Research

Research Interests

Bruce Scates was appointed the Director of the National Centre for Australian Studies in 2008. His Ph.D. was awarded in the field of Australian history and he holds the Chair of History and Australian Studies at Monash University.

Professor Scates has been awarded a series of competitive research grants from a number of national agencies including:

  • Three Discovery Grants from the Australian Research Council
  • Four Australian Research Council Linkage Grants
  • Two John Treloar Research Grants from the Australian War Memorial
  • Two grants for historical research from the Department of Veterans’ Affairs
  • Two Army History Unit grants

Areas of Supervision

His areas of expertise and supervision include:

  • War and society
  • Anzac and commemoration
  • The cultural history of grief and mourning
  • Labour history
  • Environmental history
  • Life stories and biography
  • The cultural history of the book and communities of readers
  • Trans Tasman relationships
  • Australian history generally

Current Research Projects and Grants

Revisiting Australia’s War: international perspectives on heritage, memory an ANZAC pilgrimages to the cemeteries and battlefields of World War Two, Current ARC Discovery Project

ARC Summary of Topic

Since the death of the last Gallipoli veterans, the Anzac legend is increasingly associated with Australia’s involvement in WW2 and pilgrimages to its battlefields and cemeteries now extend across three generations of travellers. This study will ask who undertakes such journeys and why. It will be both an historical study, charting changes in the nature of commemoration from one world war to another, and an investigation of the experience of today’s travellers. Oral history, archival research and personal survey will offer new insights into the emotional world of loss and mourning and explore the intersection between personal and collective memory.

ARC Statement of National Benefit

War has assumed an iconographic status in Australia and for many the spirit of Anzac defines the values of the nation. A study of WW2 pilgrimage will help to explain how the Anzac legend has been revisited, reinvented and revitalised by successive generations. This project will retrieve the memory of war from those who suffered it, empower various communities of mourners and help to explain why the Anzac mythology continues to captivate a diverse cross section of Australian society. It will engage with and enrich the nation’s memory of war, offering a window into how Australians see themselves.

A Land Fit for Heroes? A social, cultural and environmental history of Soldier Settlement in New South Wales, 1916-1939, Current ARC Linkage Project

ARC Project Summary

Vast tracts of NSW were settled by returned soldiers in the aftermath of the Great War. This study will assess the origins, intentions, successes and failures of NSW’s soldier settlement scheme, linking it to comparable experiments across the dominions and the long quest to raise an industrious yeomanry on Australian soil. It will address emerging themes in imperial, transnational and environmental history and recover the largely forgotten experience of soldier settlers and their families as they battled to ‘make a go of it’ on the land. A timely study, based on recently released Land Settlement and Repatriation files, it will strive to make this history accessible to a wide and diverse audience. Outcomes will include a monograph, a PhD thesis, library guides, public lectures and a website directing researchers to archival holdings on all the state’s 9000 soldier settlers.

ARC Statement of National Benefit

The digger has an iconographic status in Australian society; in recent years thousands of families have charted the service record of relatives who served in the first AIF. This project will extend and enrich those histories, recovering the returned soldier as important a historical entity as the men (and women) who went to war. It will look at ways that our society has tried to recover from the trauma of war, examine our veterans’ return to Australia and their often difficult readjustment to civil society. Soldier settlers faced a new battle in ‘opening up’ the land.  Like many in regional NSW today they struggled against isolation, financial hardship and environmental degradation. This project will address pressing challenges facing regional Australia: evaluating the role of soldier settlement in populating remote districts and assess its long-term environmental impacts.

Anzac Day at home and abroad: a centenary history of Australia’s national day, Current ARC Linkage Project

Lead Chief Investigator: Professor Bruce Scates
Other Chief Investigators: Prof Raelene Frances, Martin A Crotty, Prof Graham P Seal, Dr Tim Soutphommasane
Partner Investigators: Dr Frank Bongiorno, A/Prof Kevin Blackburn, Dr Stephen J Clarke, Dr Peter Stanley and Prof Andrew Hoskins
Partner Organisations: Department of Veterans’ Affairs, Canakkale Onsekiz Mart University, Historial de la Grande Guerre, King’s College London, Melbourne Legacy, National Archives of Australia, National Museum of Australia and the Shrine of Remembrance.

Despite its central place in Australia’s national mythology, identity and memory, despite growing popular observance of the day itself, and highly charged debate on what some have called the ‘militarisation’ of Australian history and society, a history of Anzac Day is yet to be written. We have little understanding of how Anzac Day has changed over the years, how its meanings have been shaped and contested, or how its observance has differed in city and country, across different regions and in the very different cultural landscapes of Australia and New Zealand. What are the cultural meanings of this ever changing, ever renewing ritual? How has its performance scripted definitions of personal and national identity? How do we explain the Day’s emergence, demise and in recent years phenomenal reinvention? Equally importantly, few have considered what Anzac Day means outside Australia and how its mass commemoration in the UK, France and Turkey have fostered a sense of belonging for Australian communities abroad. This project will grapple with these important questions in the lead up to Anzac Day’s centenary.