Participant biographies

Presenting the Past is honoured to have the following academics and industry professionals appearing as panellists, chairs, masterclass mentors and keynote speakers.

Greg Appel has a wide range of experience in all aspects of media, from Online, Stage and TV to Radio. His best known work is the series “Long Way to the Top” about the history of Australian Rock music – which he produced for ABC TV in 2001 (recently re-screened for the third time).  Greg has also produced many Documentaries for ABC Radio National. In August he travelled to Yirikala in Arnhem Land to record a series of short documentaries for the Art Gallery of NSW on an upcoming exhibition.

Michelle Arrow: is an Associate Professor in the Department of Modern history at Macquarie University, where she teaches Australian history, history on film and television, and histories of popular culture. Michelle has a long interest in presenting her research in the media: she worked on a two part Hindsight series on Australian women playwrights (her PhD research) with Michelle Rayner in 1998, and in 2004 she was one of the presenters on the ABC TV history series Rewind. Michelle was a historical consultant for the Essential Media series Raising the Curtain  in 2012 and she was a member of the advisory board for the Prime Minister’s Prize for Australian History from 2008-2012. She has published two monographs, including Friday on Our Minds: Popular Culture in Australia Since 1945, which was shortlisted for the NSW Premier’s Australian History Prize in 2009, and she has published widely on the subject of history on television, both in Australia and overseas. In 2013, Michelle produced her first radio feature, Public Intimacies: the Royal Commission on Human Relationships, which was broadcast on ABC RN’s Hindsight in April. Michelle is also a frequent media commentator, both on radio and in print, and most recently featured on ABC RN Life Matters to discuss her research on the history of the Royal Commission on Human Relationships.

Mike Bluett has been producing television for 25 years in Europe, Australia and the US. He has worked in both factual and drama, long and short forms and a number of genres. He started his career as a factual producer making shows for ITV’s arts strand, The South Bank Show and then followed with primetime factual shows for Channel 4, BBC1, BBC2 and BBC3, Channel 5, Discovery and History Channel amongst others. He has produced a number of co-productions with European and US broadcasters. Since arriving in Australia in 2005, Mike has produced shows for Discovery, the ABC and the SBS.

Frank Bongiorno is Associate Professor of History at the Australian National University.  He is most recently the author of The Sex Lives of Australians: A History (Black Inc., 2012), which was shortlisted in the Australian History category in the Prime Minister’s Literary Award and New South Wales Premier’s History Award. Frank has published widely in both academic contexts and in the media.  He writes regularly for Inside Story, and was its London correspondent from 2008 until 2011.  He is currently a co-editor of History Australia, the journal of the Australian Historical Association.

Ray Cassin is a contributing editor at Eureka Street and Adjuct Research Fellow at the Institute for Social Research, Swinburne University. Ray is a former editor of the Saturday Review and Opinion sections of The Age. For eight years he was the paper’s chief leader writer.  He began his journalistic career as a cadet on The West Australian in 1980. In 1990 he worked at Jesuit Publications, where he helped found the magazine Eureka Street and while there he won a Walkley Award for headings in 1994. Ray holds a BA in philosophy (University of WA) and an MA in philosophy from Melbourne University, where he is a member of the BA advisory board. He has served as The Age’s representative on the Australian Press Council.

Phil Craig is an accomplished producer and writer. After over two decades of producing Phil finally crossed onto the commissioning side of the desk when he joined the ABC as Head of Factual in October 2012. As a lead executive at Diverse Productions and Joint Head of Programmes for Brook Lapping, his shows set ratings records and won awards in three continents. They included mainstream hits like The Flight That Fought Back, Live Aid Remembered, Ocean of Fear, Geldof in Africa and Catherine the Great; feature documentaries such as Blogwars for BBC Storyville, primetime history like Finest Hour, Churchill’s Darkest Decision and Diana, Story of a Princess; and the quirky nostalgia of Jackie Magazine and Phantom of the Opera: Behind the Mask.In Australia Phil exec produced and co-wrote a range of documentaries, as the British side of co-productions with Electric Pictures. Phil has co-written four history books including the best selling Finest Hour and Trafalgar: The Men, The Battle, The Storm.

