In The Making of Australia historian Robert Murray draws on a lifetime’s fascination with Australian history and 45 years writing about it to give a clear, concise history of the country. From the coming of the first Aborigines perhaps 60,000 years ago, certainly 40,000, to the election of the Abbott government in 2013, Murray traces the forces that have shaped the nation.
In Murray’s mainly chronological account the main periods and events in the Australian story are all present. The content is political, social and economic, showing how these strands of Australian life interacted in eras of exploration, in boom periods and depressions and droughts, and in a number of wars. The transition from a convict society to a free one is traced, as is development of representative government and of Federation, the growth of cities, and the careers and influence of key politicians.
A notable feature is the systematic treatment given to Aboriginal–settler relations and how they have evolved over more than two centuries. In doing this Murray gives, briefly, both sides of controversies that have led to heated disputes in recent times. This is done in a way that allows the reader to continue to follow developments and modern debates. He is similarly even-handed in his consideration of the White Australia Policy, and the reforms and scandals of the Whitlam era and the Dismissal, and still unresolved questions relating to climate and to refugee policy.
Another strength of the book is the manner in which Murray puts developments in a broad international context, as Australians negotiate their heritage and their geographical location.
The illustrations include many cartoons from the periods covered, which give added insights into contemporary attitudes.
Robert Murray has been a freelance journalist and independent historian since 1981. He is the author or co-author of more than a dozen books on aspects of Australian history and has been a prolific contributor of articles on history to magazines and newspapers, especially Quadrant, The Australian and The Age and also to the Australian Dictionary of Biography. Amongst his books are The Split: Australian Labor in the Fifties and 150 Years of Spring Street: Victorian Government, 1850s to 21st Century. Earlier in his career he was a newspaper journalist in Melbourne, Sydney and London and from 1964–77 an industry and political writer for The Australian Financial Review. He has also worked in public relations.