The idea for a Centre for WA History was developed in the early 1980s.
Professor Tom Stannage and Professor Brian de Garis were the key Australianists in the Department of History at that time. They discussed the idea of establishing a Centre for WA History which could encourage the research and writing of Western Australian history to the highest professional standards. With the support of Professor John Tonkin, then Head of Department, the Centre became a reality in 1985.
Apart from a tiny amount of financial assistance from the Department, the Centre was expected to generate its own funding. When Brian de Garis became the first Director, it was part of his teaching and research duties. It was decided to engage a part-time historian to lead the Centre, the Department provided an office and Dr Carolyn Polizzotto was engaged as the Centre’s first paid Director.
When Carolyn left to follow an illustrious career as a writer, Dr Jenny Gregory was appointed to the part-time position in 1989, remaining at the Centre for nine years, with the support of a part-time administrative officer, Julia Ball.
After Jenny’s departure in late 1997, the Director’s role was taken over Dr Jan Gothard until 1999, and then by Dr Helen Merrick for a short period. They were supported first by Julia Ball and then by Christine Giles as Administrative Officer.
In 2000 Jenny returned as Director but for very limited hours and so restructured the Centre to enable an Associate Director to be appointed. Lucy Williams, then Jacqui Sherriff and then in 2003, Dr Jean Chetkovich provided marvellous support to the Centre as Associate Directors. Jean took over as Director in 2007 until 2010. In the same year, Dr Sue Hart and Dr Jennifer Weir both worked at the centre as Research Coordinator in the months following Jean’s departure . In 2011 Dr Cecilia Leong-Salobir was appointed as Coordinator to run the centre.
For more than 25 years the Centre for WA History has played the leading role in the research and writing of Western Australian history. While it has received financial support from time to time from the University, for most of its life the Centre has been entirely self-funding, attracting considerable research funding and providing employment for a significant number of historians.
Nearly 30 books have been published from research and writing undertaken under its auspices. A number of these books have been short-listed for or won major awards.
In specific terms, the Centre has:
As well, the Centre for Western Australian History has:
The Centre has a membership of more than 600. The Historical Encyclopedia of Western Australia, developed under the auspices of the Centre and published in 2009, has over 400 contributors and 100 expert readers.