Profile image of Helen Gardner

A/Prof. Helen Gardner



Associate Professor Of History


Faculty of Arts and Education


SHSS Arts & Ed


Melbourne Burwood Campus


Doctor of Philosophy, La Trobe University, 2001
Bachelor of Arts, La Trobe University, 1994

+61 3 925 17027


Helen Gardner began her academic career at the University of Otago, New Zealand,  in 2001. In 2002 she was appointed to Deakin University as a lecturer in World History and Pacific History.

 She is currently working with the  Institute in the Contemporary History Group where she leads research into contemporary and historical Pacific issues.  In 2012 she became the external editor of the Journal of Pacific History and is a former secretary of the Australian Association for the Advancement of Pacific Studies.  

Helen's most recent publication, co-authored with anthropologist Patrick McConvell, explores the conception and writing of a nineteenth century book of Australian anthropology Kamilaroi and Kurnai  (1880). Their book Southern Anthropology - a History of Fison and Howitt's Kamilaroi and Kurnai  is based on archival sources and argues for a reapprasial of Fison and Howitt's influence on global theories of human variety in the late nineteenth century.

She is also co-editing an affiliated special issue on the history of Australian anthropology to be published in Oceania in 2016.

Helen other major project is on the spread of the Boasian culture concept into the Pacific via the theological colleges, and the influence of these ideas on the decolonisation of the region. See her co-edited special issue for The Journal of Pacific History titled ' Decolonisation Melanesia' (2013).

Helen has led a number of research projects including Missions and modernity; the History of anthropology; Decolonisation in Melanesia. 

In 2015 she will present at the Waigani seminar in Papua New Guinea and undertake a research fellowship at the University of Cambridge. 

She is interested in translocal histories and is available for HDR supervision in the following areas:

History of Anthropology - nineteenth and twentieth centuries

History of Christian Mission in Oceania - nineteenth and twentieth centuries

History of Science in Oceania - nineteenth century

Read more on Helen's profile

Research interests

Helen's first book, 'Gathering for God: George Brown in Oceania' was published in 2006 by the University of Otago Press, and was shortlisted for the Ernest Scott History Prize in 2007.

Helen is currently working on two major research projects. The first is a book on  nineteenth century anthropology in Oceania with a particular focus on the early study of kinship in the region published by Palgrave Macmillan in 2015:   Southern Anthropology - A History of Fison and Howitt's Kamilaroi and Kurnai

The second is a collaborative study on the decolonisation of Melanesia and the role of the churches in the politics of the Pacific.

Teaching interests

Honours Coordinator School of Humanities and Social Sciences
Bachelor of Arts (Honours)

Units taught

The World After the War 1945-1990

Race, Science and Religion in Australasia, 1860-1920

The Decolonisation of Papua New Guinea

Knowledge areas

Pacific History - History of Christian Missions; Colonisation and Decolonisation in the Pacific - local, national and global perspectives; Church and State in the Pacific; Nation building in the Pacific Islands, historical and contemporary perspectives.

History of Anthropology: The history of anthropology in Oceania. Missionary anthropology in Oceania in the nineteenth and twentieth century. The field and the metropole in the spread of anthropological theories. The culture concept in  twentieth century Pacific history. 


2014: The Pacific History  Association Converence Taiwan

           Lorimer Fison and 'Land Tenure in Fiji'

2013: The Australian History Association Conference, Wollongong, Australia

          Theology and the Culture Concept in the Pacific 

2012: Pacific History Association Conference, Wellington, New Zealand

          Theologies of Nation in the decolonisation of the Pacific.

2010: American Anthropology Association Meeting, New Orleans, U.S.A.

          James Unaipon's kinship;

           The descent of kinship in Australia: Lorimer Fison and A. W. Howitt 

Research groups

Internationalism in the Pacific: Associate Professor Fiona Paisley, Associate Professor Christopher Waters, Dr Jonathan Ritchie, Dr Geoff Gray, Dr Helen Gardner.

Decolonisation in Melanesia: Associate Professor Christopher Waters, Professor Clive Moore, Professor Judith Bennett, Dr Anne Dixon Waiko, Dr Jonathan Ritchie, Dr Helen Gardner.

Before the Field, Anthropology in Oceania: Dr Robert Kenny, Dr Martin Thomas, Dr Samuel Furphy, Dr Bronwen Douglas, Professor Jane Lydon, Associate Professor Peggy Brock. 


