Andrew Markus

andrew-markusAndrew Markus holds the Pratt Foundation Research Chair of Jewish Civilisation. Educated at the University of Melbourne (BA Hons) and LaTrobe University (PhD), Markus came to the Monash School of History as a lecturer in 1984, specifically to fill two significant gaps in the School’s Australian history program: the histories of Aboriginal-White relations and of post-war immigration (Davison 2006: 14). He was promoted to Professor in 2001 and elected FASSA 2004.

Markus was Head of Monash University’s Department of History (1995–96). As the first full-time Director of the Australian Centre for Jewish Civilisation (2001–2006), he secured significant community endowment of academic positions and was successful in building Australia’s largest program of Jewish studies.

Research expertise: the history of immigrant communities in settler societies; Australian immigration policy; Aboriginal-White relations; racial thought; the structure of antisemitic thought and its contemporary variants; history of Yiddish Melbourne; demographic mapping of Australia’s contemporary Jewish community; social cohesion in contemporary Australia. A child immigrant himself (a refugee from Hungary after the 1956 revolution), Markus is attuned to the migration experience and its accompanying issues of racial tolerance and social integration.

General source: Graeme Davison, History as Vocation (Clayton: Monash University, School of Historical Studies, 2006).


As author:

Race: John Howard and the Remaking of Australia (2001); Australian Race Relations 1788–1993 (1994); Governing Savages (1990); Fear and hatred: Purifying Australia and California, 1850–1901 (1979).

As co-author:

Australia’s Immigration Revolution (2009) (with James Jupp and Peter McDonald); The 1967 Referendum (1997, 2007) (with Bain Attwood).

As editor and co-editor:

Immigration and Nation Building: Australia and Israel Compared (2010) (with Moshe Semyonov); Building a New Community: Immigration and the Victorian Economy (2001); Blood from a Stone: William Cooper and the Australian Aborigines’ League (1988); Surrender Australia: Essays in the Study and Use of history: Geoffrey Blainey and Asian Immigration (1985) (with Merle Ricklefs); Who are Our Enemies?: Racism and the Australian Working Class (1978) (with Ann Curthoys).

Documentary collections (with Bain Attwood):

The Struggle for Aboriginal Rights. A Documentary History (1999); Thinking Black. William Cooper and the Australian Aborigines’ League (2004).

Governing Savages, North Sydney: Allen & Unwin Australia P/L, 1990, x, 214p.

This book assesses the impact of European actions on Aborigines in the Northern Territory in the first half of the twentieth century and addresses four main issues: whether the popular idea that Aborigines were a race biologically doomed to a natural and inevitable extinction was merely an idea in the minds of white Australians or a basic assumption that informed and drove government policy; the treatment of Aborigines by whites at key points of contact, on pastoral stations, Christian missions, by government agents and the judicial system; the value system that whites used to justify their treatment of Aborigines and the main challenges to the dominant racist paradigm that emerged from the 1920s. The book formed part of the Allen & Unwin series on Aboriginal history and race relations, intended to provide solidly researched and documented texts for Aboriginal studies units at high school or undergraduate levels.

The book was hailed as one of the first publications to spell out the overall white policy towards Aborigines in the Northern Territory—and, by extension, in the nation as a whole, since the Northern Territory, although an isolated outpost of European settlement, was, from 1911, governed directly by the Commonwealth parliament. Moreover, as the author comments, ‘Formulation and implementation of policy in the Territory was a reflection of the values and distribution of power throughout the nation’ (ix). The text ‘covers many subjects not previously treated at this critical level’ (Mulvaney1991: 165).

Markus delivers a clear account of the inhuman and brutal way Aborigines were treated during this period, graphically complementing the narrative with harrowing and heart-breaking contemporaneous photographs. He does not attempt to explore the Aborigines’ own perspectives on the events described – though several of his subsequent books were to do just that. Nonetheless the author’s empathy for the Aboriginal people is captured in the word play of the book’s title, where a blurring of subject and object (linguistically ‘class’ and ‘function’) creates its own fierce irony. Reviewers detected a sense of distance between the policies adopted and their impact, perhaps reflecting the lack of involvement by white governors in the Aboriginal question, between the administrative centre of the Federal Government in Canberra and the Northern Territory itself.

