Call for Expressions of Interest – 55th Annual Symposium

The ideas and ideals of Australia: The Lucky Country turns sixty

“Australia is a lucky country run mainly by second rate people who share its luck. It lives on other people’s ideas, and, although its ordinary people are adaptable, most of its leaders (in all fields) so lack curiosity about the events that surround them that they are often taken by surprise.”

Co-convened by Professor Frank Bongiorno FAHA FASSA and Professor Mark McKenna FAHA, and supported by a diverse steering committee, the 2024 AAH Symposium on ‘The Lucky Country’ will not be about the book, per se, but about changes in Australian culture, since its publication, that were in some cases stimulated by the analysis that Donald Horne provided.

This is a Symposium for a wide audience, from Fellows and scholars from across the higher education sector, to bureaucrats, journalists, leaders and stakeholders interested in ideas (and ideals).

This Symposium will explore topics considered by Horne, encapsulated by his chapter titles: The Australian Dream, What is an Australian?, Senses of Difference, Between Britain and America, Living with Asia, Work, Power, Forming Opinions… The chapter titles continue to provide a checklist, even if incomplete, for assessing the state of the nation.

There are, from our perspective, omissions, amongst them; the changes wrought by feminism, Australia’s involvement in Vietnam and the Middle East, globalisation, enhanced connectivity, and the failure of settler Australians to listen to Indigenous voices.

Among the questions provoked by Horne, and to be considered, might be:

  • Are ‘ordinary Australians’ still fulfilling their aspirations?
  • Are our elites still ‘second-rate’ and ‘mediocre’?
  • Is Australian public life still marked by ‘tolerance’, and is being tolerant enough?
  • Are we still ‘The Lucky Country’ – in the way Horne ironically suggested, or perhaps in some other sense?

The 55th Annual Academy Symposium will be held as a face-to-face program, provisionally scheduled for 14-15 November 2024. The host city for this Symposium is under consideration, pending sponsorship. It is our hope that this one will be held in Canberra.

We are now seeking expressions of interest from Fellows who wish to contribute by presenting a session at the Symposium. We also encourage you to nominate other researchers who you believe would bring an important perspective to the Symposium.

Places are limited, and the Symposium Committee will be looking to select presenters and sessions from a range of disciplines and career stages to ensure a breadth of new perspectives.

Please complete the form below (150 words maximum) by Friday 23 February or contact the Academy at for further information. Outcomes will be notified by early June.

If you wish to nominate another researcher who you believe would bring an important perspective to the Symposium, please provide the following:

Acknowledgement of Country

The Australian Academy of the Humanities recognises Australia’s First Nations Peoples as the traditional owners and custodians of this land, and their continuous connection to country, community and culture.