A respected Canberra historian and valued member of the ANU community, Dr Barry McGowen OAM passed away this month from cancer.
Studying economics at the University of Adelaide, Barry worked as an economist before moving to Canberra to join the Australian Public Service, working for the Department of Industrial Relations, and the Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet.
Outback adventures, camping and driving long distances, visiting the towns of regional Australia, led to a penchant for writing, and an interest in the history of mining communities.
First exploring the history of goldmining communities in the Southern Tablelands and Shoalhaven regions, he became a prolific contributor to our understanding of the history of communities from northern Victoria, to the West of New South Wales, and all around Capital Country.
A particular focus of his research and work became the great contribution of Chinese migrants to these communities, and to Australia’s mining and agricultural history. He told their important stories recently in the book True Australians and Pioneers: Chinese Migration to the Orange Region of NSW, co-authored with Genevieve Mott.
A prolific and dedicated researcher, Barry achieved an impressive record of achievement despite a diagnosis of cancer more than two decades ago. He came to ANU, completing a Bachelor of Arts in 1995, and a PhD in 2002. A book of his thesis was published in 2010 as Dust and dreams: mining communities in south-east NSW. His association with the ANU continued as a long serving research fellow with the College of Asia and the Pacific. He published 16 books, 15 heritage reports, and many dozens of articles and papers.
In June 2018, his significant contribution to understanding the history of our communities was recognised with an Order of Australia Medal.