The book was one of the historical studies that informed the Human Rights Commission Inquiry into the separation of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children from their families, see Bringing Them Home(1997), and in particular Chapter 9: The Northern Territory.

Selected reviews and sources: Aboriginal History 15/2 (1991), 164–5 (John Mulvaney); Ethnic and Racial Studies 17/4 (1994), 717–8 (Alison Palmer); Bringing them Home, Report of the National Inquiry into the Separation of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Children from Their Families, Human Rights and Equal Opportunity Commission, April 1997

Australian Race Relations 1788–1993. Sydney: Allen and Unwin, 1994, xvi, 266p.

Australian Race Relations was only the third attempt to write a general history of Australian race relations and established the author as ‘the leading historian of race relations in Australia’ (Read 1997: 117). One reviewer wrote, ‘The scope, originality and underlying framework of social analysis distinguish this volume … from its two predecessors …’ (Collins, 1996: 91). The narrative is broad in chronological scope, geographical area and subject matter. The Australia experience is first located within the Western cultural idea of race. The main part of the book is then taken up with descriptive and analytical treatments of four overlapping phases of Australian race relations, as affecting the indigenous population and successive waves of immigrants in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. The aim was ‘to further understanding of broad patterns’ rather than present the history of specific groups’ (xvi).

The timing of the book’s publication was seen to be significant, ushering in a period of what one reviewer described as ‘historiographical cleansing’: efforts to exorcise the spectre of White Australia with all that implied in terms of a commitment to racial homogeneity and establish a better model. As Markus wrote (221), referencing Paul Keating’s historic 1992 Redfern speech, ‘Despite the efforts of conservative critics to prevent a rewriting of Australian history there was by the early 1990s a willingness openly to acknowledge the wrongs of the past’. There are many chapters in Australia’s immigrant history that challenge Anglo-Celtic Australians’ image of themselves as ‘egalitarian, tolerant, democratic people, citizens of a county characterised by the rule of law and the ethics of a “fair go”’ (xii). Primarily, however, it is the very survival of the Aboriginal people that causes greatest unease to people who think about it as do the historians who document it. Narratives of dispossession and attempted genocide unsettle and disturb. In the early 1990s, immigration, particularly non-European immigration, and Aboriginal issues, continued to be of political significance. In the words of one reviewer, ‘Having a belief system which is ethnocentric seems to fuel a righteous greed within humankind which denies those who are different from ourselves civil rights, ownership of property, status within the human community and ultimately the right to life itself’ (Egloff 1998: 232).

Selected reviews: Journal of Intercultural Studies 17/1–2 (1996), 91–2 (Joan Collins); Labour History 72 (May 1997), 204–11, esp. 205–6 (Eric Richards); Journal of Sociology 33 (1997), 117–9 (Peter Read); Aboriginal History 22 (1998) 231–2 (Brian Egloff).

Race: John Howard and the Remaking of Australia. Sydney: Allen and Unwin, 2001, xv, 270p.

The point of departure for this study was the election of 1996, whose result saw the issue of race re-enter Australian political life. Two independents were elected who campaigned heavily on racist issues. One of them, Pauline Hanson, quickly became the second most talked-about Australian politician in the country. Discussion of native title and immigration dominated the headlines, and talk-back radio provided an outlet for intolerant and bigoted views.

According to Markus, John Howard was ‘instrumental in determining the role of race politics within an unfolding Liberal agenda’ (xv). The election of the Howard government in 1996 ended an established consensus between the major political parties on central aspects of immigration, settlement and Aboriginal matters. ‘Immigration intakes were cut; government advocacy of multiculturalism ended; assistance to immigrants was curtailed. Hundreds of millions of dollars were cut from Aboriginal programs; the government moved to legislate to diminish rights won by Aborigines in the Mabo and Wik cases’ (Barker 2001: 14).