Sunanda Creagh before joining The Conversation as News Editor, Sunanda Creagh worked for two years as a political and general news correspondent in the Reuters Jakarta bureau. Prior to that, she worked for five years as a reporter at The Sydney Morning Herald, where she covered general news, urban affairs, arts, features and sport. She also produced and presented a show for Sydney community radio station, 2SER fm.

Ann Curthoys is Honorary Professor at the University of Sydney and Fellow of the Academy of Social Sciences of Australia and the Australian Academy of the Humanities.

Dave Earl is a PhD candidate at the University of Sydney and blogs at

Alan Erson is General Manager and Head of Factual at Essential Media and Entertainment in Australia. Until June 2012 he was Head of TV Documentaries at the Australian Broadcasting Corporation. Under his stewardship the impact and reputation of ABC documentaries grew significantly in Australia and around the world. His five years at the ABC began as Commissioning Editor History, Science and Natural History Documentaries where he commissioned and executive produced over 130 hours of prime time documentary, factual TV and online content including the high praised and much watched The PM is Missing, How Kevin Bacon Cured Cancer and Contact. He is a board member of the Australian International Documentary Conference.

Tanya Evans is a Lecturer in the Department of Modern History at Macquarie University where she teaches Australian history and public history. She proactively disseminates her research on the history of the family, sexuality and poverty in the media and has acted as a consultant for museums and television production companies. She has worked with a range of television production companies in the UK and Australia, including RDF, Granada, Testimony Films, Ricochet, Black Diamond, Wall to Wall and the BBC all producing programs on the history of the family in Britain. She continues to work as a consultant for Artemis/Serendipty on the Australian series of Who Do You Think You Are. She also helped make an ABC Radio National Hindsight program broadcast earlier this year entitled Charity and Justice exploring the history of The Benevolent Society, Australia’s oldest surviving charity.

Alice Ford is a film and television writer/director/producer with a passion for telling history. She has over 15 years’ experience in documentary and factual television programming, specialising in history, science and natural history and working for a wide range of broadcasters. At WTFN Entertainment Alice is a senior producer in the company’s history unit. Her credits include: The People Speak Australia, 2012 (post producer); Lost and Found, 2011 (writer/director), Tony Robinson’s Time Walks Series 1 & 2, 2012/13 (producer); and Tony Robinson Explores Australia, 2011 (producer) for the History Channel. Prior to working at WTFN Alice has written/directed documentaries for SBS (Korean ANZACs, 2003) and the ABC (Ten Million Wildcats, 2000).

Catherine Freyne produces social history documentaries at ABC Radio National. She studied Australian history at UNSW where her honours thesis Terra Alterius looked at non-Indigenous anxiety about belonging in Australia. In 2010 Catherine was the SMSA-sponsored writer at the Dictionary of Sydney. In 2011 she curated the ABC Innovation/ABC Archives online project 80 Days That Changed Our Lives. In 2012 she won the NSW Premier’s History Award in the multimedia category for her Hindsight documentary Tit for Tat: The Story of Sandra Willson. Her latest Hindsight program Radical Economics investigates what happened when neoclassical economics gatecrashed the campus in Whitlam’s Australia, revealing the ideological crucible of the 70s and 80s in which the current generation of politicians and economic policy-makers cut their teeth. Catherine loves birds, underdogs and primary sources.

Bridget Griffen-Foley is the Director of the Centre for Media History at Macquarie University. She is editing A Companion to the Australian Media, to be published in mid-2014.

Katrina Gulliver holds a PhD from the University of Cambridge, and is a lecturer in history at the University of New South Wales. She is the author of Modern Women in China and Japan: Gender, Feminism and Global Modernity Between the Wars (2012). Her current book project focuses on urban identity in colonial port cities. Katrina hosts a podcast, Cities in History, and is on twitter @katrinagulliver; Web:

Mark Hamlyn is Senior Development and Production Executive at ScreenNSW.  Mark has held senior industry roles including Head of Television Documentaries and National Commissioning Editor, Documentaries at ABC TV: Head of Productioin and Executive Producer, Film Australia; and Head, Specialist Factual, Beyond International.  His recent documentary credits as Executive Producer include The Years That Made Us (ABC1) and Whitlam (ABC1).

Mark Hearn is a Lecturer in the Department of Modern History at Macquarie University and writes op eds for The Canberra Times.

