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Course Spotlight

Australia and New Zealand (HS 299)

by Alison Fletcher


Over the last few years, with the encouragement of my colleagues I have developed a number of courses that connect to my specialty of British Empire, including ones on Irish and African history.  This semester, for the first time I have taught Australian and New Zealand history, which is rarely taught in the United States.  Indeed, we do not appreciate how important for Australians and New Zealanders are the ties that connect them to us.  The Second World War was the beginning of this strong feeling of connection, which has been reinforced over the years in a number of ways. Australian and New Zealand troops fought in Vietnam, even though the British government refused to send British troops.

Teaching the class has been an interesting and thought provoking way to explore how different the process of colonization and dispossession was in two British settler colonies.  In preparation for teaching the class, I spent three weeks in Australia last summer taking part in a course on Australian history at Campion College in Sydney.  Importantly, the course included a service week in the outback, working with Australian aborigines.  Previously I have done research on Maoris in New Zealand, so I felt prepared to teach the class from the other side of the frontier. By that I mean, we spent the beginning of the course understanding the indigenous cultures of the two countries before we began discussing white settlement. A student from Juniata, Amy Hunt, took the summer course in Australia. Fortunately, she is also taking the class at Juniata this semester, and her knowledge and experience have added to the learning for everyone in the classroom.