BA (Hons), PhD (Melbourne)
My research is at the forefront of Australian cultural and environmental history. At the heart of my intellectual endeavour has been the desire to understand the interaction between individuals, their culture, society and environment, and how people construct themselves in their writing, place-making and remembering. My early work on women’s intimate writings analysed how women constructed themselves in their writing and remembering. I have in turn examined how such self-construction affects the way people make their environment, from the domestic garden to the European settlement of Australia’s southern mallee lands, thus shedding new light on the European settlement of Australia and environmental history. My work has also offered new insights into women’s writing, oral history, mental illness, temporality and the self.
I have led and participated in influential collaborative research teams, working across disciplines and Universities. I have played a major role in transforming the field of environmental history in Australia, linking the field to oral history, gender history, cultural history and policy studies. Through my leadership of the ARC ‘Changing Landscapes, Changing People: Australia’s southern mallee lands, 1830-2012’ (2013-16), this collaborative research interrogated the ways generations of Indigenous and settler-Australians have shaped and have been shaped by the climate and landscape of the mallee lands. Mallee Country: Land, People, History is the first environmental history project in Australia to take as its subject of study a diverse eco-region that crosses state boundaries and reflects different settlement histories. It has thus enabled a study of the environmental implications of different colonial and state settlement and environmental policies. Through a history which moves from first contact to pastoralism to closer settlement and onto industrialised agriculture, the project addresses the complex areas of indigenous/settler relations, land degradation, water management, climate variability, environmental change, resource extraction and population decline. The research develops new perspectives and techniques in the field as a whole, in particular in its integration of oral history, indigenous history, gender history and histories of the more-than-human world.
My work in oral history and memory studies has also forged new ground. Drawing on interviews from the ARC Linkage project ‘Australian Generations: Life histories, generational change and Australian memory’ I examined the ways in which people talked about the experience of mental illness and the importance of this for developing policies and programs that appropriately support families during periods of parental mental illness. My attention to the importance of gender and class draws our attention back to the structural inequalities that shape the experience of mental illness and the importance of intervention to alleviate the impacts of these inequalities.
I have held the Keith Cameron Chair at University College Dublin (2010) and am Director of La Trobe’s interdisciplinary research centre, the Centre for the Study of the Inland.
2017 – Director, Centre for the Study of the Inland, La Trobe University
2013 – Professor, La Trobe University. Continuing position
2010 Keith Cameron Chair in Australian History, University College Dublin
1994 – 1997 Lecturer, Department of History, La Trobe University
1993 Lecturer, Department of History, Australian National University
1990 – 1992 Lecturer, Department of History, University of Melbourne
Australian Historical Association; European Society for Environmental history; Australian Women’s History Network.
1. Broome, R, Fahey, C, Gaynor, A, and Holmes, K 2019, Mallee Country: Land, People, History Monash University Press, 2019.
2. Holmes, K, 2011, Between the Leaves: stories of Australian women, writing and gardens, UWA Press.
3. Holmes, K 2017, ‘”It’s the devil you know”: Environmental Stories from the Mallee’, in Holmes, K & Goodall H, (eds) Telling Environmental Stories, London: Palgrave.
4. Holmes, K, 2017, ‘Does it matter if she cried? Recording emotion on the Australian Generations oral history project’, Oral History Review, 44:1, pp.56-76.
5. Holmes, K, 2016, ‘Talking about Mental Illness: life histories, and mental health in modern Australia’, Australian Historical Studies, 47:1, pp. 25-40.