Reclaiming History: the unconventional legacies of a leading Aboriginal historian

Monday, 8 March 2021

Emeritus Professor John Maynard’s reputation as a trailblazer is well-deserved so it is only fitting that this historian, whose journey began with researching his own family’s history, is honoured in the InauguralJohn Maynard Aboriginal History Lecture.

Delivered by Distinguished Professor Larissa Behrendt, OA, during the opening of the Purai Global Indigenous History Centre at their new Newcastle city location, this lecture presents the unconventional legacies of Emeritus Professor John Maynard.

Challenging the orthodoxy within his discipline of history, privileging Indigenous voice and perspective and reclaiming Indigenous stories for First Nations people are just some of the themes Professor Behrendt will address in her lecture.

“His impact has been profound, inspiring the next generation of scholars to think differently and this lecture will reflect on that impact,” Professor Behrendt said.

Professor Maynard is one of Australia’s first Indigenous professors and has inspired Indigenous people from all walks of life to take control of their own history and make it nationally and internationally known.

With truth-telling as its backbone, the John Maynard Aboriginal History Lecture is planned as an annual event.

Man in camp holding book and smiling

As the Director of Research at the Jumbunna Indigenous House of Learning at the University of Technology Sydney, Professor Behrendt has had the opportunity to work with Professor Maynard on a number of projects.

One project culminated in a six-part webisode series profiling hidden historical figures, many of them sportsmen and women, in the Indigenous movement who have been icons in Professor Maynard’s life.

After the lecture, Associate Professor Pauline Clague will be launching Historical Indigenous Figures with John Maynard and previewing two episodes.

The films to be screened document the life of Aboriginal boxers and jockeys and their legacies both on and off the sporting fields.

Professor Maynard maintains that Aboriginal people and access to sport in Australia reveals a troubled past.

“Whilst both the AFL and NRL have, in the last 30 years, opened their doors to Aboriginal participation, in the past it was only a very few Aboriginal sportsmen and women who managed to break through these very restrictive and inhospitable spaces,"  Professor Maynard said.

“Boxing, on the other hand, was the sport where Aboriginal fighters got their chance such as Dave Sands and Lionel Rose who are regarded amongst the greatest Australian boxers of all time,” he said.

Professor Maynard maintains that his father, Mervyn Maynard, as well as Darby McCarthy were blessed with riding skills.

“They had beautiful soft hands to encourage horses to run like the wind and they were in partnership with the animals they rode,” he said.

After the John Maynard Aboriginal History Lecture and the film preview, Purai Co-Director, Professor Victoria Haskins will showcase the work of the Purai Global Indigenous History Centre, which brings together Indigenous scholars from all over the globe.

Professor Haskins will launch the official website of the project, Ayahs and Amahs: Transcolonial Servants in Australia and Britain 1780-1945.

“Purai is built on international networks and we know that there will be a great deal of interest in the planned livestream making it accessible to audiences everywhere,” she said.

In conjunction with the Wollotuka Institute and the Office of Indigenous Strategy and Leadership, Purai Global Indigenous History Centre will livestream this event on March 17 2021, from 4.30-6.10pm.

The event will be free to anyone who would like to access it.

Register here for the Inaugural Emeritus Professor John Maynard Aboriginal History Lecture, launch of the webisode series, Historical Indigenous Figures with John Maynard and the opening of the Purai Global Indigenous History Centre at their new city location.


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The University of Newcastle acknowledges the traditional custodians of the lands within our footprint areas: Awabakal, Darkinjung, Biripai, Worimi, Wonnarua, and Eora Nations. We also pay respect to the wisdom of our Elders past and present.