2019 Professor Jenny Hocking: Archival Secrets and Hidden Histories

You can now watch the lecture on ANU TV  or read it in the February 2020 edition of the Griffith Review.

About the lecture

The ANU Archives annual lecture for 2019 is 'Archival Secrets and Hidden Histories: Reasserting the Right to Public Access'.

Public access to archives is fundamental to writing and re-writing history, essentially determining what we can and cannot know about our own history. In this lecture Jenny Hocking will reflect on the critical role of archives, drawing on her biography of Gough Whitlam and The Dismissal Dossier. Revelations from the archives in these works transformed the history of Whitlam and the dismissal of his government by Governor-General Sir John Kerr on 11 November 1975. Yet key documents remain closed - the ‘Palace letters’ between the Queen and the Governor-General, held in the National Archives of Australia, are embargoed by the Queen.

How can we understand our history if we cannot access the documents that reveal it to us? Professor Hocking will consider this central problematic of archival research, control over access, focusing on her legal action against the Archives seeking the release of the Palace letters.

About the speaker

Professor Jenny Hocking is an award-winning political biographer and Emeritus Professor at Monash University, the inaugural Distinguished Whitlam Fellow with the Whitlam Institute at Western Sydney University and a Fellow of the Academy of Social Sciences.

Her biographies include the acclaimed two-volume biography of Gough Whitlam, Gough Whitlam: A Moment in History (2008) and Gough Whitlam: His Time (2012), winner of the Fellowship of Australian Writers’ Barbara Ramsden Award and shortlisted for major literary awards including the Prime Minister's Literary Awards, the National Biography Award, The Age Book of the Year and the Magarey Medal for Biography. Her latest book is The Dismissal Dossier: Everything You Were Never Meant to Know about November 1975 – the Palace Connection (2017).

Professor Hocking has a long-running legal action against the National Archives of Australia seeking access to the ‘Palace Letters’, between the Queen and the Governor-General Sir John Kerr at the time of the dismissal of the Whitlam government, which are embargoed by the Queen. She recently filed an application for Special Leave to Appeal before the High Court of Australia.

Dates and times


Room: Auditorium