BA (Hons) (Melbourne), MA (Melbourne), PhD (LaTrobe), FRSN



History
2021

During my career as a historian, I have been consistent in creating new knowledge in my field of the histories of mental health and institutions, including advancing fresh ideas about approaches to the study of mental breakdown in the past and present. My scholarship has focused on the institutional populations of nineteenth-century psychiatric hospitals in Australia and New Zealand and has touched on the themes of law, medicine, welfare, migration, mobility, and colonialism. These institutions were shaped by the processes of colonialism, and reflected colonial society’s anxieties and preoccupations. In turn, I suggest that new colonial societies produced institutional populations of the poor, the unwell, and those in need of care and assistance. An area of my research that has made a particular impact on the field is my scholarship about the interactions of patients, families and the medical cultures of institutions, often expressed through informal or lay diagnoses, personal communications and families interceding on behalf of others. My earlier doctoral research offered an analysis of gender and asylum spaces as well as interpreting medical case notes as narratives of institutional confinement.

Over time I have also increasingly been drawn into more contemporary projects about mental health, such as museums, collections and exhibition; or examining lived experiences of ‘madness’ in a critical disability studies framework. I currently lead the Future of Madness Network at the University of Newcastle. I have also led collaborative community history projects about mental health, such as a significant ten-year project in New Zealand which brought together Mental Health and Addictions Services (Waikato), Te Awamutu Museum, and the University of Waikato, and resulted in a collaborative exhibition and book.

My extensive scholarship has made an international impact on the social histories of health and medicine in the UK, Europe and North America. I have received Australian Research Council funding as a CI2 on two teams, as well as Marsden funding (Royal Society of NZ). I have published 4 sole-authored books; 6 co-edited collections; and a wide range of book chapters and refereed journal articles, and have also shared my work in blogs, podcasts and via other media. I am the co-editor (with Professor Matthew Smith, Strathclyde) of a highly successful Palgrave book series, Mental Health in Historical Perspective (launched in 2014). In Australia, I am a former co-editor of both Health and History, the official journal of the ANZSHM; and co-editor (with Professor Christina Twomey) of Australian Historical Studies.

I regularly play a role as an invited peer reviewer for academic publishers and funding bodies internationally including the British Academy, the Irish Research Council, the Research Council of the Social Sciences and Humanities in Canada, the Royal Society of Canada, the Royal Society of New Zealand, the Leverhulme Trust, the Wellcome Trust and the Australian Research Council. I currently hold positions as a member of several editorial advisory boards for major international journals including Mobilities; and History of Psychiatry. I am a former member of the editorial board for Social History of Medicine (2007 to 2013). Most recently I have been invited to join the editorial board of Medical History (Cambridge University Press).

In my professional roles and contributions to the social sciences and humanities I have led different societies/associations and organisations, including as President of DASSH, and continue to advocate for the disciplines in higher education.


President, Australasian Council of Deans of Arts, Social Sciences and Humanities (2020 -2022)

President, Australia and New Zealand Society of the History of Medicine (2020 -2021)

Royal Society of New Zealand, Marsden Fund, Humanities Panel (2013 - 2015, 2019 - 2020)

Australian Research Council, Excellence in Research Australia, Research Evaluation Committee, HCA Panel (2018)

Head of School/Dean of Arts, Humanities, Creative Industries and Social Sciences (2022 - )

Head of School/Dean of Arts, Humanities and Social Science, University of Newcastle (2015 -2021)

Professor of History, School of Social Science, University of Waikato, New Zealand (2014 -2015)

Associate Dean Graduate and Postgraduate, Faculty of Arts and Social Science, University of Waikato, New Zealand (2012 - 2015)

Co-Editor, Australian Historical Studies (2012 - 2015)

Associate Professor, History, University of Waikato (2009 - 2013)

President, Australia and New Zealand Law and History Society (2008 - 2010)

Lecturer/Senior Lecturer in History, University of Waikato (1999 – 2008)

Fellow of the Academy of Social Sciences in Australia (2021)

Fellow of the Royal Society of New South Wales (2021)

Visiting Research Fellowship, Centre for Mobilities Research (CeMoRe), Lancaster University (2015)

Royal Society of New Zealand, Marsden Fund, Standard Grant (2009 - 2012)

Harold White Research Fellowship, National Library of Australia (2006)

Royal Society of New Zealand, Marsden Fund, Fast-Start Grant (2004 - 2005)

Kathleen Fitzpatrick Exhibition in English and History (Honours), University of Melbourne (1989)

Marion Boothby Exhibition in British History, University of Melbourne (1988)


  1. Catharine Coleborne, 2021, ‘The Social and Cultural Histories of Medicine’, in Kerry Chamberlain and Antonia Lyons (eds), Routledge International Handbook of Critical Issues in Health and Illness, Routledge, London and New York.
  2. Catharine Coleborne, 2020, Why Talk About Madness? Bringing History into the Conversation, Palgrave, Basingstoke, UK.
  3. Catharine Coleborne, 2020, ‘Consorting with others: Vagrancy laws and unauthorized mobility across colonial borders in New Zealand from 1877 to 1900’, in Peter Merriman and David Lambert (eds), Empire and Mobility in the Long Nineteenth Century, Manchester University Press, Manchester UK.
  4. Angela McCarthy, Catharine Coleborne, Maree O’Connor and Elspeth Knewstubb, 2017, ‘Lives in the asylum record, 1864 to 1910: Utilising large data collection for histories of psychiatry and mental health in the British World’, Medical History, 61:3, 358 – 79.
  5. Catharine Coleborne, 2015, Insanity, Identity and Empire: Colonial institutional confinement in Australia and New Zealand, 1870-1910, Manchester University Press, Manchester UK.