Challis lecture in History – Rethinking Assimilation and Multiculturalism in Contemporary History – School of Humanities Challis lecture in History – Rethinking Assimilation and Multiculturalism in Contemporary History – School of Humanities

Challis lecture in History – Rethinking Assimilation and Multiculturalism in Contemporary History

Four researchers from the School of Humanities at the University of Sydney will be joined by the ABC’s Big Ideas over 2 nights.*



Thursday 10 August | 5:00pm

Rethinking Assimilation and Multiculturalism in Contemporary History

  • Chris Hilliard, Challis Professor of History in the School of Humanities
  • Niro Kandasamy, Lecturer in History in the School of Humanities
Hosted by Natasha Mitchell, ABC Radio National’s Big Ideas

How are migrants supposed to fit into a ‘host society’? How did migrant groups rewrite these expectations? A standard story, in Australia and elsewhere, is that a policy of assimilation in the 1950s gave way to multiculturalism in the 1970s. But how much did governments really invest in assimilation—or multiculturalism? How do the experiences of asylum seekers complicate this story? In this discussion University of Sydney historians Chris Hilliard and Niro Kandasamy explore these issues in the context of Britain, Australia, and France from the 1940s to the 1980s.

Following two brief presentations, Natasha will lead a discussion of these issues with the presenters and the live audience.

About the speakers

Chris Hilliard is the Challis Professor of History at the University of Sydney. He is the author of five books, most recently A Matter of Obscenity: The Politics of Censorship in Modern England (Princeton University Press, 2021). He co-edits the Oxford University Press Journal Twentieth Century British History. Hilliard is a Fellow of the Australian Academy of the Humanities and a member of its Council.

Niro Kandasamy is a lecturer in History in the School of Humanities, where she teaches International and Global Studies and researches the historical dimensions of conflict, refugee resettlement, international relations, and transnational activism. Before joining the University of Sydney, she was teaching in Melbourne and held senior research roles in non-government organisations. She has held visiting fellowships at the University of Oxford and York University, and has been interviewed on the BBC, ABC, SBS, and numerous other media. She is currently interested in exploring state and civil society responses to conflicts in the Indian Ocean region during the twentieth century.

Natasha Mitchell is a multi-award-winning journalist, radio presenter, podcaster, and audio storyteller specialising in science & society. She is host of the ABC Radio National’s flagship live events program and podcast Big Ideas, was founding host and producer of the internationally renowned radio show and one of the ABC’s first podcasts, All in the Mind, which won the Grand Prize and four Gold World Medals at the New York Radio Festivals, amongst other awards. Natasha hosted the ABC’s flagship daily social affairs program Life Matters, and was recently founding host and producer of Science Friction, awarded Best Science and Medicine podcast at the Australian Podcast Awards.

Natasha served as a board member and vice president of the World Federation of Science Journalists and was recipient of the prestigious MIT Knight Fellowship. She has facilitated many public forums around Australia, including four science dialogues with the Dalai Lama and guests. She has an engineering degree with first class honours from Monash University, and a postgraduate diploma in science communication from the ANU.

About the Challis professorships

The Challis Professorships at the University of Sydney have been named in honour of John Henry Challis, whose bequest to the University allowed for the establishment of the University’s first professorships in the areas of Law, Medicine, Veterinary Science, Biology, Civil Engineering, English Literature, History and Philosophy.


* Challis Lecture in Philosophy

The appointment of Professors Chris Hilliard and Paul Griffiths to the positions of Challis Professors in History and Philosophy respectively has provided the opportunity for these two events. This lecture, together with the Challis Lecture in Philosophy to be delivered by Professor Paul Griffiths and Associate Professor Luara Ferracioli on August 9 is part of the ABC’s ‘Big Ideas‘ series and is hosted by the School of Humanities at the University of Sydney. 


To be held on Campus at the Chau Chak Wing Museum, which will be open 10am-9pm on the day of the event. All welcome. Please click here for CCW map.

Image: Adobe stock photo.

More information

Please join us after the Lecture for light refreshments



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Aug 10 2023


5:00 pm

More Info

Register here


Chau Chak Wing Museum
Chau Chak Wing Museum
Nelson Meers Auditorium



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