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Judith Brett Judith Brett i(A21030 works by)
Born: Established: 1949 ;
Gender: Female
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Academic and writer.

Judith Brett completed a PhD on Hugo von Hofmannsthal (an Austrian literary prodigy) at Melbourne University in 1980.

During the 1980s, she was editor of Meanjin (1982-86) and the Times on Sunday (1987), before beginning her career in political studies at La Trobe University in 1989. During the late 1990s, she wrote a fortnightly column for the Melbourne Age. She has contributed regularly to the Monthly and has written three Quarterly Essays (as at 2018).

Since 1989, Brett has published regularly on political topics, including a political biography of Robert Menzies, a study of the Howard government, and a biography of Alfred Deakin.

Robert Menzies' Forgotten People won the Ernest Scott Prize (1992-1993), the Victorian Premier's Literary Award (1993) and the NSW Premier's Literary Award (1993). Her work Australian Liberals and the Moral Middle Class (Cambridge University Press, 2003) won the 2004 Ernest Scott History Prize.

In 2018, she was emeritus professor of politics at La Trobe University.

In 2019, her From Secret Ballot to Democracy Sausage: How Australia got Compulsory Voting was shortlisted for the Queensland Literary Awards (History). In 2020, it was longlisted for the Colin Roderick Award and shortlisted for the Prime Minister's Literary Award (Australian history).

Most Referenced Works


  • Other works not individually indexed include:

    The coal curse : resources, climate and Australia's future (2020)

Personal Awards

2020 shortlisted Prime Minister's Literary Awards The Prime Minister's Prize for Australian History for 'From Secret Ballot to Democracy Sausage'.
2004 winner Ernest Scott Prize for Australian Liberals and the Moral Middle Class: from Alfred Deakin to John Howard

Awards for Works

y separately published work icon The Enigmatic Mr Deakin Enigmatic Mister Deakin Melbourne : Text Publishing , 2017 11523887 2017 single work biography

'This insightful and accessible new biography of Alfred Deakin, Australia’s second prime minister, shines fresh light on one of the nation’s most significant figures. It brings out from behind the image of a worthy, bearded father of federation the gifted, passionate and intriguing man whose contributions continue to shape the contours of Australian politics.

'The acclaimed political scientist Judith Brett scrutinises both Deakin’s public life and his inner life. Deakin’s private papers reveal a solitary, religious character who found distasteful much of the business of politics, with its unabashed self-interest, double-dealing, and mediocre intellectual levels. And yet politics is where Deakin chose to do his life’s work.

'Destined to become a classic of biography, The Enigmatic Mr Deakin is a masterly portrait of a complex man who was instrumental in creating modern Australia.' (Publication Summary)

2019 shortlisted Ernest Scott Prize
2018 shortlisted Prime Minister's Literary Awards The Prime Minister's Prize for Australian History
2018 longlisted 'The Nib': CAL Waverley Library Award for Literature
2018 longlisted CHASS Australia Prizes Australia Book Prize
2018 shortlisted Queensland Literary Awards History Book Award
2018 shortlisted Queensland Literary Awards Non-Fiction Book Award
2018 shortlisted New South Wales Premier's History Prize Australian History Prize
2018 winner National Biography Award
2018 shortlisted ASAL Awards The Australian Historical Association Awards Magarey Medal for Biography
2018 longlisted Kibble Literary Awards Nita Kibble Literary Award
2018 shortlisted New South Wales Premier's Literary Awards Douglas Stewart Prize for Non-Fiction
2018 longlisted Australian Book Industry Awards (ABIA) Australian Biography of the Year
y separately published work icon Robert Menzies' Forgotten People Chippendale : Pan Macmillan Australia , 1992 Z1414032 1992 single work biography

'In 1941, RG Menzies delivered to war-time Australia what was to be his richest, most creative speech, and one of his most influential. 'The Forgotten People' was a direct address to the Australian middle class, the "people" who would return him to power in 1949 and keep him there until his retirement in 1966.

'Who were these "forgotten people"? The middle class pitting their values of hard work and independence against the collectivist ethos of labour? Women, shunning the class-based politics of men? The parents of Menzies' childhood in the small country town of Jeparit? Australians struggling to maintain a derivative culture at the edges of the British Empire? Or all of them, in a richly over-determined image that takes us to the heart of Menzies' mid-life political transformation?

'Judith Brett deftly traces the links between the private and public meanings of Menzies' political language to produce compelling insights into the man and the culture he represented.' (Publisher's blurb)

1992-1993 winner Ernest Scott Prize
1993 winner Victorian Premier's Literary Awards A. A. Phillips Prize for Australian Studies
1993 winner New South Wales Premier's Literary Awards Douglas Stewart Prize for Non-Fiction
y separately published work icon Meanjin Meanjin Papers; Meanjin Quarterly 1940 Brisbane : Meanjin Press , 1940-1944 Z838453 1940 periodical (322 issues)

