Category Archives: Podcasts 2020

I hear with my little ear: Podcasts 25-31 March 2020


Suleiman the Magnificent (Wikimedia)

Fifteen Minute History Last year I did a U3A mini-course on the Ottoman Empire, and I listened to a very detailed series called “Empires of History – the Ottoman Series” that ran out of puff long before the Ottoman empire did. It was rather disconcerting listening to a podcast where the narrator pronounced “Anatolia” as Anna-toll-ee and pronounced “cavalry” as “Calvary”. But these two podcasts, called simply enough “History of the Ottoman Empire” are done by fair dinkum historians, and they’re detailed enough without being too detailed. Episode 26 is Part 1, talking about the rise of the Ottoman empire and Episode 27 is Part 2, where Barbara Petzen describes the concept of ‘fall’ in empire history, particularly in relation to the Ottoman Empire

And on a related, but not the same, topic, there is Carter Vaughn Findley, Humanities Distinguished Professor in the Department of History at the Ohio State University, in Episode 31: Who are the Turks?who points out that it is mainly language that unites ‘the Turks’, who are not one racial group at all. Which is a bit inconvenient for Turkish nationalists like Erdogan.

Boyer Lectures (ABC). I’m listening to the three-part 2019 Boyer Lectures, given by Rachel Perkins. She has a beautiful speaking voice, and as you might expect from the Boyer Lectures, these are beautifully crafted. Her lectures, subtitled ‘The End of the Silence’ refer back to the very first Boyer Lecture given by William Stanner, who spoke of the Great Australia Silence.  In Episode 1 she talks about the genesis of the Uluru statement, and in Episode 2 about the succession of previous attempts to have an Aboriginal ‘voice’.  (It makes me so cross: “tell us what you want” says the government, and then as soon as they do, in clear terms, the government says “well, not that”.) Episode 3  returns to the Uluru statement, and its call for a Makarrata Commission, and truth-telling about the Frontier Wars and the fundamental untruth that lies under European colonization.  Very good.

History Listen (ABC) Another oldie from November 2019, The Brazen Women of Silent Film features two different stories. The first is of Annette Kellerman, the swimmer and film star, who actually appeared nude in a 1916 movie. She could hold her breath for over three minutes! See also the excellent NFSA online exhibition “Annette Kellerman: Australia’s Fearless Mermaid.”  The second feature is about the McDonagh Sisters: Isabel, Phyllis and Paulette who formed their own film company and used Drummoyne House, which they were then running as an aged care hostel, as the setting for many of their films. I’d never heard of them, I must admit.

I hear with my little ear: Podcasts 17-24 March 2020

Old_Arts_Building._Parkville_Campus_of_University_of_MelbourneMy Marvellous Melbourne is produced by the Melbourne History Workshop at the University of Melbourne history department, led by Prof Andrew May. Episode 2 features an oral history of waterside worker, Henry Briggs, recorded as part of the National Library of Australia Oral History Collection.  Then Stefanie Trigg gives a fascinating interview about bluestone in Melbourne and Stella Marr talks about the Red Cross Archives.

Earshot – (ABC) Aziz Abdul Aziz Muhamat is a Sudanese asylum seeker who had been in detention on Manus Island since 2013. In  Part 1.Flight from Manus he goes from Manus Island to Geneva to receive a Human Rights Defender Prize, accompanied by journalist Michael Green, with whom Aziz has been making a podcast to publicize the plight of detainees on Manus. In Part 2 A Stranger in Geneva, he needs to decide whether he should take up the offers of asylum offered by other countries, or whether that would be a betrayal of the men he left behind on Manus.

Now this is curious. Because my phone is full of old podcasts, I found Earshot’s Wrongful:Goldfingered – The Mickelberg Story about the Mickelbergs and the Perth Mint robbery. And now it seems to have completely disappeared from the ABC Earshop program page. Are there more legal proceedings, perhaps? Anyway, it’s an interesting program about crooked cops, a gold robbery, Perth at its brashest back in 1982.


I hear with my little ear: Podcasts 8-16 March

Background Briefing (ABC)  This judge’s unfair decisions upended people’s lives. What can be done about it? (Feb 2020) particularly attracted me because of my own work on Justice John Walpole Willis who, like Judge Vasta in this podcast, had been accused of intimidating interruptions from the bench (as for example, in the case of J.B. Were who ended up being sentenced for an extra month each time he opened his mouth). And as with Justice Willis, the presence of such a polarizing and controversial figure on the bench gives rise to questions about judicial independence versus judicial accountability.

