Academics from the Australian National University (ANU) have been appointed Co-Directors of the Menzies Australia Institute (MAI) at King’s College London.
The MAI is the leading centre in the United Kingdom for the study of Australian society and culture, and is an essential hub for visiting academics and expatriate Australians in London.
The appointment results from a partnership agreement between King’s College London and the Australian Studies Institute at ANU. It is designed to foster deeper research synergies and promote teaching and student exchange.
The appointees are the historian Professor Martin Thomas and the senior lecturer in literary studies Dr Béatrice Bijon. Both have long experience as researchers and lecturers, and previously collaborated as producers of Etched in Bone (Ronin Films), a documentary film shot in Arnhem Land about the theft and repatriation of Indigenous human remains. The film had its UK premiere at the Menzies.
Thomas has been based at the ANU School of History since 2010 and is a regular interviewer for the oral history program at the National Library of Australia.
Bijon was curator of the National Library’s centenary exhibition on women’s suffrage in 2018, a project she oversaw alongside lecturing in the ANU School of Literature, Language and Linguistics.
The MAI is part of the School of Global Studies at King’s College London. Located on the Strand, the MAI is metres from the Australian High Commission, with which it works closely.
The theme for Thomas and Bijon’s directorship is ‘Bearing Witness’. They will be curating a program of podcasts and events that explores how the testimony and responsibilities of the witness are both heightened and challenged by global events. The podcast series will provide a quality resource for the teaching and promotion of Australian Studies in a time of pandemic.
About the co-directorship, Béatrice Bijon says:
‘This is a wonderful opportunity to advance the public engagement and research of the Menzies Australia Institute alongside the Advisory Board and its new Chair, Elizabeth Ames. 2021 will bring the UK/Australia Season of Culture with exciting events in which the MAI will partner’.
Martin Thomas says:
‘I’m delighted to be working alongside Béatrice and Elizabeth in London. They are the first women to hold their respective roles since the Menzies was created in 1982. We warmly acknowledge the long service of our outgoing director Dr Ian Henderson and the recent contribution of Professor Sean Ewan in developing King’s Indigenous Platform’.