Keynote speakers

The 2017 Australian Women’s History Network symposium committee is very pleased to announce that Professor Catharine Coleborne, Head of the School of Humanities and Languages at University of Newcastle, and a historian, will give our keynote address.

Catharine’s research focuses on the intertwined histories of health and medicine and colonial society. She has been particularly interested in historicising how we have understood, treated and cared for people with mental health challenges in Australia and New Zealand since the formation of psychiatric institutions in the colonial period through to expressions of ‘madness’ in the twentieth century.

Narratives of madness, and characterisations of the insane subject, are often deeply gendered, as are our labels for contemporary mental health disorders. The mad, unstable and hysterical woman is an ongoing and powerful stereotype. The history of mental health in Australia and New Zealand is an archive of stories of individuals living on the margins with limited mobility, access and pathways to empowerment. Catharine Coleborne’s work has shown these voices to be deeply personal, political, and essential for reframing how we address mental health service provision for men and women in contemporary society.

Catharine will be highlighting some of these themes in her address, pointing out the links between histories of gender, histories of medicine, and histories of mental health institutions in Australian history.