National History Challenge essays cover many strands of our history

The National History Challenge winners for 2014 have been announced. The national young historian was Angus Christie, a Year 5 student from The Friends School in Hobart, for his film on changing perspectives on Australia’s participation in the Vietnam War. The state and territory young historians were James Blaxill (WA), Annabel Lane (SA), Luan Tian (Vic.), Youn Jee Min (NSW), Leah Murray (Qld), Casssandra Savvas (NT), Ineke Vogt (ACT) and Angus Christie.

The Challenge is a research-based competition for students. It encourages students to research world history, their community and their own roots and then present the results of their research. There are categories from primary to Year 12 as well as various topical categories. This year the main theme was ‘Changing Perspectives’ and the special topics were Asia and Australia, Australian democracy, Australian heritage, women’s history, Australian wartime experiences, and the life and times of John Curtin. There were also categories on using archival records and for producing a museum exhibit. There were national and state winners in each category.

The Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister for Education, Senator Scott Ryan, also announced continuing funding for the Challenge ($365 000 over the next three years) and for the separate Simpson Prize ($606 000 over three years, the higher costs arising from the need to fund travel to Gallipoli for prize winners). Honest History has analysed the Simpson Prize, which is an essay competition for Year 9 and 10 students.

Some of the essays this year were on relations between European settlers and Indigenous Australians, migration and multiculturalism, Australian military history and the Anzac legend, the Chinese Revolution, and slavery in the United States. Next year’s theme will be ‘Leadership and Legacy’ and there will be special categories on Federation and the legacy of Sir Robert Menzies. Senator Ryan’s speech this year discussed aspects of history, the national history curriculum, Sir Robert Menzies, Federation and Magna Carta.

As well as the national and state and territory young historians there were over 90 category prize winners. Around 40 schools across Australia were represented among the winners. In 2013 more than 6000 students took part in the Challenge though 2014 entry figures are not yet available.

The Challenge is organised and run by the History Teachers’ Association of Australia and is sponsored by a number of federal departments and cultural institutions, the Asia Education Foundation, the Australian National Commission of UNESCO, the John Curtin Prime Ministerial Library at Curtin University, the National Foundation for Australian Women, and the National Trust of Australia. The Menzies Foundation will be providing money for the 2015 competition. The Challenge is supported by the Australian Government through the Quality Outcomes Programme, administered by the Australian Government Department of Education.

9 December 2014


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