Time to revise entries

Life sentences

Professor Melanie Nolan writes about murder, sexual abuse, domestic violence and mental disorder in the Australian Dictionary of Biography, a collection of biographies of significant and representative persons in Australian history.

In the decade 1994 to 2004, the British Dictionary of National Biography was granted over £25 million to revise articles written a century or so earlier and to add new ones on ‘missing persons’.

The first volume of the Australian Dictionary of Biography was published in 1966, over 50 years ago. A number of our entries also need updating.

In the absence of a similar donation and, given our limited resources, we are correcting articles as much as we can, as well as systematically publishing new entries online each year. (We are ‘up’ to significant and representative Australians who died in the 1990s.)

We also have started a number of ‘missing persons’ projects, including an ARC-funded Indigenous Australian Dictionary of Biography.

While individual articles need updating for various reasons, there are issues that pertain to groups of articles such as frontier violence, sexual violence and mental health. Certain kinds of articles need to be revised as the historiography changes and new material comes to light. Let me give a few examples.