill | October 1, 2022

More Awards News!

The Educational Publishing Awards has never been on my radar, but I was alerted to its existence by a press release from Melbourne University Publishing, who were recognised with two books that I’ve read, and one that is apparently their largest selling Health and Medicine title in MUP’s 100 year history.

Here’s what the press release said:

… later in the evening at the Educational Publishing Awards Australia at the Wheeler Centre, Professor Janet McCalman’s Vandemonians: The Repressed History of Colonial Victoria (Miegunyah Press) received the Scholarly Book of the Year Award, while our two other titles, within the strong shortlist of five, were highly commended: Farmers or Hunter-gatherers? The Dark Emu Debate, by Professor Peter Sutton and Associate-Professor Keryn Walshe, and The Secrets of Women’s Healthy Ageing, by Cassandra Szoeke.

By one of those strange coincidences that wouldn’t be credible if put into a book, Vandemonians, which I reviewed here, just happened to crop up in a dinner party conversation last night.  (As readers know ad nauseam) my house is full of books, and the glass fronted shelving that holds our Australian history books collection faces whoever is sitting at the head of the dining table.  Like all our other bookshelves it has reached capacity, but artful rearrangement means that some titles are facing front cover outward (as in bookshops).  And so it was that our guest noticed Vandemonians through the glass, and I gave a brief summary of who the Vandemonians were.

It always amuses me that Victorians assert that our state never had convicts.  It’s true that there was no transportation here: convicts were sent to NSW, Tasmania and WA.  But that doesn’t mean that convicts didn’t make their way here. The Vandemonians were emancipated convicts from Tasmania who came here once settlement had reached its limits in Van Dieman’s Land a.k.a. Tasmania, and it was that group that Janet McCalman researched.  Not for nothing is the subtitle of her book ‘The Repressed History of Colonial Victoria’ because obscuring convict origins was what respectability required!

I noted in my review that the book is written in an approachable style that is easy to read and digest, but it is good to know that unlike some popular histories written by people who are not historians, Vandemonians is based on scholarly research which impressed the judges.  Likewise the Highly Commended title Farmers or Hunter-gatherers, The Dark Emu Debate which I reviewed here, In my review I noted that…

In contemporary Aboriginal studies, including history, archaeology and anthropology, academic expertise includes respecting the knowledge of The Old People, i.e. Aboriginal collaborators in the research who share facts and insights from their expertise.

Australians are moving into an important new era of truth-telling about their history, and for the process to achieve its aims, it’s important for people to feel confident that what they read, hear and see is authoritative.  At lunch this week with Ladies Who Lunch After Lockdown, we were discussing the SBS Series The Australian Wars, and the question was asked, ‘how do they know that these frontier wars happened?’  That’s a natural reaction when confronted by a story that still isn’t widely known despite the best efforts of historians like Henry Reynolds who has published extensively on the subject for decades.

So awards like the Educational Publishing Awards have a role to play in guiding our choices about what to read.  I was pleased to see that the winner of the Primary Teaching Resources category was the Indigenous Discovery Big Book Series  by Emily Bruce, and Leanne Mulgo Watson (Learning Media Ltd)… it would definitely have been on my shopping list when I was buying for the school library!

Congratulations to all the authors, editors and publishers!


  1. This does sound like a good award, from a reputable organisation which is likely to make meaningful choices.


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