How fracking could threaten Australia’s Paris Target from 1 March 2020 has two threads. The first is the effect of climate change in the Northern Territory, with unseasonal fires and the drying out of the mangroves.  The second theme is the planned expansion of fracking at Beetaloo Basin, with its slippery projections of carbon emissions which make a mockery of any offset activities.  I hate the pernicious influence of lobbyists, who have such sway over governments.

The Eleventh (ABC) Episode 3 Dangerous Circus jumps forward to 1974, when the wheels were starting to fall off the Whitlam Government as it lurched from one scandal to the next.  First there was Jim Cairns and Junie Morosi; then there was Rex Connor and the Loans Affair, and then Cyclone Tracy blew in. Whitlam was not impressed by the calls for him to return home (shades of ScoMo in Hawaii perhaps?)  Episode 4 The Advisor features Elizabeth Reid, the 33 year old who was appointed as Whitlam’s advisor on women at a time when there wasn’t a single female MP in the House of Representatives. Her path crossed with the newly appointed Governor General John Kerr – and what a sleazy story that is.


I hear with my little ear: Podcasts 1-7 March 2020

The Eleventh (ABC)How odd, hearing a podcast narrator speaking about events in November 1975 admitting that he wasn’t born at the time! This series is about the dismissal of the Whitlam government, claiming to have information that has only been revealed in the last few years, and nodding to the information that has yet to be released (drawing on, no doubt, Jenny Hocking’s The Dismissal Dossier: Everything you were never meant to know about November 1975, my review here). Episode 1 The Sweet Spot starts with the divisive effects of Vietnam War, and the U.S. anger at Australia’s call for both US and Vietnam to return to peace talks after the U.S. Christmas bombings. Episode 2 Black Orchids looks at the Whitlam government’s testy relationship with American spy agencies, and later Australia’s parallel agency after the bombings of Yugoslav travel agents in 1972, culminating in Attorney General Lionel Murphy’s raid on ASIO.

The History Listen (ABC) For some more mid-20th century history, the History Listen of 29 Oct 2019 examines The Bomb Lobby. The program looks at a small but powerful group of Liberal Party politicians who championed Australia having its own nuclear bomb. After the disappearance of Prime Minister Harold Holt (I feel conspiracy vibes coming on),  he was replaced by John Gorton, a strong pro-nuclear supporter with a policy of building a nuclear station at Jervis Bay, ostensibly for nuclear electricity supply, but scaleable for a weapon. I suspect that they are still amongst us.

The Documentary (BBC) The song “Wind of Change”, released in 1990, was only vaguely familiar to me, with its unusual whistled introduction. Perhaps I was too busy with young children in 1990 to listen to the radio.  In my own defence, although it was a huge hit in Europe, it only reached number 7 on the Australian weekly charts, and No. 43 for 1990.  Anyway, written before the fall of the Berlin Wall,  but released soon afterwards, this song encapsulated the hope felt for the end of the Cold War and the reunification of Germany. The program Wind of Change: Scorpions features interviews with the singers and listeners who speak about the personal and political importance of the song. And just think about where we are today.

And in case you can’t remember it, here’s the film clip.


I hear with my little ear: Podcasts 24-29 February 2020

History Listen.  From 19 November 2019, Port Essington, World’s End is about the  garrison established by the British Government in Arnhem Land in 1838, the same time that Port Phillip was being ‘opened up’. This was the third attempt to establish a settlement in the Northern Territory, both to warn off other European powers and to act as ‘Australia’s Singapore’ as a trading port with Asia. Because it was only ever a military garrison, there was no land grab and relations with the indigenous people remained good.


It’s not me!! It’s from Wikimedia

Nothing on TV  Did you have a poncho during the 1970s too? Mine was lime green, white and orange acrylic. In Have You Seen My Poncho Cloak? our trusty guide Robyn Annear takes us back to the 1855, when poncho cloaks were all the rage. Who would have thunk. Her attention was attracted by a rash of advertisements after the Exhibition Ball when a stuff-up . This episode foreshadows some of the information in her recent Nothing New (my review here)




New Books Network At 75 minutes, this podcast is FAR too long. Hiding in Plain Sight is a new book by Erika Denise Edwards, herself an Afro-American, who was struck by the seeming invisibilty of people of African heritage who were descendants of African slaves in Argentina. Using the small town of Cordoba in Argentina as her case study, she traces  the way that African women used their positions as wives, mothers, daughters and concubines to ensure that they were officially registered as ‘white’.