Rachel Landers a PhD in history at the University of Sydney and a post-graduate directing diploma at the National Institute of Dramatic Art. Working in theatre after graduation she then moved into film as a writer/director and producer of drama and documentary. Most recently she made the feature documentary A Northern Town nominated for the prestigious UK Grierson Innovation award, a United Nations media award and was a finalist for best documentary in the Dendy’s and the Film Critics Circle of Australia. A Northern Town, which Rachel also shot, won an AFI for Best Cinematography and the 2009 Premiers Multimedia History Award and was in competition at FIFO in 2011. Rachel produced and shot the feature documentary The Snowman in 2010 selected for competition at IDFA; nominated for an AFI award for Best Feature Documentary and won the Foxtel Australian Documentary Prize. Rachel’s last film was the documentary The Inquisition screened on the ABC and France 1 and was in competition at FIFO in 2012. At the end of 2011 Rachel was awarded the 2011 NSW Premier’s History Fellowship and appointed Head of Documentary at the Australian Film, Television and Radio School. In 2012 she relaunched the AFTRS Documentary Department with a ground-breaking curriculum offering world class training in non-fiction filmmaking. This year, in addition to working at AFTRS, she began development on the ABC/Screen Australia funded documentary for the centenary of WW1 and is completing her first non-fiction book for New South Books that will be published in 2014.

Iain McCalman’s last book Darwin’s Armada: Four Voyages and the Fight for Evolution was published in Australia with Penguin books in mid-2009. It was the basis for a joint Canadian-Australian-German Three Part TV production, Darwin’s Brave New World, shown extensively in Australia, Canada, Europe, the US and China. It won a Silver Dragon award in China for Documentary Film and was nominated for a Logie in Australia. The book won the NSW Fellowship Prize for Non-Fiction, the Western Australia Premier’s Prize for History and the Frank Broeze Prize for Maritime History. It was shortlisted for seven other national and international awards. In accordance with his current ARC Discovery Grant he has just completed the manuscript for a new book for Penguin press, entitled The Reef — a Passionate History. This is due out in October 2013. He also holds an ARC Linkage Grant, ‘Cultures of Coast and Sea’, with Industry Partners, the Australian National Maritime Museum and Silentworld Foundation and as part of this grant has produced a series of research documentary films as a visual culture output based on chapters in the Great Barrier Reef book. These were written and presented by Iain, and included interviews with scientists, scholars and Indigenous experts. They are now being developed by Penguin into an enhanced e-book, and a separate educational website. Recent development funding from Screen Queensland has seen Iain write and narrate a short ‘promotional film’ for a projected three part (hour each) series based on his book, The Reef.

Alex McDermott is Associate Producer, Creative Fellow at State Library Victoria, senior researcher for television, and founding faculty member of the Melbourne branch of Alain de Botton’s School of Life, freelance historian Alex McDermott is the author of Australian History for Dummies [John Wiley and Son, 2011] and editor of Ned Kelly’s Jerilderie Letter [Text Media, 2001]. Previously the historical consultant for Screen Australia’s Making History Initiative [2006-2009], he has researched, consulted and appeared on a range of television productions, including Immigration Nation [SBS, 2011], Ned Kelly Uncovered [ABC, 2009] and the first two Australian series of Who Do You Think You Are? (SBS, 2006-8).

Lucy Maclaren is’ a’ graduate’ from’ Swinburne’ Film’ and’ Television’ school,’ Lucy’ started’ her’ career’ as’ a’casting’ consultant,’ assistant’ director’ and’ production’ manager’ as’ well’ as’ producing’ several’ short’ dramas’ and’ documentaries.’ She’ has’ been’ Investment’ and’ Project’ Manager’ at’ the’ Australian’ Film’ Commission’ and’ Film’ Victoria,’ and’ worked’ as’ a’ Line’ Producer’ on’ many’ feature’ film’ projects.’ In’ 1999′ she’ produced’ her’ first’ feature’ film’ Strange* Fits* Of* Passion* written’ and’ directed’ by’ Elise’ McCredie,’ which’ was’ accepted’ into’ Critic’s’ Week’ at’ the’ Cannes’ Film’ Festival.’ ‘ She’ has’ since’ produced’ the’ highly’ acclaimed’ dramatised’ documentary’ Love* Letters* From* A* War.’ ‘ Since’ 2008′ Lucy’ has’ been’ producing’ documentaries’ at’ Renegade’ Films’ including’ the’ three’ part’ series’ for’ SBS’ Immigration* Nation* and’ the’award’winning’Inside*The*Firestorm,*Utopia*Girls’and’Subtopia*for’the’ABC.”She’is’currently’working’on’ two’ light’ entertainment’ programs’ Studio* At* The* Memo* and’ Rockwiz,’ and’ developing’ several’ drama’ and’documentary’projects.