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Before the field: colonial anthropology reassessed

H Gardner, R Kenny

(2016), Vol. 86, pp. 218-224, Oceania, London, Eng., C1


The genealogy of the genealogical method: discoveries, disseminations and the historiography of British anthropology

H Gardner

(2016), Vol. 86, pp. 294-319, Oceania, London, Eng., C1


Southern anthropology - a history of Fison and Howitt's Kamilaroi and Kurnai

H Gardner, P McConvell

(2015), Basingstoke, Eng., A1


The descent of Morgan in Australia: kinship representation from the Australian colonies

P McConvell, H Gardner

(2013), Vol. 6, pp. 1-23, Structure and dynamics: e journal of anthropological and related sciences, Berkeley, Calif., C1


Decolonisation in Melanesia

H Gardner, C Waters

(2013), Vol. 48, pp. 113-121, Journal of Pacific history, Abingdon, England, C1


Praying for independence

H Gardner

(2013), Vol. 48, pp. 122-143, Journal of Pacific history, Abingdon, England, C1


Defending friends : Robert Codrington, George Sarawia and Edward Wogale

H Gardner

(2012), pp. 146-165, Atlantic world in the Antipodes : effects and transformations since the eighteenth century, Newcastle upon Tyne, England, B1


Practising Christianity, writing anthropology : missionary anthropologists and their informants

H Gardner

(2010), pp. 110-122, Missionaries, indigenous peoples and cultural exchange, Brighton, Eng;and, B1


From site to text : Australian Aborigines and the origin of the family

H Gardner

(2010), Vol. 34, pp. 25-38, Itinerario, Cambridge, England, C1


'By the facts we add to our store' : Lorimer Fison, Lewis Henry Morgan and the spread of kinship studies in Australia

H Gardner

(2009), Vol. 79, pp. 280-292, Oceania, Sydney, N.S.W., C1


The 'Faculty of faith' : evangelical missionaries, social anthropologists, and the claim for human unity in the 19th century

H Gardner

(2008), pp. 259-282, Foreign bodies : oceania and the science of race 1750 - 1940, Canberra, A.C.T., B1


The origin of kinship in Oceania : Lewis Henry Morgan and Lorimer Fison

H Gardner

(2008), Vol. 78, pp. 137-150, Oceania, Australia, C1


Gathering for God : George Brown in Oceania

H Gardner

(2006), Dunedin, New Zealand, A1


Photography and christian mission: George Brown`s images of the New Britain mission 1875-80

H Gardner, J Philp

(2006), Vol. 41, pp. 175-190, Journal of pacific history, London, England, C1


'New heaven and new earth': translation and conversion on Aneityum

H Gardner

(2006), Vol. 41, pp. 293-311, Journal of pacific history, London, England, C1


Missionaries, evolutionism and pacific anthropology: the correspondence of Lorimer Fison and Robert Codrington

H Gardner

(2004), pp. 122-133, New Pacific Review: Proceedings of the 16th Pacific History Association Conference, Noumea, E1


The photographic moment George Brown in New Britain 1875-1880

J Philp, H Gardner

(2004), pp. 255-264, New Pacific Review: Proceedings of the 16th Pacific History Association Conference, Noumea, E1


Funded Projects at Deakin

No Funded Projects at Deakin found


Principal Supervisor

Amanda Lourie

Thesis entitled: From Paddock to Page: Ethnological engagement in 1850s-1860s colonial Victoria

Doctor of Philosophy, School of Humanities and Social Sciences


Kirstie Barry

Thesis entitled: A Mission Divided: Race and Culture in Fiji¿s Methodist Mission

Doctor of Philosophy, School of Humanities and Social Sciences

Associate Supervisor

Benjamin Russell Hall

Thesis entitled: The rise of the anglican orthodox church in solomon islands

Doctor of Philosophy, School of Humanities and Social Sciences


John Keating

Thesis entitled: The Neon Cross - Moore Memorial Church Shanghai

Doctor of Philosophy, School of History, Heritage and Society


Susan Lizabeth Blackwood

Thesis entitled: Jungle, Desert, Ice: Royal Geographical Society of Australasia, Victorian Branch

Doctor of Philosophy, School of History, Heritage and Society