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Associate Professor Wayne Reynolds

Associate Professor

School of Humanities and Social Science (History)

Encounters with national security

Associate Professor Wayne Reynolds is on a quest to unearth the real story of Australia's nuclear ambitions

Wayne ReynoldsA leading expert on Australian foreign and defence policies Wayne Reynolds has spent much of his career engaged in a delicate balancing act between the interests of historiography and the political, diplomatic and military imperatives of national security.

He is one of Australia's few historians to have one foot in the world of the academy, with its commitment to putting knowledge into the public domain, and the other in the world of defence departments and think-thanks, where documents lie behind closed doors and any new publication is carefully vetted by in-house editorial boards for consistency with official 'lines' and agendas.

Notwithstanding these constraints, delving into government archives to unearth confidential information about the behind-the-scenes discussions and machinations of Australian national security policy is a major strength of Wayne's research, and he uses it to challenge our understanding of the historical imperatives that have moulded contemporary defence strategies.

Wayne has managed to publish on sensitive topics such as Australian strategy and alliances during the Cold War, terrorism and asymmetrical warfare, the history of Labor's foreign policy, Australia's geopolitical role in South-East Asia, especially its relations with Indonesia, and recently Australia's case for nuclear submarines.

But he is best known for his often controversial work about what went on behind the scenes during the Cold War years as successive Australian governments grappled with the thorny question of whether or not to develop nuclear capabilities.

Although Australia ratified the International Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT) in 1973, and is often cited as a model of nuclear restraint, the story is not an open and shut case. In his book Australia's Bid for the Atomic Bomb, published in 2000, Wayne argued that from the end of World War II to the signing of the NPT, Australia vigorously pursued a program to acquire nuclear weapons and develop uranium enrichment facilities.

"The book challenged the conventional view that Australia had little interest in nuclear development either for military or non-military purposes. I tried to show that we very seriously looked at nuclear weapons and nuclear propulsion for military purposes."

The furore generated by the book led Reynolds to want to dig deeper still, to bring to light the full story of Australia's evolving attitudes and policies on nuclear deterrence, non-proliferation, uranium enrichment, and nuclear power. He had no idea it would consume the next nine years.

Since the task involved gaining access to classified documents, Wayne had first to obtain the consent of then Foreign Minister Alexander Downer. The proposal was approved in 2004, and the project proceeded with the assistance of the Director of the Historical Documents Project, Dr David Lee, who co-edited the final volume.

The process of locating classified documents and having them declassified was an arduous and at times frustrating business. Some file lists (the master indexes to documents) couldn't be found, including those relating to the activities of the mysterious Defence Atomic Developments Sub-Committee. Then, declassifying a document involved several layers of clearance by DFAT's International Security Division and editorial board, and, in the case of correspondence with a foreign power, also by that country's government.

The fruits of Wayne's labours were finally realised in September 2013 when Australia and the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, 1945-1974 was launched at an official event in Canberra. It is published under DFAT's Documents on Australian Policy series.

"Although it's an official publication, I didn't want it to be hagiography. I wanted to document Australia's nuclear journey warts and all."

The book provides final documentary evidence that Australia's decision to sign the NPT was no fait accompli. Far from it. In many quarters there were serious reservations about committing to the NPT, and a strong belief that Australia should develop its own defensive nuclear capability and be a key player in the nuclear arms race.

After years of disagreement, debate and vacillation, the position championed by the Department of External Affairs won out, and the Treaty was signed and ratified. But that's not the end of the story.

As 'compensation' for agreeing to the Treaty, Australia subsequently fought for concessions including the purchase of F111 aircraft to deliver nuclear warheads, the storage of US nuclear weapons on Australian soil, and the ability to enrich uranium beyond yellowcake for export.

Australia's secret tussles with the US about these concessions will form the subject of Wayne's next book. Suffice it to say, Australia's nuclear ambitions were ultimately thwarted by its major ally. Nevertheless, Australia still has the capabilities to manufacture nuclear weapons (one of 44 countries with such capabilities) and might in future revisit its position on acquiring them – a question Wayne has researched as part of an international study conducted by the University of Southampton (UK) and the James Martin Center for Non-proliferation Studies (US).

With his historically informed expertise on nuclear as well as conventional weapons and on the regional and global power plays of many nations, Wayne is frequently called upon to contribute to contemporary debates on such pressing issues as the current sanctions imposed on Iran, the future of Australia's maritime defences, and Australia's role in Southeast Asia.

As he says, "A historical perspective is vitally important. These debates go on. History doesn't stop."