I hear with my little ear: Podcasts 8-15 February 2020

Shooting the Past (ABC) An episode from Sept 2017 takes a picture of an ANZAC soldier sitting in an armchair, recuperating in a garden, with tents in the background. Then you look more closely and see that he has no hands, and possibly no leg either. In Shattered Anzacs(using the title of Marina Larsson’s excellent book), this episode features Curtis McGrath, a present-day veteran who lost his legs, and Prof. Peter Stanley from the Uni of NSW ADFA discussing the meaning of amputation in war and ‘reading’ the photograph.

History Hour (BBC). Another blast from the past- both the program and its content! This episode from March 3, 2019 Venezuela’s Oil Bonanzalooks at Venezuela when the times were good and the money from oil was flowing. There’s also a horrifying story about the airline incident when people were sucked out a hole in an aeroplane (don’t listen, daughter-in-law), and the origins of the swine flu in 2009 and Mexico’s response to it- rather sobering listening during the current Covid19 crisis.

Shaping Opinion.The very first episode of the Shaping Opinion podcast,  by Tim O’Brien, a Pittsburgh-based podcaster, from March 2018 described how O’Brien met his hero, Fred Rogers, the ‘Mister Rogers’ from the film A Beautiful Day in the Neighbourhood, which I saw recently. Two years later on Feb 3 2020, after the film had been released, the program The Philosophy of Mister Rogers returned to Mr Rogers,  and Tim interviews Bill Isler, the real-life minder of Mr Rogers in the film.  If you enjoyed the film, you probably enjoy this episode.


I hear with my little ear: Podcasts 16-23 February 2020

Shaping Opinion. A long and rather verbose episode about the rise of conservative AM radio in the United States in The Rise of Rush Limbaugh & Conservative Talk Radio .The interviewee, Brian Rosenwald has written a book “Talk Radio’s America: how an industry took over a political party that took over the United States.”. He emphasizes that radio is an industry first up, and that when the AM band was threatened by the superior quality of FM radio, it moved to conversation and talkback because it still sounded alright. The repeal of the Federal Communications Commissions’ Fairness Doctrine meant that radio stations didn’t have to provide ‘balance’ anymore, and conservative radio rated well : better than liberal programs. Liberal programs tended to have  a different sense of humour to conservative programs, and a liberal listenership was more likely to listen to podcasts etc.  This program was recorded after news had broken that Rush Limbaugh is dying of cancer, so they pull their punches a bit.

99% Invisible.   I never liked the song “Who Let the Dogs Out” and even hearing about it’s convoluted history doesn’t make me like it any better. Whomst Amongst Us Let the Dogs Out looks for the very first version of the song, tracing through the various people who have sung it, or something like it, for a range of purposes: as a feminist song (!)  a rap song and a High School football chant. Doesn’t mean that I like the song any better though.

Rear Vision (ABC) From October 2019, Franco’s body- the politics of the Spanish dictator’s remainsexamines the exhumation of Franco’s body from the mausoleum at the Valley of the Fallen, a state memorial to those who fell in the Spanish Civil War. Many felt that it was inappropriate that Franco be interred there, and it was a policy of the Socialist Party and the matter spent many years in the courts. This podcast gives a good precís of the Spanish Civil War, and the issue of reconciliation (which is an ongoing and prickly question, still)

And from August 2019 How history can help shape the debate about an indigenous voice to Parliament probably doesn’t mean to be depressing, but it is. What a litany of false starts and broken promises.

Background Briefing (ABC) From 22 September 2019 Who is burning sacred objects in the outback has a surprising answer.  It’s indigenous people themselves, spurred on by a new wave of Pentecostal churches, some of which feature ‘pastors’ from Zimbabwe or Tonga.  Adds a whole new, disturbing layer to missionary zeal.

Soul Search (ABC) And while we’re on about Pentecostals, Soul Search has a program Pentecostalism in Australia.  Our Scotty is one of 650 million Pentecostals world wide- a number that is growing. Apparently the average Christian today is a 27 year old Brazilian Pentecostal woman. The program has interviews with Prof Mark Hutchinson from Alphacrusis College, a Pentecostal Theological College; Tanya Riches a life-long Hillside attendee and ‘lecturer in theology’ at Hillsong College and indigenous pastor William Dumas from Tweed Heads. Lots of Holy Spirit language here, and not much critical thinking.

Shooting the Past. The picture under discussion this time is of two ladies, looking as if they’ve just come from a CWA meeting or church, standing beside a mallee root still attached to the ground.  An other-worldly thing, the still-attached mallee root bears testimony to how much topsoil has been lost on this Mallee farm. Katie Holmes from La Trobe is one of the historians consulted- I have her (and others) book on the Mallee sitting here, waiting to go.  Flo and Bena and the Mallee Root gives an interesting potted history of land use in the Mallee.