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Australian history

The Invisible Thread series: Bill Gammage

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The Biggest Estate on EarthThe Invisible Thread, an anthology of 100 years of writing from the Canberra region, will hit bookshop shelves on 22 October. In the meantime I’ve been very busy working with a filmmaker on a series of interviews with the authors. Today the very first of them has been launched. Chatting with Bill Gammage, one of Australia’s most eminent historians, was such a delight. Just back from a trip to Europe he was still suffering from jet lag, not that it was possible to tell. Listening to him talk was fascinating.

While we were setting up the cameras and doing sound checks he revealed that he tells his PhD students not to take longer than three years to complete their theses even though The Biggest Estate on Earth took him 12 years. ‘I tell them to ignore my example,’ he said with a smile.

Those 12 years certainly paid off. The Biggest Estate on Earth is a groundbreaking work, one that should be prescribed reading for all Australians. While overseas he received notification that he’d won the Prime Minister’s Literary Award for Australian History, the richest literary prize our country has to offer. Other awards have since followed, and no doubt there’ll be more. They are all well deserved.

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An extract from The Biggest Estate is included in The Invisible Thread, and I spoke with Bill about his book, why our current land management strategies are inept, and why he hopes his book will increase respect for Aboriginal achievements.