Phillipa McGuiness is Executive Publisher at NewSouth Publishing, where she publishes Australian History, memoir and biography, current affairs and politics. She is also working on developing various projects into television documentaries. She was formerly Senior Commissioning Editor at Cambridge University Press and a member of the Humanities and Creative Arts advisory committee of the Australian Research Council. She is a member of the board of RealTime Arts magazine.

Siobhán McHugh is an internationally recognised oral historian, writer and documentary-maker. She has made over 60 radio documentaries, written four acclaimed social histories and co-scripted international television documentary on the Irish diaspora (The Irish Empire). Her book, The Snowy – The People Behind the Power, won the NSW Premier’s Award for Non-Fiction, and is in its 13th edition. The accompanying radio series, featuring voices of migrant workers of 25 nationalities, languishes in ABC archives. She has been shortlisted twice for the NSW Premier’s History Award, for a book, Cottoning On, and a radio documentary, The Irish at Eureka: Rebels or Riff-Raff. She is founding editor of the forthcoming RadioDoc Review, an international journal of critical studies of the radio documentary form. Her latest documentary, Eat Pray Mourn (ABC 360 Documentaries), is a collaboration with an anthropologist that explores stories of violence, power and magical thinking in contemporary Indonesia. She is a Senior Lecturer in Journalism at the University of Wollongong.

Chris Masters is a journalist, author and broadcaster.  He worked at Australia’s longest running public affairs television program, Four Corners between 1983 and 2010. Chris has written four books, the most recent Uncommon Soldier (2012). The first was  Inside Story (1991) followed by Not for Publication (2002) and Jonestown (2006), the latter winning three awards, including ‘Biography of the Year’. He has written for a range of major newspapers and journals. ‘Mission Drift’ For The Monthly, on the Afghanistan conflict was reprinted in Melbourne University Press’ ‘Best Political Writing 2008’.  ‘Moonlight Reflections’, an account of corruption in the Bjelke-Petersen government for Griffith Review, was included in ‘Best Political Writing 2009’. Chris also teaches investigative journalism and film writing. He is the author and presenter of a three part history documentary series ‘The Years That Made Us’ recently broadcast on ABC.

Joseph Maxwell, Commissioning Editor, SBS. Before moving to Australia to take up his role as Commissioning Editor for Science and History at SBS, Joseph developed, directed and produced high end, prime time documentaries for most of the major broadcasters in Britain. He also set up his own production company. In Australia commissions include Dirty Business: How Mining Made Australia, Murdoch and Who Do You Think You Are. He also has a series of new international co-productions in development, in both science and history.

Mary-Ellen Mullane is an Investment Development Manager with Screen Australia. Mary-Ellen is responsible for Screen Australia’s slate of National Documentary Programs. Recent documentaries include: Whitlam: the Power and the Passion, Croker Island Exodus, Raising the Curtain: A History of Live Theatre, Singapore 1942: End of Empire. She overseas investment in approximately 25 hours of documentary per year. Before working at Screen Australia Mary-Ellen established her own documentary production company and produced a number of award-winning documentaries that screened both nationally and internationally.

Lisa Murray the City Historian and heads up the City of Sydney Council’s History Unit. She’s a committed public historian who is interested in the intersection between urban, local and family histories. Lisa is passionate about making history accessible to the public, and is a regular contributor to media coverage and debates around history, including most recently at TEDxSydney 2013.  She is the Chair of the Dictionary of Sydney, , an ambitious not-for-profit digital history project about greater Sydney, and a Councillor of the History Council of NSW, the peak body for history in this state. You can find her on twitter and facebook, as well as blogging for the Dictionary of Sydney.

