PROF John Murphy

PROF John Murphy


  • Australian history, primarily since the second world war. (Politics, social history)
  • Biography, memory, narrative and historiography (Gender, culture)
  • Social policy development in South East Asia, especially Indonesia (Aged pensions, health insurance, poverty reduction)
  • The history of Australian social policy; contemporary social policy and welfare to work (Civil society; religion and welfare)



  • John Murphy teaches and researches Australian politics and history, and comparative social policy history, with a developing focus on Indonesian social protection.

    He has expertise in social policy, examined historically and comparatively. He has published research on Australian social, political and policy history, public narratives about welfare, masculinity and nation, and memory, historiography and biography.

    He previously taught at RMIT University where he was Director of the Centre for Applied Social Research. In the Faculty of Arts at Melbourne, he was previously the Associate Dean (Research and Research Training), Assistant Dean for the PhD Program, and Acting Dean, and is currently Deputy Dean.

    Recent publications:

    (2016) Evatt: A life, NewSouth Publishing, Sydney
    Short-listed for:

    • Prime Minister's Literary Awards, Australian History prize (2017)
    • National Biography Award (2017)
    • CHASS (Council for the Humanities, Arts and Social Sciences), Australia Prize (2017)
    • Queensland Literary Awards, History Book Award (2017)

    (2013) "Conditional Inclusion: Aborigines and welfare rights in Australia, 1900-1947”, Australian Historical Studies, vol. 44, no. 2, June, pp. 206-226,

    (2011) A Decent Provision: Australian welfare policy, 1870 to 1949, (Ashgate, UK)

    (2011) Half a Citizen: Life on welfare in Australia, with Suellen Murray, Jenny Chalmers, Sonia Martin & Greg Marston, (Allen & Unwin),
    • awarded the Australian Human Rights Commission 2011 Award

    Previous books:

    (2000) Imagining the Fifties: Private Sentiment and Political Culture in Menzies' Australia (UNSW Press),

    (1993) Harvest of Fear: a History of Australia's Vietnam War (Allen and Unwin, Sydney and Westview Press, USA),

    (2009) with Suellen Murray, Elizabeth Bra   


Selected publications


Investigator on

Additional Grant Information

  • Current ARC-funded research projects: 

    Australian Welfare Policy: 1950-2007, ARC Discovery, 2019-2021, sole CI

    br/> Fatherhood: An Australian history, 1919-2019, ARC Discovery through Monash University, with Al Thomson, Kate Murphy and Mike Roper

    br/> Previous grants: Evatt: a Biography, ARC Discovery, 2012-2014

    • ARC Linkage grant (2007-10): "The face of the poor: a history of poverty through the eyes of the St Vincent de Paul Society." This PhD project investigated a unique collection of minute books of parish level groups of the St Vincent de Paul Society in Victoria over the 20th century, to write a social history of poverty and contribute to understanding how one Christian denomination imagined poverty and social exclusion. The PhD student on this project is Karolina Kurzak.
    • ARC Linkage grant (2007-10): "150 low-income Australians: a group biography over time". With Suellen Murray at RMIT, Greg Marston at University of Queensland and Jenny Chalmers at UNSW. This project consisted of life-history interviews with 150 low-income Australians. The Industry Partner was Jobs Australia. It was published as Half a Citizen in 2011.
    • ARC Linkage grant (2005-8): "Life after care: the life-histories of those who left institutional care, 1945-1989". With Suellen Murray of RMIT University. The Industry Partner was MacKillop Family Services. Outcomes included After the Orphanage: Memory, identity and personal history in post-war Australia.
    • ARC Discovery project (2006-8): "Healthy Bodies, Healthy Minds: Designing Everyday Modernism for Australian Communities 1920-1970." With Kate Darian-Smith and Philip Goad, Hannah Lewi and Julie Willis (Faculty of Architecture, Building and Planning).



Education and training

  • PhD, University of Melbourne 1992
  • MA, Monash University 1984
  • BA (Hons), University of Melbourne 1978

Awards and honors

  • Awarded for Half a Citizen: Life on Welfare in Australia (Allen and Unwin, 2011); joint author, Australian Human Rights Commission Literature / non-fiction Award, 2011
  • The Centre for Applied Social Research, of which I was Director, won the RMIT Research Team Award in 2003, RMIT University, 2003



Available for supervision

  • Y

Supervision Statement

  • • Australian political history
    • histories of social policy; comparative social policy; welfare history
    • contemporary Australian politics
    • memory, narrative and identity; biography
    • and Asian social policy, especially in Indonesia

    Current RHD supervisions:
    • Randy Nandyatama, "Civil society organisations and Human Rights in ASEAN: The case of Indonesia"
    • Roland Wettenhall, "The translocation of the English friendly society movement to Victoria, 1835 to 1915", MA
    • Karolina Kurzak, “The face of the poor”, PhD

    Recent RHD completions

    • Nic Adams, "The vitriolic 43rd parliament", MA (2016)
    • Judith McVey, "The Conference for Left Action, 1969", MA (2015)
    • Penny Duckworth, "Constructing Community: The state in everyday life", PhD (2014)
    • Sybil Nolan, "The young Robert Menzies and the Age: A relationship in liberalism", PhD (2011)
    • Bill Garner, "The ephemeral settlement of Australia: a history of camping", PhD (2010)
    • Bob Marmion, "Gibraltar of the South: Colonial Defence in Victoria, 1851-1901", PhD (2009)
    • Terry McDonnell, "The 1922 election", MA (2009)
    • Peter Stell, "The Sydney Dance Company", MA (2009)