Associate Professor Wayne Reynolds

Encounters with national security

Associate Professor Wayne Reynolds is on a quest to unearth the real story of Australia's nuclear ambitions

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Career Summary


Associate Professor Wayne Reynolds was born in Sydney and earned his Ph.D at the University of Newcastle. He won the Evatt Foundation International Essay Competition in 1988 and was later commissioned to co-author the Foundation's centennial biography of Evatt - Doc Evatt: Patriot, Internationalist, Fighter and Scholar. He has published numerous articles on Australian foreign and defence policies with an emphasis on developments since 1939. His most recent work is the monograph Australia's Bid for the Atomic Bomb published by Melbourne University Press, 2000.

Research Expertise
Main work has been on the History of Australian foreign and defence policy. Research projects have included the history of Labour Foreign policy, which resulted in the H.V. Evatt national prize and a co-authored book funded by the Evatt Foundation of Evatt. I have also written on Whitlam's foreign policy. I have worked extensively on Australia and nuclear weapons, publishing artictles and conference papers. This research resulted in a book and a documentary in 2001-2. Recent research has involved work on nuclear non-proliferation and relations with Indonesia. I have also published on Education with particular reference to Asian integration and the role of Higher Education in nuclear research and development. A feature of my research and research supervision is the use of government archives. I created a digital link to documents on the home page of the National Archives which now informs research on-line. My current project is a edited volume of government records on nuclear non-proliferation.

Teaching Expertise
I have taught widely in History but the focus in recent years has been on Australia and especially foreign relations. I offer a Twentieth Century survey course at 1000 level and courses on Australia and Asia; Australian and the Great Powers; and Australian War and Society at 3000 level. I run an issues in foreign relations course at Honours level and a 6000 distance course in this area. I have supervised to completion 3 PhDs and 1 MA in this field. In the past I coordinated a number of courses for teachers (History Method, Politics, Society and Culture) and for police (Policing practice, strategic studies).

Administrative Expertise
I have served in most administrative areas relevant to the Discipline (Honours coordination, Postgraduate coordination) and have acted as Deputy Head of School in Liberal Arts and now the expanded School of Humanities and Social Sciences (Ourimbah campus). I have served on Faculty Board, the Faculty Executive, Faculty CT&L, Academic Senate, University Council (and its Resources and Administration Committee, the Finance and Capital Committee Committee, Planning and Performance Committee, and various ad hoc committees).


  • PhD, University of Newcastle
  • Bachelor of Arts, University of Newcastle


  • Defence
  • History
  • International Affairs

Fields of Research

Code Description Percentage
080699 Information Systems not elsewhere classified 20
169999 Studies in Human Society not elsewhere classified 50
210399 Historical Studies not elsewhere classified 30

Professional Experience

UON Appointment

Title Organisation / Department
Associate Professor University of Newcastle
School of Humanities and Social Science

Academic appointment

Dates Title Organisation / Department
1/10/2004 - 1/12/2004 Consultant Nuclear Test Heritage Sites: Monash University
1/09/2002 - 1/01/2003 Consultant Centre for Defence and Strategic Studies, Canberra
1/01/1998 -  Lecturer University of Newcastle
School of Humanities and Social Science


Dates Title Organisation / Department
Coordinator - Security and Disarmament Commission Internation Peace Research Association


External Reviewer - Programs

Year Title / Rationale
2004 Atomic Weapons Testing Sites - Australian at War Project
Organisation: Cultural Heritage Centre for Asia and the Pacific Description: Authored heritage report.


Year Title / Rationale
2007 The History of Relations between Australia and the US
Organisation: Iowa City Foreign Relations Council Description: Promotion of Australian International Affairs courses.
2007 Australian Regional Policy and the Risk of Asymmetic War.
Organisation: Australian Homeland Security Centre Description: Invited to speak at the Inugural conference on terrorism sponsored by Centre for Homeland Security and subsequently to submit a paper for publication.
2006 Australia's Nuclear History
Organisation: ABC Radio National Description: Rewind: Documentary of Nuclear Weapons
2006 Internment in Australia in World War II
Organisation: National Archives of Australia Description: Invited to review the finished report conducted by the Archives.
2006 Nuclear Weapons and the Suez Crisis
Organisation: Ministere De La Defense Description: The French Ministry of Defence will produce a volume of essays in conjuction with Sorbonne University Press on the topic of the Suez Crisis - the 50th Annivesary
2006 Nuclear History Project
Organisation: Mountbatten Centre for International Studies Description: The project aims to produce a major publication on the Anglo-Australian nuclear tests.
2005 Issues in Contemporary Australian History.
Organisation: Kumamato University, Kyushu, Japan Description: An all-expenses paid invitation to lecture on Australian History, with particular reference to foreign relations, defence and Japanese relations.
2003 Australia's Secret Bid for the Atomic Bomb
Organisation: Film Australia Description: Film based on my 2000 book 'Australia's Bid for the Atomic Bomb'.
2003 'Britain, Australia, the Commonwealth and the Quest for an Independent Nuclear Deterrent.'
Organisation: King's College, London Description: Invited by the Menzies Centre, University of London, to co-sponsor conference in London on 20 Ocyober 2003:


For publications that are currently unpublished or in-press, details are shown in italics.

Book (4 outputs)

Year Citation Altmetrics Link
2013 Reynolds WM, Lee D, Australia and the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty 1945-1974, Australian Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade, Canberra, 471 (2013) [A1]
2000 Reynolds WM, Australia's Bid for the Atomic Bomb, Melbourne University Press, Melbourne, 284 (2000) [A1]
1997 Reynolds WM, Restructuring Security Concepts, Postures and Industrial Base, AFES Press, M, 255 (1997)
1994 Reynolds WM, Doc Evatt: Patriot, Internationalist, Fighter and Scholar, Longman Cheshire, Melbourne, 433 (1994)
Show 1 more book

Chapter (11 outputs)

Year Citation Altmetrics Link
2010 Reynolds WM, Simpson J, 'Australia: A potential future nuclear proliferator', Forecasting Nuclear Profileration in the 21st Century. Volume II: A Comparative Perspective, Stanford University Press, Palo Alto 285-301 (2010) [B1]
2009 Reynolds WM, 'Australian regional strategy, terrorism and the risk of asymmetric warfare', Doomed to Repeat? Terrorism and the Lessons of History, New Academia Publishing, Washington, DC 329-355 (2009) [B1]
2008 Reynolds WM, 'World War to Whitlam: The strategy, alliances and foreign policies of Australia's Cold War', Making Australian History: Perspectives on the Past Since 1788, Thomson, South Melbourne, VIC 493-501 (2008) [B2]
2006 Reynolds WM, '(Mis)adventures in Brinkmanship: Whitlam and the Governor-General', The Great Mistakes of Australian History, University of New South Wales Press, Sydney, New South Wales 203-218 (2006) [B1]
2003 Reynolds WM, 'Whatever Happened to the Fourth British Empire? The role of the Empire in Britain's quest for nuclear weapons', Cold War Britain, 1947-64: New Perspectives, Palgrave, London 127-142 (2003) [B1]
2003 Reynolds WM, 'In the Wake of Canada: Australia's Middle Power Diplomacy and the attempt to join the Atomic Special Relationship, 1943-1957', Parties Long Estranged: Australia and Canada in the Twentieth Century, British Columbia University Press, Vancouver 151-182 (2003) [B1]
1997 Reynolds WM, 'Labor Tradition, Global Shifts and the Foreign Policy of the Whitlam Government', Evatt to Evans: The Labor Tradition in Australian Foreign Policy, Allen & Unwin, St Leonards 110-130 (1997)
1997 Reynolds W, 'Menzies and the Proposal for Nuclear Weapons', Menzies in War and Peace, Allen & Unwin, St Leonards 116-137 (1997)
1997 Reynolds WM, 'The Dilemma of a Small Power: Australia's Bid for Nuclear Weapons, 1945-1968', Restrcuturing Security Concepts, Postures and Industrial Base, AFES Press, Mosbach, Germany 19-34 (1997)
1996 Reynolds WM, 'Dr H V Evatt: Foreign Minister for a small power', Brave New World: Dr H V Evatt and Australian Foreign Policy, University of Queensland Press, St Lucia 146-157 (1996)
1996 Reynolds WM, 'Imperial Defence after 1945', Australia and the End of Empires, Deakin University Press, Geelong 119-136 (1996)
Show 8 more chapters

Journal article (26 outputs)

