Gammage, Bill

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Gammage, Bill

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  • Gammage, William (Bill) Leonard

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Bill Gammage was born in 1942. He arrived in Wagga Wagga, NSW, in 1951 after living about 2 years in Orange and about 7 years in Sydney. He went to Wagga Demonstration School and Wagga High School. During his school years, he worked in a range of jobs including a market garden, a cordial factory, and as a farm labourer. From 1961 he was a regular employee of the Heckendorfs of “Mountview”, Lockhart, during the long Christmas holidays, working mainly on the wheat harvest.

In 1961, Bill went to the Australian National University (ANU), Canberra. In 1964, he completed his Teachers’ Certificate at the University of Sydney and in 1965 his honours year in History at the ANU.

In 1966, Bill went to Port Moresby to teach history in the preliminary year of the University of Papua New Guinea (UPNG). At the end of the year, he returned to ANU to do his PhD on Australian soldiers in the Great War. With his PhD finished, Bill travelled the world for a year.

On return from his travels in 1971, Bill worked for 5 months as a research assistant for Ken Inglis, Professor of History at UPNG, then accepted a job teaching Australian and Papua New Guinea history in the History Department at UPNG. In February 1972, he and Jan married and went to Port Moresby.

At the end of 1976, Bill left UPNG and joined the History Department at the University of Adelaide, teaching Australian history. From 1987 to 1990, he was Senior Research Fellow in Pacific History at the ANU, and from 1996, he was in the Humanities Research Centre at ANU, where he remains today as Adjunct Professor. He continues to supervise post-graduate students.

Bill’s books include The Broken Years: Australian Soldiers in the Great War (1974), An Australian in the First World War (1976), Narrandera Shire (1986), The Sky Travellers: Journeys in New Guinea 1938-1939 (1998) and The Biggest Estate on Earth: How Aborigines Made Australia (2011). He has written articles, including on Papua New Guinea, and worked as a historical adviser/consultant on films and documentaries. He was a member of the Council of the National Museum of Australia for three years. He contributes to the work of the Australian Dictionary of Biography and the National Library of Australia’s Oral History Unit.

In 1987 Bill was made a Freeman of the Shire of Narrandera, in 1991 he became a Fellow of the Academy of Social Sciences in Australia, and in 2005 he was awarded the Order of Australia (AM). Several of his books have won prizes, most recently in 2012 The Biggest Estate on Earth won seven prizes, including the Prime Minister’s Prize for Australian History and the Victorian Prize for Literature.


Australia, Papua New Guinea

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Australian historian, Academic

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Gammage, Bill

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