Woman Goodall, Heather


Written by Sharon M. Harrison, The University of Melbourne

Heather Goodall is a leader in the history profession, who has made a significant contribution to Australian history in three ways. The first is in relation to Indigenous histories and relationships in Australia. The second is in environmental history, focused on water, rivers and oceans and tracing in particular the ways environmental issues are used in social conflicts and inter-cultural social relations. The third has been in intercolonial networks, particularly those between Australia and India and around the Indian Ocean, including the decolonization conflicts of the mid twentieth century in India, Indonesia and Australia.

Heather Goodall was educated at the University of Sydney. She graduated in 1975 with a BA (Hons First Class) for which she received the University Medal in History. Goodall completed her PhD under the supervision of Heather Radi, submitting her doctoral thesis A history of Aboriginal communities in New South Wales, 1909-1939 in 1982. Goodall later completed a Graduate Diploma in Adult Education (Community) at the Institute of Technical and Teacher Education, (now within the University of Technology Sydney) in 1996.

From 1980 to 1983, Goodall worked at Tranby Aboriginal Cooperative College in Glebe, Sydney, teaching history to adult Indigenous students, and then moved to Ernabella, South Australia where she was employed by the Pitjantjatjara Council as a researcher from 1984 to 1985. After returning to Sydney, Goodall took up an appointment at Macquarie University in 1987, teaching Aboriginal History in the School of History, Philosophy and Politics. In 1989 she took up an appointment as the coordinator of the Applied History Masters program at the University of Technology Sydney (UTS) where she has continued to teach and research. She is currently (2013) Professor of History in the Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences, UTS.

Goodall has worked in collaborative research projects with Aboriginal communities in NSW and in central Australia. She has been historical researcher in two Royal Commissions, that into British nuclear testing in Australia (reporting 1985; employed by the Pitjantjatjara Council) and that into Black Deaths in Custody (1991, as Director of Research, South Eastern Commission). She was a co-author of Racism, cultural pluralism and the media: a report to the Office of Multicultural Affairs (1990). Other projects oriented towards policy have included: Parklands Culture and Communities: Ethnic Diversity on the Georges River project for the NSW Department of Environment, Climate Change and Water in an ARC Linkage Project (2005-2007) and Sanctuary and Security in Contemporary Australia: Muslim Women's Networks 1980-2005 (2005-2008), with Stephanie Donald, Devleena Ghosh, Christina Ho, Maha Krayem Abdo and Genan Dadoun. This project was supported also by the ARC as a Linkage between UTS and the United Muslim Women Association Inc. Goodall has co-authored a major report to the current NSW Office of Environment and Heritage: Place Making in National Parks, 2013, and two accessible community-oriented books, Waterborne (2011, with the Vietnamese Australian community) and Waters of Belonging (2012, with the Arabic Australian community) arising from continuing environmental history research in urban south western Sydney. In 2012 also, with Dr Jodi Frawley and NSW Dept Primary Industry (Fisheries) Goodall co-authored 9 community-accessible ebooks from the Talking Fish project on the Oral History of Fishing in the Murray Darling Rivers system, available from the NSW DPI/Fisheries website.

Between 2008 and 2010 Goodall collaborated with Devleena Ghosh, Stephen Muecke and Michael Pearson on the ARC-funded Discovery project Intercolonial networks of the Indian Ocean. In 2010 she collaborated with Robynne Nelson on a joint research project Families & heroes: George Nelson & the international pathways of an Aboriginal family history, which traced the life of Robynne's father George and his search for his family history leading him to Mauritius and India. This project was part-funded by the Australian Institute of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Studies and the book arising from it, Dharmalan Dana (Grandfather's Pathway), by George Nelson and Robynne Nelson, is currently under consideration for publication by Aboriginal History and ANU ePress. Goodall is currently working on the ARC-funded project Countering the Cold War: interactions between Australia and India, 1945 - 1975, through the lens of the women's movements, with Devleena Ghosh (2013-2016), as well as a project titled Political history of the New South Wales Aboriginal Land Rights Act, 1983 with Heidi Norman, Gillian Cowlishaw and Jock H Collins. This project has been funded through an ARC Discovery Indigenous Researchers Development grant (2010-2012).

Goodall's publications include Invasion to embassy: land in Aboriginal politics in New South Wales, 1770-1972 (Allen and Unwin 1996; Sydney University ePress 2008); Isabel Flick: the many lives of an extraordinary Aboriginal woman, co-authored with Isabel Flick (Allen and Unwin 2004; 2009); Rivers and Resilience: Aboriginal people on Sydney's Georges River, co-authored with Cadzow Allison (New South Press, 2009) and Making Change Happen, co-authored with Kevin Cook (Aboriginal History and ANU ePress, 2013). She was also a co-author of Racism, Ethnicity and the Media, with Andrew Jakubowicz, Jeannie Martin, Tony Mitchell, Lois Randall and Kalinga Seneviratne (Allen and Unwin 1994). Goodall is a co-editor of Echoes from the poisoned well: global memories of environmental injustice, with Sylvia Hood Washington and Paul C. Rosier (Lexington, 2006); Fresh and Salt: water, borders and sovereignty, Devleena Ghosh and Stephanie Hemelryk Donald (Transforming Cultures ePress, 2008); and Water, sovereignty, and borders in Asia and Oceania, with Devleena Ghosh and Stephanie Hemelryk Donald (Routledge 2009). Goodall received the 1997 New South Wales Premier's Prize for Australian History for Invasion to embassy and was short-listed for the NSW Premier's Community and Regional History Prize in 2010. In 2005 she was the inaugural winner of the newly established Magarey Medal for Australian Women's Biography for her co-authoring of the autobiography of Aboriginal woman, the late Isabel Flick. Isabel Flick: The Many Lives of an Extraordinary Aboriginal Woman features the weaving together of autobiography, oral history and biography.

Goodall was elected a Fellow of the Academy of Social Sciences in Australia in 2007.

Additional sources: Personal Communication between Sharon M Harrison and Heather Goodall August 2013.

Published Resources


  • Goodall, Heather, Invasion to Embassy: Land in Aboriginal Politics in New South Wales, 1770 - 1972, Allen & Unwin, Sydney, New South Wales, 1996. Details

Online Resources

See also