Year Citation Altmetrics Link
2015 Reynolds W, '¿To the Brink of Manufacture¿: Nuclear Weapons, the Anglo-American Alliance and Australia¿s Approach to the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty', Australian Historical Studies, 46 269-284 (2015) [C1]
DOI 10.1080/1031461X.2015.1035287
2013 Reynolds W, 'Mad on Radium: New Zealand in the Atomic Age. By Rebecca Priestley.', Australian Historical Studies, 44 315-317 (2013) [C3]
DOI 10.1080/1031461x.2013.793246
2013 Reynolds WM, 'An Astute Choice: Anglo-Australian Cooperation on Nuclear Submarines in Historical Perspective', Security Challenges, 9 21-43 (2013) [C1]
2011 Reynolds WM, 'The yellow cake road: Malcolm fraser, the ranger enquiry and australia's role in the US international fuel cycle project', Australian Journal of Politics and History, 57 511-525 (2011) [C1]
DOI 10.1111/j.1467-8497.2011.01611.x
Citations Scopus - 3Web of Science - 2
2009 Reynolds WM, 'Imposing Peace and Prosperity', Australian Book Review, 310 47-48 (2009)
2008 Reynolds WM, 'Hiroshima', Australian Book Review, 303 31-32 (2008) [C3]
2008 Reynolds WM, 'Australia's quest to enrich uranium and the Whitlam government's loans affair', Australian Journal of Politics and History, 54 562-578 (2008) [C1]
DOI 10.1111/j.1467-8497.2008.00516.x
Citations Scopus - 6Web of Science - 4
2008 Reynolds WM, 'Everybody's offspring', Australian Book Review, 31-32 (2008) [C3]
2007 Reynolds WM, 'Maralinga', Australian Book Review, 295 36-37 (2007)
2007 Reynolds WM, 'Maralinga: Australia's Nuclear Waste Cover-Up', Australian Book Review, 36-37 (2007) [C3]
2006 Reynolds WM, 'Beyond White Australia: Australian Education and the Engagement of Asia after the Second World War', The International Journal of Learning, 13 7-14 (2006) [C1]
2004 Reynolds WM, 'Fact or Fission', Australian Book Review, 258 23-24 (2004)
2004 Reynolds WM, 'Other Peoples Wars', Australian Book Review, 265 15-16 (2004)
2003 Reynolds WM, 'On Writing about Australian Military History after the Second World War: The Need for Integration', Australian Historical Studies, 34 169-171 (2003) [C1]
DOI 10.1080/10314610308596244
2002 Reynolds WM, 'Loyal to the End: The Fourth British Empire, Australia and the Bomb, 1943-57', Australian Historical Studies, 33 38-54 (2002) [C1]
DOI 10.1080/10314610208596200
2001 Reynolds WM, 'What's this about nationhood? Imperial reorganisation and the Federation of Australia', Teaching History, 35 11-17 (2001) [C3]
2001 Reynolds WM, ''Strategy' maintains the status quo [the White Defence Paper]', Newcastle Herald, 9.01.01 1 (2001) [C3]
1999 Reynolds WM, 'The Wars that were Planned: Australia's Forward Defence Posture in Asia and the Role of Tactical Nuclear Weapons, 1945 - 1967', Australian Journal of International Affairs., 53 295-310 (1999) [C1]
1999 Reynolds WM, 'Transition to Power: Britain's Loss of Global Pre-eminence to the United States', Australasian Journal of American Studies, 18 91-93 (1999)
1999 Reynolds WM, 'Atomic Weapons and the Problem of Australian Security, 1946 - 1957', War and Society., 17 57-79 (1999) [C1]
1998 Reynolds WM, 'Planning the Defences of World War III: The Post-war British Empire and the role of Australia and South Africa 1943-1957', Historia, 43 72-90 (1998)
1998 Reynolds WM, '`Planning the Defenses of World War II: The Post-War British Empire and the Role of Australia and South Africa, 1943-1957'', Historia, 43 72-90 (1998) [C1]
1998 Reynolds WM, '`Rethinking the Joint Project: Australia's Bid for Nuclear Weapons, 1945-1960'', The Historical Journal, 41 853-873 (1998) [C1]
1996 Reynolds WM, 'Atomic War, Empire Strategic Dispersal and the Origins of the Snowy Mountains Scheme', War and Society, 14 121-144 (1996)
1993 Reynolds WM, 'The Trojan War', Teaching History, 27 11-19 (1993)
1993 Reynolds WM, 'Redefining the Relationship between Schools and Universities', Teaching History, 27 27-34 (1993)
Show 23 more journal articles

Conference (5 outputs)

