Arguably, Baz Luhrmann's Australia is the most ambitious, creative and expensive engagement with our nation's past since the opening of the National Museum of Australia in 2001. In December 2009, Shino Konishi and Maria Nugent convened a conference on the film at the National Museum of Australia, generously supported by the Museum’s Centre for Historical Research and the Australian Centre for Indigenous History.
The conference presented scholars and students with an opportunity to review and extend initial debates about Australian history and identity that Luhrmann's re-visioning of Australia's past provoked. Papers and panels explored the myriad ways in which the film (along with other films, fictional and non-fictional texts, and histories) engaged with Australia's national history, self-fashioning, and identity.
The keynote address, ‘Transnational Glamour, National Allure: on preferring Baz Luhrmann to Zhang Yimou’, was given by Professor Meaghan Morris, Chair Professor of Cultural Studies, Lingnan University (Hong Kong) and Professor of Gender and Cultural Studies, University of Sydney. Professors Lynette Russell (Monash) and Ann Curthoys (University of Sydney) contributed to the plenary session.
Maria and Shino have recently guest edited a special volume of Studies in Australasian Cinema (4:2), which presents a collection of articles based on papers given at the conference. They have also published an essay on the conference, ‘Reviewing Indigenous History in Baz Luhrmann’s Australia’, in Inside Story. In 2011, they each published an article on Aboriginal history and Baz Luhrmann's "Australia". Shino's article 'The four fathers of Australia: Baz Luhrmann's depiction of Aboriginal history and paternity in the Northern Territory' appeared in History Australia, 8 (1), 2011, and Maria's article 'Every right to be there': Cinema spaces and racial politics in Baz Luhrmann's Australia' was published in Australian Humanities Review, Issue 51, 2011.
Image: ©Twentieth Century Fox