Markus argues that these actions were the culmination of ideas that entered the national debate in the early 1980s. He discusses the contributions of historian Geoffrey Blainey and mining executive Hugh Morgan to the New Right value system that Howard embraced and embodied, and articulated in his influential 1988 policy statement ‘One Australia’. ‘By the early 1990s, the juxtaposition of one nation/many nations/divided nation had become a central feature of political consciousness’ (80), while the epithet ‘One Nation’ bore poisonous fruit in Hanson’s racist politics. According to Markus, Howard welcomed Hanson’s initial forays into race politics because her extremism and her popularity helped damage his opponents without the need for him to adopt overtly extremist positions (Barker 2001: 15).

Reviewing the book in 2001, Geoffrey Barker wrote that ‘Racism is as Australian as billy tea and gum-nuts’ (14), a disturbing proposition for those who wish to believe in Australia’s allegedly benevolent multiculturalism. Markus admits that race has an old history in the making of the Australian nation, but asks why it re-emerged at this particular historical moment (one of several episodes of fierce public debate, and probably not the last)—and who benefited from the decisions taken. The author makes no claim that the book is value free, but it ‘presents an argument and the reading of evidence on which it is based’ (xv). The political players may have changed but the issues remain the same as the twenty-first century unfolds—Aboriginal rights, immigration policy and the protection of borders—as does the challenge and the lesson of history: that there is no evidence ‘that simplistic populist attempts to sway public opinion and foster race-based nationalism contribute significantly in the long term to the well-being of a society’ (xv).

The book was shortlisted in two categories for the NSW Premier’s Literary Awards, 2002: the Community Relations Commission Award and the Glee Books Prize for Literary and Cultural Criticism.

Review: Dissent (Spring 2001), 14−15, 64 (Geoffrey Barker).

General Source: Clive Moore, ‘Race Relations’, Oxford Companion to Australian History, ed. Graeme Davison, John Hirst and Stuart Macintyre (Oxford University Press, 2001): 540−1.

Current research:

Since 2001 Markus has mainly worked collaboratively and his interests have moved on from the focus on government and policies of race. A large-scale ARC-funded Linkage project, Gen08: the Australian and New Zealand Jewish Population Study, is looking at the contemporary Jewish community in unprecedented depth. More than 6000 respondents completed a questionnaire, which has provided a detailed picture of modern Jewish life and generated a series of theme-specific research reports and publications. Eleven reports published to 2014 may be found at

A concurrently held ARC Discovery project, also concerning the Jewish population, is an attempt to write a multi-generational history of an immigrant community, to understand those who migrated between 1920 and 1955, the world that they created, and the way in which opportunities of life in Australia altered their values and shaped their children and grandchildren. It explores the immigrants’ aspirations to preserve the values and institutions that marked their socialisation, an outlook that was profoundly shaped by the Holocaust and the struggle to establish Israel. It then proceeds to explore the experiences of the second and third generations.

As the senior researcher for the Scanlon Foundation’s Mapping Social Cohesion project, Markus is tracking changes in Australian attitudes towards immigrants and asylum seekers through a series of national and local surveys. Focused on the present day, these surveys provide, for the first time in Australian social research a series of detailed reports on social cohesion, immigration and population issues. A prime objective of the surveys is to further understanding of the social impact and successes of Australia’s increasingly diverse immigration program. By probing below the rhetorical surface, the results provide “nuanced” analyses, rather than a one-dimensional response to immigration. They are also providing the basis for evidence-based discussion of an issue that has emerged as a major political concern. Markus produced seven national reports between 2007 and 2014 and four reports on local area surveys, as well as surveys which focused on third generation Australians and on recent arrivals. The reports may be found at

Sources (social cohesion research): David Marr, ‘Australia in 2014’, The Guardian, 28 October 2014; David Marr, ‘Race, votes and free speech’, The Saturday Paper, 5 April 2014


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