Year Citation Altmetrics Link
2010 Reynolds WM, 'Nuclear rollback after the Cold War', IPRA 2010 Communicating Peace: International Peace Research Association conference: Abstracts (2010) [E3]
2007 Reynolds WM, 'Whatever happened to the Colombo Plan: Australian education and the engagement of Asia', 2007 HICE proceedings (2007) [E1]
2002 Reynolds WM, 'An Australian Perspective on the Origins of the Vietnam War', Vietnam Veterans Counselling Service (2002) [E2]
2002 Reynolds WM, 'A Scholar of Australian War and Diplomacy: The Views and Methods of Eric Andrews', War, Society and Culture: Approaches and Issues: Selected Papers from the 2001 Symposium organised by the Research Group for War, Society and Culture (2002) [E2]
2001 Reynolds WM, 'What's this about independence? Imperial reorganisation and the Federation of Australia, 1856-1932', Federation: National Unity Past and Present (2001) [E2]
Show 2 more conferences

Report (1 outputs)

Year Citation Altmetrics Link
2015 Reynolds WM, 'Australian National Interest and 2015 Defence White Paper', Department of Defence, 7 (2015) [O1]

Research Supervision

Number of supervisions


Total current UON EFTSL


Current Supervision

Commenced Level of Study Research Title / Program / Supervisor Type
2016 PhD Australia's Greta and Powerful Friends: A Study in Regional Engagement and the Implications of Strategic Dependence
PhD (History), Faculty of Education and Arts, The University of Newcastle
Principal Supervisor
2015 PhD General George Brinton McClellan Union Army
PhD (History), Faculty of Education and Arts, The University of Newcastle
Principal Supervisor
2013 PhD The Enduring Commitment: Australian Middle East Strategy, 1885 to 2015
PhD (History), Faculty of Education and Arts, The University of Newcastle
Principal Supervisor
2013 PhD The Geo-Political Imperative: Continuity in Australia¿s Regionalism, Great Power Alliances and Policy Making Assessments, 1859 ¿ 1941
PhD (History), Faculty of Education and Arts, The University of Newcastle
Principal Supervisor
2008 PhD Military and Civil Defence Planning in South-Eastern Australia, 1932-1945
PhD (History), Faculty of Education and Arts, The University of Newcastle
Principal Supervisor

Past Supervision

Year Level of Study Research Title / Program / Supervisor Type
2015 PhD The Electricity Commission of New South Wales and its Place in the Rise of Centralised Coordination of Bulk Electricity Generation and Transmission 1888 - 2003
PhD (History), Faculty of Education and Arts, The University of Newcastle
Principal Supervisor
2015 PhD Within Reach, Beyond Care: An Examination of Medical Care During the Papuan (Kokoda) Campaign 1942-43 Through the Lens of the Australian Field Ambulance
PhD (History), Faculty of Education and Arts, The University of Newcastle
Principal Supervisor
2014 PhD From Southern Africa to the Great Lakes Region: Challenges to Tanzanian Foreign Policy and Conflict Resolution in Sub-Saharan Africa
PhD (History), Faculty of Education and Arts, The University of Newcastle
Principal Supervisor
2005 PhD Reducing the Margin of Ignorance: The Contribution of Intelligence to Royal Australian Navy Operations 1939-1972
PhD (History), Faculty of Education and Arts, The University of Newcastle
Sole Supervisor
2003 Masters Engaging the Near North: 1931-1941. Australian Regional Initiatives from the Manchurian Crisis to the Onset of the Pacific War
M Arts (History) [R], Faculty of Education and Arts, The University of Newcastle
Sole Supervisor
2003 PhD Evatt to Barwick: Australia's Regional Policy and the Problem of 'Great and Powerful Friends'
PhD (History), Faculty of Education and Arts, The University of Newcastle
Sole Supervisor
2003 PhD Desire for Social Justice: Equal Pay, the International Labour Organisation, and Australian Government Policy, 1919-1975
PhD (History), Faculty of Education and Arts, The University of Newcastle
Principal Supervisor


Defence cluster conference

Defence cluster ignites engagement

August 28, 2014

The University of Newcastle Defence Security and Innovation Cluster showcase has highlighted how the work of the University's top defence researchers is being applied to solve real life challenges.

A/Prof Wayne Reynolds

Australian attitudes to Nuclear weapons

May 5, 2014

University of Newcastle scholar's book documents Australia's historical attitudes to Nuclear weapons.

Associate Professor Wayne Reynolds


Associate Professor
School of Humanities and Social Science
Faculty of Education and Arts

Focus area


Contact Details

Phone (02) 4921 5214
Fax (02) 4921 6940


Room MCLG25
Building McMullin Building
Location Callaghan
University Drive
Callaghan, NSW 2308