The first issue of Meanjin was published at Brisbane in 1940, containing the poems of Clem Christesen, James Picot, Brian Vrepont and Paul Grano. Christesen was the founding editor and remained in that position until 1974, attempting to produce a 'journal of ideas, built around books, to encourage free expression and intelligent criticism, to put forward "advance guard" material, develop contacts abroad--a Literary Lend-lease'. To this end, Christesen attracted a diverse group of writers from Australia and overseas. In the 1940s Australian writers included poets such as Harold Stewart, Harry Hooton, Peter Hopegood, Max Harris, Rex Ingamells, Hugh McCrae and R. D. FitzGerald ; critics such as Vance and Nettie Palmer, A. R. Chisholm and R. G. Howarth; fiction writers such as Xavier Herbert and Katharine Susannah Prichard; and a variety of other commentators such as Norman Bartlett, Lloyd Ross, Brian Fitzpatrick and Manning Clark. Overseas writers whose work appeared in Meanjin included Anais Nin, Arthur Koestler and Jean-Paul Sartre. Accompanying the work of these writers were sketches, designs and woodcuts from a number of visual artists, including Margaret Preston, Frank Medworth, Noel Counihan and Roy Dalgarno.

Following an offer by Melbourne University to publish and manage the magazine, Christesen and his wife, Nina, moved to Melbourne in February 1945. Despite the financial security and institutional support, circulation dropped during the next twelve months. Christesen was forced to seek sponsorship from other sources to supplement the contribution from the university. By the late 1940s the distinct business connection with the university had ended but infrastructure was still provided, maintaining Meanjin 's institutional home.

With the onset of the Cold War, Communist Party sympathisers were being increasingly targetted and Meanjin was no exception. The Christesens were regularly under surveillance and were implicated in the Petrov Affair in 1955. But despite this adverse attention (threatening the approval of literary grants) and the destruction of many friendships, the circulation of Meanjin remained strong throughout the 1950s. In the late 1950s and 1960s, Christesen continued to attract the work of some of Australia's best writers and intellectuals, building a strong group of regular contributors, including A. D. Hope, A. A. Phillips, Judith Wright, Jack Lindsay, John Morrison, Robert D. FitzGerald, James K Baxter and David Martin. Meanjin also contributed to discussion on the visual arts with regular contributions from Allan McCulloch, Ursula Hoff and Bernard Smith. In addition, Several important series were produced in the 1960s with titles such as 'Australian Heritage', 'Godzone', 'Pacific Signposts', and 'The Temperament of Generations'. But with the growth of a new generation in a rapidly changing culture, and Christesen's flagging energy, Meanjin began to lose the distinctive tone that its long-time editor had fostered. The future of the magazine became a concern.

The historian Jim Davidson had been acting as editor for some time before he was officially instated in 1975. During his eight-year term Davidson attempted to attract a new generation of readers to Meanjin, with special issues on Papua and New Guinea, Women and the Arts, and Aboriginal culture. Davidson also introduced interviews in a new format that brought the first change in size to Meanjin since 1951. In the first issue of 1982 Judith Brett was acknowledged as Associate Editor, taking over from Davidson in the next issue. Like Davidson, Brett responded to changes in Australian culture, extending the discussion of women writers begun in the late 1970s and introducing a focus on migrant writers. Throughout this period Meanjin continued to print the works of many of Australia's best creative writers. Contributors during this period included Bruce Dawe, John Tranter, Chris Wallace-Crabbe, Tom Shapcott, Jennifer Maiden, Les Murray, Patrick White, Frank Moorhouse, Morris Lurie, Laurie Clancy and Michael Wilding. In addition to established writers Meanjin also published the work of new writers, including Tim Winton, Nicholas Jose, Marion Halligan and Garry Disher.

Throughout the 1990s Meanjin went through several changes to format and faced a number of financial challenges. Jenny Lee's term as editor brought a more academic tone to the magazine and introduced regular thematic issues (but this has not always pre-determined the selection of creative writing). Many issues focused on cultural studies, postmodernism, postcolonialism and the state of the humanities. Other issues explored landscape, music, women's knowledge, Aboriginal issues and the Pacific region.

When Christina Thompson became editor in 1994, she brought another shift in tone, suggesting that Meanjin had become too academic, and pushed for a greater clarity in the contributions. Issues explored during Thompson's term included Canadian studies, corporatisation, suburban life, the Pacific region and queer studies. In the mid 1990s Meanjin faced severe financial setback when regular government funding was significantly reduced. Despite seeking outside funding, the diminished budget had an immediate effect. With inadequate funds to support productions costs, only three issues were produced in 1997. Thompson also experienced strong opposition from some Meanjin board members and did not seek reappointment.

In 1998 Melbourne University bought Meanjin to avoid its closure, imposing stronger control of the magazine's business dealings. Stephanie Holt, with a background in visual arts journalism, was appointed editor. During Holt's term, Meanjin explored issues on travel, crime, reconciliation, and revisited the idea of the cultural cringe. Former editor, Jim Davidson, later remarked that Holt had made Meanjin 'absolutely contemporary again'. But Holt faced some opposition at the end of her term and was controversially replaced by historian Ian Britain in 2001, causing several board members to resign in protest. Britain has since produced themed issues on museums, life writing, drugs and food.

2020 recipient The Copyright Agency Cultural Fund $60,000 over three years
Last amended 9 Dec 2020 13:19:32
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