Listening to the archives: research towards an audio documentary

In this seminar, Dr Alice Garner, a 2022-23 Australian Studies Institute Fellow and current National Library of Australia Research Fellow, will discuss her research into the life and times of Mavis Robertson AO (1930-2015), a political and social activist who became a pioneer in Australian industry superannuation.

Mavis Robertson recorded a whole-of-life interview for the National Library of Australia in 2003, an interview that will form the backbone of an audio documentary Dr Garner intends to produce about Robertson’s activism across different life stages. The Australian Studies Institute fellowship gave Dr Garner time to consult the papers of Robertson held in the ANU’s Noel Butlin Archives. In this seminar, Dr Garner will discuss how her approach to these archives has been shaped by an attention to sound.

Alongside her academic work in history and education, Dr Garner is a practising oral historian, musician and performer, and this project provides a rare opportunity to bring together these different facets of her experience.

Alice Garner is a historian, performer and teacher based at the University of Melbourne’s Graduate School of Education. She has a PhD in History from the University of Melbourne and has published books in French social history and Australian and US educational history: A Shifting Shore: Locals, Outsiders and the Transformation of a French Fishing Town (1823-2000) (Cornell University Press, 2005), Academic Ambassadors, Pacific Allies: Australia, America and the Fulbright Program (Manchester University Press, 2019) and The Student Chronicles (MUP, 2006).

Recently she has been engaged in projects on union education, mentoring, and diversity in the teaching workforce. In 2023 she was a participant in the Signal Boost podcast mentoring program, building her audio documentary production skills.

Alice has worked on and off as actor since childhood, probably best known for her roles in Love and Other CatastrophesSeaChange and Secret Life of Us. Most recently she has performed as her ancestor Fanny Finch in the historical play, Finding Fanny Finch, recognised in the 2021 Victorian Community History Awards and recently featured on ABC Radio National’s The History Listen. She also plays cello in several bands, including the Endlings, and Sally Ford and the Idiomatics.

Date and Times





  •  ANU Australian Studies Institute
     +61 2 6125 0051