Professor Jenny Hocking – Uncovering Secret History
Every history hides a secret waiting to be found. It could be your own family history, a personal story, biography, autobiography, the public history of a monument, a suburb or a grand moment of historical rupture. Whatever its form, history continues to unfold.
Hilary Mantel writes, ‘History is not the past. It’s the record of what’s left on the record … It’s what’s left in the sieve when the centuries have run through it’. No history is ever fully settled. Facts are partial, research is incomplete, and even for the best-known history there is always another story to be told. The trick is to search for the missing pieces, to find them, recognise them, and finally to tell a compelling story of historical intrigue. ‘What’s left in the sieve’ will then have changed, with dramatic results. This workshop tells you how.
Jenny Hocking is an award-winning biographer, scriptwriter and historian whose work has uncovered hidden stories behind accepted historical narratives. Her historical biographies – on Gough Whitlam, on the dismissal of his government and on the former High Court justice Lionel Murphy – are based on extensive archival investigations whose dramatic revelations have recast history.
In this workshop, Jenny Hocking guides you through the skills, the challenges and the excitement of unravelling personal and political histories through archival research. Private papers, personal letters, interviews, official records, diaries and journals, personal reminiscences, embargoed confessional interviews, oral histories, contemporaneous news reports, prisoner records, official papers, national security archives, Wiki-leaks, ASIO files, and archives of every description are the building blocks in this forensic exercise. Freedom of Information and Administrative Appeals to unlock official records can also be critical. It’s painstaking, slightly eccentric, perhaps obsessive, and driven by the lure of the unknown and unanticipated archival finds that can challenge previous understandings and transform an accepted historical narrative.
Professor Jenny Hocking is Emeritus Professor at Monash University and the inaugural Distinguished Whitlam Fellow with the Whitlam Institute at Western Sydney University. She is the author of the two-volume biography of Australian Prime Minister, Gough Whitlam – Gough Whitlam: His Time and Gough Whitlam: A Moment in History – winner of the Fellowship of Australian Writers’ Barbara Ramsden Award and shortlisted for major literary awards including the National Biography Award, The Age Book of the Year, the Magarey Medal for Biography and the Prime Minister’s Awards for Literature. Jenny has also written biographies of High Court justice Lionel Murphy and the Australian communist author Frank Hardy. She also co-authored the ABC documentary film about Lionel Murphy, Mr Neal is Entitled to be and Agitator, which won the Australian Human Rights Award for Documentary Film. Her latest book is The Dismissal Dossier: Everything You Were Never Meant to Know About November 1975 – The Palace Connection (MUP 2017) and her essay ‘Relics of colonialism: The Whitlam dismissal and the Palace letters’ appears in Griffith Review 2018 Issue 59 ‘Commonwealth Now’. Jenny Hocking has taken a Federal Court action seeking the release of the ‘Palace letters’, between the Queen and the Governor-General relating to the dismissal, which are held by the National Archives of Australia and embargoed by the Queen.
 Hilary Mantel ‘Why I became a historical novelist’ The Guardian 3 June 2017
Date: Thursday 2 August Time: 10.00am – 4.00pm Where: Byron Community Centre, 69 Jonson Street, Byron Bay Cost: $120 General / $100 Members