Honest History website: ten years on and we are winding back a bit

The Honest History website has been running now for ten years. Author and journalist Paul Daley well and truly launched us at Manning Clark House in Canberra in November 2013 and he has been a great supporter ever since – thanks brother – as have many others too numerous to mention. Richard Thwaites has been our sturdy Webmaster. Derek Abbott, Ayhan Aktar, Michelle Arrow, Vicken Babkenian, Diane Bell, Frank Bongiorno, Alison Broinowski, Richard Broinowski, Pam Burton, Burçin Çakır, Judith Nangala Crispin, Joy Damousi, Michelle Fahy, Romain Fathi, Steve Flora, Rolf Gerritsen, Paddy Gourley, Jonathan Green, Carolyn Holbrook, the late Brendon Kelson, Marilyn Lake, Richard Llewellyn, Greg Lockhart, Penny Lockwood, the late Stuart Macintyre, Phillipa McGuinness, Humphrey McQueen, Graham Mills, Stewart Mitchell, John Moses, John Myrtle, Douglas Newton, Melanie Oppenheimer, Margaret Pender, Michael Piggott, Gerry Schulz, John Shield, Peter Stanley, Alan Stephens, the late Tom Tescher, Sue Wareham, Ernst Willheim, Geoffrey Winter, Clare Wright and many others have helped with research and writing – and sage advice. My family have put up with me being ‘otherwise engaged’. Thanks to all.

The Honest History Book (2017) did way better than we expected and Michael Piggott and I as custodians of the Honest History legacy bank account have been pleasantly surprised at recent cash inflow from copyright payments for extracts from the book being used in secondary schools. (At least, we think that’s where the money is coming from. We haven’t seen official advice from our publisher.)

That legacy bank account has helped support the birth a month ago of Honest History’s feisty associate website, Defending Country (defendingcountry.au) which we know affectionately as ‘daughter of HH’ or ‘the cuckoo in the nest’. Defending Country’s key message is that the Australian War Memorial must properly recognise and commemorate the Australian Frontier Wars as an essential part of Truth-telling and as a first step to reframing Australian national commemoration. Defending Country says this early on:

Defending Country applies to all who have fought for Australia or parts of it. It applies just as much to First Australians (Arrernte, Noongar, Wiradjuri, and others), defending their Country on Country (and dying on Country), as it does to uniformed Australians fighting our overseas wars.

Honest History will not be closing down or going to the living death of PANDORA on the National Library website (sorry NLA). Instead, the HH site will stay live as a resource for old and new users and because many HH articles will be referenced by posts on Defending Country. There are a couple of book reviews still outstanding which may or may not turn up and an Auditor-General report and a Federal Court case which we may note when they are finalised. We won’t be accepting new books for review or publishing unsolicited MSS. We may post the occasional item From the Honest History Vault. We will still be informative and sometimes cheeky on Twitter (sorry, X) – over 3200 followers – though we will tweak the label in the New Year to work in a reference to Defending Country.

All the best to loyal readers – and indeed all readers – for Christmas and the New Year. Please donate to the people of Gaza.

David Stephens (Editor, HH)

18 December 2023


Look for these on Defending Country

New Year’s Resolution for Minister Keogh: refresh the War Memorial Council’; ‘Reading Ken Inglis‘; ‘Action Plan for the Australian War Memorial on the Australian Frontier Wars‘; ‘New light and New Tricks: latest on the Australian War Memorial and the Frontier Wars‘ (this last one is a long read but is the sort of forensic analysis that was done when journalists – besides Nick McKenzie and Chris Masters – had time to be forensic and when Senate Estimates Committees were not prone to being flannelled by departments and agencies. The War Memorial does not come out of it well.)


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6 comments on “Honest History website: ten years on and we are winding back a bit
  1. admin says:

    Thanks Ernst. On the defendingcountry.au website we interchangeably use the term ‘Frontier Wars’ which Henry Reynolds popularised, ‘The Australian Wars’, following Rachel Perkins’ documentary, and ‘The Australian Frontier Wars’ as something that should be properly recognised and commemorated at ‘The Australian War Memorial’. The Memorial itself can’t seem to get past ‘frontier conflict’ as its preferred term. The key articles on the Defending Country site can be found under the drop down menus About, especially FAQs, and Australian Frontier Wars, especially Why the Australian Frontier Wars are important. David Stephens

  2. Ernst says:

    I see you still use the expression ‘Frontier Wars’
    The people of Australia were defending their country against British invaders.
    Wars are usually described by reference to the place of the invader.
    So a more appropriate description would be The Australian War

  3. admin says:

    Thanks Steve.

  4. Leighton View says:

    Your enthusiasm, focus and doggedness is much appreciated, David. The country needs more like you and HH. Regards and long may the twin websites continue in order to promote clarity and thoughtfulness.

  5. admin says:

    Thanks Michael. Much appreciated. DS

  6. Michael McMullan says:

    Thank you David Stephens and all the amazing contributors from a lifelong amateur historian who is constantly seeking out what actually happened in history; not an easy task as you know, with so much populist rubbish around (“Nationalistic Histories about Dominion Supermen” – a quote from British Historian Gary Sheffield). Populist rubbish that, to my dismay, is displayed by bookshops in their “History” section. I am so grateful for your campaign against “Anzackery” and the myths about our soldiers. I believe we devalue the contribution of the many ordinary people like you and I who went to war in Australian uniform when we insist that they “changed the course of world history” (a quote from then Prime Minister Tony Abbot about the attack by two depleted brigades at Villers Bretonneux on the night of 24/25 April 1918). On one of my regular walks around Five Dock I pause at Seabrook Avenue to silently remember Fanny and William Seabrook’s three sons who were all killed on the same day in 1917. And my best Anzac Day was 2020 when Covid resulted in commemorations being restricted to gatherings at the end of driveways, instead of the orchestrated “Ta Ra Ra Boom De Ay”. And, yes, please let’s see commemoration of First Nations struggles in our national War Museum.

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