Centre for WA History

Centre for Western Australian History

Further information


  • Professor Brian de Garis, 1985
  • Dr Carolyn Polizzotto, 1986
  • Winthrop Professor Jenny Gregory, 1989-1997, 2000 - 2007, 2011-2016
  • Dr Jan Gothard, 1997- 1999
  • Dr Helen Merrick, 1999
  • Dr Jean Chetkovich, 2007 - 2010
  • Associate Professor Andrea Gaynor, 2017 -

Associate directors

  • Lucy Williams, 2001-2002
  • Jacqui Sherriff, 2002-2003
  • Dr Jean Chetkovich, 2003-2007

Research coordinator

  • Dr Jennifer Weir, 2010
  • Lucy Hair (nee Williams) May 2013 - Sept 2018


  • Dr Cecilia Leong-Salobir 2011 - April 2013

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. Jenny returned as Director from 2011 before retiring at the end of 2016. Lucy Hair returned to the Centre as Research Coordinator in 2013. Andrea Gaynor became Director in 2017. 


For more than 30 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:

  • acted as a consultant to many organisations
  • undertaken heritage reports
  • organised conferences and seminars in Western Australian history
  • published the pre-eminent journal, Studies in Western Australian History since 1989

As well, the Centre for Western Australian History has:

  • made a remarkable contribution to the community's knowledge and understanding of Western Australian history
  • has raised the profile of History throughout the community
  • has been a proven success story for the university

The Centre has a membership of more than 400. 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.