Woman Russell, Lynette Wendy (1960 - )

27 April 1960
Victoria, Australia

Written by Sharon M. Harrison, The University of Melbourne

Lynette Russell is a leader in the history profession who has contributed to Australian Indigenous history, especially in the areas of anthropological history, colonial and imperial history, nineteenth century 'race' relations, theory and indigenous archaeology, gender and 'race'; Indigenous oral history and narrative construction; and museum collections and exhibitions.

Russell was born on 27 April 1960 and grew up in a working class outer Melbourne suburb, where her keen interest in social justice was forged. She was educated at La Trobe University, where she trained as an archaeologist and graduated in 1990 with a BA (Hons). As a graduate researcher, Russell shifted the focus of her research to history and sociology and was awarded her PhD by the University of Melbourne for her thesis (Re)presented pasts: historical and contemporary constructions of Australian Aboriginalities in 1995.

Since completing her PhD, Russell has worked in historical/Indigenous Studies. She was appointed Lecturer at the Institute of Koorie Education at Deakin (1995-1998). From 1998 until 1999 she held a Faculty of Arts Post-doctoral Fellowship at the School of Historical Studies, Monash University and was a Senior Research Fellow at the University's Centre for Indigenous Studies (2000-2001). Since 2001 Russell has been Chair of Monash University's Australian Indigenous Studies program and has served as Deputy Dean of Arts (2007-2010). In 2011 Russell was appointed Adjunct Professor at the Australian Centre for Indigenous History at the College of Arts and Social Sciences, Australian National University. Russell was awarded an Australian Research Council Professorial Fellowship (2011-2016), as well as an ARC Discovery Grant with colleague Leigh Boucher from Macquarie University, to undertake a study of Victorian Ethnographers 1834-1930.

As an interdisciplinary scholar, Russell has collaborated with academics in archaeology, anthropology and environmental studies. Her publications include: Archival Science - Special Issue: Keeping Cultures Alive: Archives and Indigenous Human Rights, with Susan McKemmish, Melissa Castan and Livia Iacovino (2012); Roving Mariners: Australian Aboriginal Whalers and Sealers in the Southern Oceans, 1790-1870 (2012); Power and the Passion Our Ancestors Return Home, with Shannon Faulkhead, Jim Berg, Ross L. Jones and Jason Eades (2010); Appropriated Pasts: Indigenous Peoples and the Colonial Culture of Archaeology, with Ian McNiven (2005); and Savage Imaginings: Historical and Contemporary Constructions of Australian Aboriginalities (2001). While completing her PhD, Russell began to investigate her own Aboriginal heritage. Her memoir A Little Bird Told Me (2002) examines her family's concealed history, uncovering cross-generational secrets. She is the editor of Constructions of Colonialism: Perspectives on Eliza Fraser's shipwreck, with Ian McNiven and Kay Schaffer (1998) and Boundary Writing: living across the boundaries of race, sex and gender (2006).

Russell has worked in various Aboriginal organisations, including the Victorian Native Title Unit. Over a number of years she held positions on the Public Record Office of Victoria Editorial Board for its journal Provenance. She is a member of the Melbourne Museum Research Committee and the Expert Advisor/Reference Group of the Office of the Commissioner for Environmental Sustainability, State Government of Victoria, and the Advisory Committee of the State Library of Victoria. Since 2007, Russell has held a position on the Collections Council of Australia (appointed by Minister Garrett) and she was invited to sit on the Indigenous Higher Education Advisory Committee by Julia Gillard and Kim Carr in 2009.

Russell is an elected a Fellow of the Academy of Social Sciences in Australia (2012), a Member of the Australian Institute of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Studies the Royal Anthropological Institute (Britain and Ireland), a Fellow of the Royal Historical Society (London) and a Member of Clare Hall, Cambridge University.

Additional sources: Personal communication between Lynette Wendy Russell and Sharon M Harrison.

Published Resources


  • Russell, Lynette, A Little Bird Told Me: family secrets, necessary lies, Allen & Unwin, Sydney, New South Wales, 2002. Details

Online Resources

See also