Tom Murray shoots, directs, and produces films for television and cinema, and has a PhD in screen media and history. His debut documentary for ABC-TV Dhakiyarr vs the King won the 2005 NSW Premier’s History Award, the Dendy Award for Best Film at the 2004 Sydney Film Festival and was selected for many international film festivals including the 2005 Sundance Film Festival. Tom has worked in radio, film and television production for 15 years making feature documentaries, factual and reality TV series, and community films. His 2008 film In My Father’s Country for SBS-TV, a doco about life in a remote Australian indigenous Homeland, was selected for many major international festivals including IDFA Amsterdam and won the 2008 Australian Directors Guild Award for Best Direction in a Documentary Feature. Tom’s 2009 short drama Two Brothers at Galarra has also screened and won awards at international festivals. His work has screened on both public and commercial television and been selected for INPUT the International Public Television festival. He lectures at Macquarie University in screen media.

Yvonne Perkins is a researcher, communicator and trainer. She is well known for her work promoting conversation and understanding of history through her popular history blog, Stumbling Through the Past and Twitter.  Her analysis of the annual conference of the peak organisation for historians in Australia is currently featured on the home page of the Australian Historical Association.  Perkins is adept at many forms of research.

Michelle Rayner has been at the ABC for over twenty years, and has worked across the organisation, largely in radio. At Radio National, she’s produced science and arts programs, and began making history features in the mid 1990s. Michelle became Executive Producer of the Hindsight program slot in 2003, after spending a year at the BBC, producing documentaries and feature programs for Radio 4. Michelle has an MA in History, and in 1999 she won the NSW Premier’s History Audio-Visual award, for a documentary about the history of the Blue Mountains.

Alex West began his career as an archaeologist, is a Fulbright scholar and holds a graduate degree in anthropology. It was while working in this field he began to make films on archaeology. He joined the BBC in 1988 and among over 40 factual and doc series, formats and specials, Alex was an Executive Producer on the original BBC series of  ‘Who Do You Think You Are’? He has produced history programs for many of the world’s broadcast networks, including BBC, ABC, SBS, Nat Geo, Discovery, Channel 4, PBS, Five, and TLC. In Australia he produced Ned Kelly Uncovered and Utopia Girls presented by Dr Clare Wright, and currently nominated for the 2013 NSW Premiers award for history. In 2011 Inside the Firestorm, the story of the black Saturday bushfires, won 3 AFI’s as best feature length documentary. In 2012 Immigration Nation was nominated for the AACTA/AFI as Best Documentary Series. It was also nominated for the Prime Ministers prize for Australian History in 2012. In 2012 Alex produced Dirty Business: How Mining Made Australia for SBS. The series was variously reviewed as ‘truly groundbreaking’, and  ‘spellbinding’. He is just completing two contrasting history projects for ABC. The Art of Australia presented by Edmund Capon and Bodyline: The Ultimate Test presented by writer and comedian Adam Zwar.

Clare Wright is a freelance professional historian and Honorary Associate in the History Program at La Trobe University. Clare has worked as a political speechwriter, university lecturer, historical consultant and television presenter. She is the author of Beyond the Ladies Lounge: Australia’s Female Publicans (MUP, 2003) and The Forgotten Rebels of Eureka (Text, 2013) and has published widely in national and international scholarly journals. Clare has published social commentary and essays with an historical perspective in The Age, Meanjin, Overland and Crikey. Clare appeared as a regular panellist on six seasons of the ABC’s popular quiz show The Einstein Factor.  She has appeared as an expert interviewee in her field of Australian History on many television documentaries, including The Years That Made Us (ABC1), Dirty Business: How Mining Made Australia (SBS) and The Royal Wreck of Gold (Foxtel History Channel).  She has also worked as an historical consultant for television and radio documentaries. In 2012, Clare researched, co-wrote and presented the documentary Utopia Girls: How Women Won the Vote (Renegade Films/ABC1) which was nominated for the NSW Premier’s History Prize – Multimedia Category.  With Electric Pictures, Clare has recently developed and co-written a four part documentary series for ABC1 to commemorate the centenary of World War 1.  She is also consulting for Screentime on development of a docudrama for ABC1 based on her forthcoming co-authored book, Nedwood: True Adventures in Kelly Country.







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