The new Australian Policy and History Network (APHN) has found support from an unusual source – legendary AFL coach Kevin Sheedy.
“Too often, history tells us we don’t learn from history,” Sheedy said. “I say that all the time because unfortunately you see it all the time, people not learning from history.
“It happens in football, and it happens in politics, it happens in life. Anything that can be done to make sure we don’t keep making the same stuff-ups is brilliant, so I congratulate David Lowe and everyone else involved in this.”
With Corio Bay the sparkling backdrop, the APHN was officially launched on March 26th at the Alfred Deakin Research Institute in Geelong.
Professor David Lowe, the inaugural Director of ADRI, invited Anthony Neyland from Deakin’s Knowledge Media Division to turn on the network.
Anthony had designed and built the website.
The APHN is a partnership involving Deakin University, the University of New England, the History Council of New South Wales and the Australian National University.
“They are the four pillars of the network which we hope will have a huge impact on policy making in Australia,” said Professor Lowe.
“Quite simply, historians have to engage with policy makers more.
“We have to do that in a way that is easily accessible to them.
“So often today public servants are pushed for time when they are asked to produce new policies by their politicians.
“If the information is not readily available, they just don’t have the resources to get access to it.
“There might also be an arrogance that in the 21st Century with all its technical advantages that there is nothing to be learned from the past.
“History shows us that is not the case. There is always something we can learn from the past.”
Associate Professor Melanie Oppenheimer from the University of New England also attended the launch.
“David and I found each other,” she said.
“I was working away on the idea of a network like this and I discovered David was too.
“We’ve since linked up with the History Council of NSW and ANU to create these four pillars of the network.
“I guess it’s very much a case of four heads being better than one.”
Professor Lowe said the new APHN is based on the successful History and Policy group founded in the UK in 2002.
“This coalition of historians is constantly on the lookout for good history writing that encourages perspective in current policy contexts,” he said.
“It offers another way through which historians can engage with policy-makers and the media.
“If, for example, we have reached the point at which households need to start thinking about rationing carbon emissions, policy-makers might like to know what worked and what didn’t when rationing was applied to households during the Blitz in the Second World War.
“There will no doubt be sources of scepticism about what historians can offer policy-makers, who are often so pressed for time and so locked into the present that they succumb to a ‘presentist’ mind-set, convinced that the challenges facing us today - global warming, an ageing population, post-Cold War international relations – are so unprecedented as to be incapable of any guidance from the past.
“Yet, this is precisely when history and historic ways of seeing are more important than ever.”
Sheeds would agree!