Tuesday, June 01, 2010

Australian Policy and History Web Site

Those who read this blog on a regular basis will know that I often try to provide a historical context to the policy, management and political material that I write. You may also know that I am an adjunct of the University of New England's Heritage Futures Research Centre.

Founded in 2001, the Centre aims to consolidate the University's range of expertise and research relating to the natural and cultural history and heritage of regional Australia, and to facilitate the sharing of values, information and expertise among scholars, professionals and the broader community. The approach is multidisciplinary, something that I strongly support.

Now the Centre has combined with the Alfred Deakin Research Institute at Deakin University, the History Council of New South Wale and the Australian National University to establish Australian Policy & History.

The new venture's slogan - linking the past with the present for the future - summarises its aim: to link historians with policy-makers, the media and the Australian public. It aims to inform public debate and promote better public policy-making through an understanding of history.

I think that this is a very good idea.

I have indicated many times that I do not believe that there is any such thing as the lessons of history. I have also often discussed the problems of selection, perception and bias that all historians face. Then, too, I have expressed concerns about the way that, at least as as I perceive it, history is twisted to support current nostrums.

Why, then, do I think that Australian Policy & History is a good idea? Surely it must be twisted by the very things that I talk about?

Accepting the risk of perceptual bias, accepting that there are no lessons in history, I also have no doubt that Australian public policy broadly defined would be better if all those concerned had a better understanding of the past. Simply put, it reduces the risks of repeating past errors, stops us reinventing the wheel. In so doing, it adds to the rigour of policy debate.

The site is still very new. It will take a little while to build content and to properly define its role. In the meantime, why not visit? Better still, why not contribute?

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