The historian and author Professor Frank Bongiorno AM, an Old Paradian acknowledged in the most recent Australia Day Honours, has talked of his incredible fortune in being given the opportunity to pursue his love of history at Parade.
Frank, a final year student of the class of 1986, was awarded an AM in the General Division of the Order of Australia for significant service to tertiary education in the field of history.
Now living in Canberra as Professor of History, as well as Head of the School of History at the Australian National University, Frank modestly conceded “No one could have been more surprised than I was when I learned that I was to be offered an AM”.
“As a historian working in a university I have always been in the fortunate position of spending a lot of my time each year in a profession that also interests me - and has long interested me – very much. To be given an award for doing something you love like that is pretty incredible,” Frank said.
“But I also think that history matters in democracies, so I do see the award – as well as the awards received by other historians - as a recognition of its importance. Societies that don’t nurture good history – whether it’s in schools, universities, libraries, archives, museums, the media or the publishing world – are usually in serious trouble. Unfree societies don’t like careful, factually-based and rational enquiry about the past, any more than they like freedom of the press or policy based on science.”
Previously an Associate Professor with the School, Frank was formerly a Senior Lecturer at the University of New England in Armadale and at King’s College in London, having completed his studies at both The University of Melbourne and the ANU.
A prolific writer, Frank’s published works are ‘The Sex Lives of Australians: A History’, 2012 (ACT Book of the Year); ‘The Eighties: The Decade That Transformed Australia’, 2015 (ACT Book of the Year); and ‘The People’s Party: Victorian Labor and the Radical Tradition, 1875-1914’, 1996.
In reflecting on his College years, Frank took the opportunity to thank his former teachers and readily declared “I owe Parade an enormous debt”.
“I still marvel that such as school could offer – to give one example – a full year of African-American History in Year 10, as it did when I was there in 1984 with Marjorie Buchanan! I also had the opportunity to study two years of Australian history in Years 11 and 12 with Dorman Hammond, a tremendous grounding for my professional life today,” he said.
“Beyond that, there was a really well-taught program of humanities and social sciences subjects, such as Politics and Legal Studies by John Nicholls, which not only developed the skills I need for what I do, but also taught me about the ethical, literary and emotional dimensions of good scholarship.
“I’ve been incredibly fortunate in my teachers, at Parade and then later at university.”