Woman Burgmann, Verity (1952 - )

17 September 1952
Sydney, New South Wales, Australia
Political Scientist

Written by Sharon M. Harrison, The University of Melbourne

Verity Burgmann is a leading political scientist who has established a significant reputation as both a labour historian and a political scientist of social movements and social change, especially new social movements and protest movements, such as anti-globalisation radicalism and environmentalism.

Burgmann was born in Sydney on 17 September 1952, the daughter of Victor Dudley Burgmann (1916-1991) and Lorna Constance Bradbury. Victor Dudley was the son of progressive churchman, Dr Ernest Henry Burgmann, who was the Bishop of Goulburn (1934-1960), a country diocese which included the still small city of Canberra. Victor Burgmann spent his working life as a researcher at the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation and was appointed CSIRO Chairman in 1977. Verity Burgmann' s sister is Dr Meredith Burgmann, Australian politician, Australian Labor Party member and former President of the New South Wales Legislative Council.

In 1971 Verity Burgmann left Australia to attend the London School of Economics, completing a B.Sc. (Econ) with First Class Honours and receiving the Bassett Memorial Prize for the top place in the Political Science major. In 1980 she completed her PhD, Revolutionaries and Racists: Australian Socialism and the Problem of Racism at the Australian National University.

Burgmann first became actively involved in radical politics as a young woman in the early 1970s, joining the campaign against apartheid and supporting the campaign for Indigenous land rights. In 1971 she was arrested and ejected from the Sydney Cricket Ground, along with older sister Meredith, for disrupting play during the controversial Springbok tour of Australia. Burgmann's political activism during the early 1970s brought her to the attention of the Australian Security and Intelligence Organisation (ASIO); she would later discover that both ASIO and MI6 in Britain kept her under surveillance.

Burgmann's political activism continued after she moved to the United Kingdom, where she devoted her efforts to the International Socialists and the Socialist Workers Party. She lived with Peter Hain who had been leading the Stop the Seventy Tour (STST) campaign in Britain, protesting against the tours by South Africa's racially selected sporting teams. After her return to Australia, Burgmann became involved in Women Behind Bars, campaigning in support of female prisoners. She also became involved in gay and lesbian rights, marching in the first Mardi Gras in Sydney in 1978. After moving to Melbourne in the early 1980s, she also became involved in People for Nuclear Disarmament. For the past twenty years she has been involved in the campaign defending public education and is on the Executive of the Public Education Group. More recently, she has joined in grassroots climate movement activities.

After completing her degree at the London School of Economics, Burgmann taught British Government at South London College in 1975. Between 1978 and 1980 she tutored at the University of New South Wales. She has lectured in the Political Science Department at the University of Melbourne since 1988 and became the Department's first female professor in 2003. Burgmann was elected to the Academy of Social Sciences of Australia in 1999, was President of the Australasian Political Studies Association 2002-2003 and was Deputy Dean of the Faculty of Arts at the University of Melbourne 2004-2007. Burgmann resigned from her position at the University of Melbourne in 2013 and is Professor Emerita in the School of Historical and Philosophical Studies. In 2013 Burgmann is Ludwig Hirschfeld Mack Visiting Professor of Australian Studies at the Institut für Englische Philologie at the Freie Universität Berlin.

Burgmann is the author of Climate Politics and the Climate Movement in Australia, with Hans Baer (2012); Power, Profit & Protest (2003); Unions and the Environment, with Colin Mcnaughton and Jennifer Penney (2002); Green Bans, Red Union, with Meredith Burgmann (1998); Revolutionary Industrial Unionism (1995); Power and Protest (1993); and 'In Our Time' (1985). She is editor of Changing the Climate: Utopia, Dystopia and Catastrophe, with Andrew Milner and Simon Sellers (2011), and the four-volume A People's History of Australia, with Jenny Lee (1988).

Burgmann married the British-Australian cultural theorist and literary critic Andrew Milner in 1977; they have three sons.

Published Resources

Edited Books

  • Who's Who in Australia, Crown Content, Melbourne, Victoria, 1927 - 2013. Details

Online Resources

See also