The History Council of Victoria established the Jane Hansen Prize for History Advocacy was established in 2020 to recognise the efforts of a group or individual that has advocated for the value of history, the work of historians and/or the importance of an education in history.
The prize is named in honour of Ms Jane Hansen AO whose passion for history and its advocacy is widely acknowledged. Through the Hansen Little Foundation, which aims to create a legacy of significant and positive change that inspires and enables Australians, Ms Hansen has provided generous philanthropic support for history and historians in a number of organisations, including the History Council of Victoria.
On Thursday, October 21, 2021 Ms Hansen announced that Sue Thompson President of the Lilydale & District Historical Society was the first recipient of the award. See the video of the anouncement made via Zoom.
Below is the nomination form submitted by Margaret Birtley AM
Terms and conditions
The prize will be awarded for the first time in 2021 and thereafter will be awarded at the discretion of the judging panel. The prize will be awarded to a group or individual that has advocated – in a professional or volunteer capacity – for the value of history (of any society and/or period), the work of historians and/or the importance of an education in history.
The prize recognises either a specific activity or longer-term cumulative endeavours and will prioritise initiatives continued or commenced within the last three years.
The prize will consist of a cash payment of $500 and a certificate, presented at the HCV’s Annual Lecture.
Winners will also be recognised with acknowledgement via the HCV’s publications and social media, and year-long membership to the HCV Friends.
Applicants must be a resident of Victoria.
The closing date for applications is 30 June 2021.
• On this page, include a summary of the applicant’s advocacy of history (maximum one page)
• On additional pages, attach examples of the applicant’s advocacy of history (e.g. through radio, television, newspapers, social media, letter-writing, leadership roles etc.) plus the results and responses
Sue Thompson’s professional career as a journalist began in 1976. She became the News Editor of the Lilydale Express in 1983, and regional Editor in 1988 for Leader Newspapers. In the same year, she established her own business, Roundabout Publishing Pty Ltd.
Sue’s interests in family history, local history and journalism combined in 1987 when preparing the centenary edition of the Express. She approached the Lilydale and District Historical Society for assistance with images and information, resulting in an historically-focused, 100-page edition of the newspaper.
Sue joined the Society at that time and has been an effective contributor ever since, providing leadership for the Society as its President (1990- 2001), Secretary (2009-2015) and again as President (2015 to the present). She is an active volunteer at the Society’s home (the Old Lilydale Court House), and previously at the Museum of Lillydale (now the Yarra Ranges Regional Museum). For that Museum, she served on its Board of Management, helped appoint the first municipal curator in Victoria (Moya MacFadzean) as its manager from 1989, raised funds for extensions to the building, and assisted the transition of the Museum’s governance from the Society to the Shire of Lillydale.
Sue was elected as a Councillor of the Shire in 1990 and served until 1994 when amalgamation with other local government areas created the Shire of Yarra Ranges. Since then, she has become a passionate advocate of history and heritage values to the Shire, availing herself of every opportunity that the Council provides for questions and submissions from the public.
Sue has written and/or co-ordinated the publication of approximately 40 books, walking tours and education kits for the Society. In 2014, the website complementing Gun Alley: The Forgotten Story of Lilydale’s Back Streets 1880 to Today won a Victorian Community History Award in the Multimedia History category, and was Highly Commended in the Multimedia category of the nationwide Museums Australia Multimedia and Publication Design Awards. She has published several history titles, including David Mitchell: A Forfar Man by Pamela Lady Vestey (1992) and From Jolimont to Yering by Ray Henderson (2006). She helped create the Ranges Trader Mail 20th anniversary edition in 1999.
Sue’s commitment to publicising history and making it accessible to new audiences has been recognised by a number of awards, including:
• Citizen of the Year, Shire of Lillydale (1989), for her work on numerous community committees and in the establishment and development of local library services.
• Life Membership, Lilydale and District Historical Society Inc. (1995), for her outstanding contribution to researching and recording of local history for the Shire of Lillydale.
• Centenary Medal, Australian government (2001), for service to the community as a newspaper editor and through fund raising for local museums.
• Award of Merit, Royal Historical Society of Victoria (2016), for contributions ‘as a driving force’ to the Society and to the local community.
Sue’s energy in advocating history has not abated. She is a respected public speaker on historical topics. She has embraced new technologies and their ability to reach new audiences, having developed and maintained two important websites: www.lilydalehistorical.com.au for the Lilydale and District Historical Society, and www.nelliemelbamuseum.com.au as a hub for information on the world-renowned operatic soprano, Dame Nellie Melba (1861-1931), whose Australian home was in the Lilydale district and on whom Sue has published extensive original research.
In 2019 she became the local champion for the Value of History Statement published by the History Councils of Australia, gaining endorsements from the Lilydale and District Historical Society and the Yarra Ranges Heritage Network, and recognition by the Yarra Ranges Council.
Sue Thompson’s Acceptance Speech
I’m a little overwhelmed at the honour the History Council of Victoria and Jane Hansen has just given me. I accept it on behalf of all those people throughout Victoria who actively promote the value of history in their communities.
I have been fortunate in being able to combine my two professional loves throughout my life – my love of history and journalism.
Way back in the very early 60s I had a school assignment about my family. This started my lifelong love of history.
After a brief stint in the law, I found my niche in journalism where I spent the next 40 years working with and promoting local communities and their stories.
For years Lilydale & District Historical Society was referred to as the hysterical society which was full of old people.
To me there is only one way to counter that description – be active, be innovative and use technology to promote the value of history and its importance in society.
When in 2019 the Value of History Statement was released it was my Eureka Moment. It summed up what history is but more importantly, its role in our lives today and in the future.
After gaining endorsement from the 14 plus members of the Yarra Ranges Heritage Network, I made a presentation on the Value of History at a Yarra Ranges Council Meeting and urged the councillors to include it in their next corporate plan as a vision statement.
That request is about to be realized as the Value of History Statement has been added to the draft Corporate Plan which will be adopted shortly.
However, the lobbying or advocacy doesn’t stop. Over the next few years, we must continue to educate the decision-makers to include the value of history in all their decisions.
For the past two years, Lilydale township has been undergoing massive changes with a level crossing removal and millions of government dollars being spent on new infrastructure. As historians we have to accept change but we should always try and ensure our community’s history is woven into all new projects and activities to ensure its stories are preserved and told to present and future residents.
Finally, I want to express my thanks to Margaret Birtley who nominated me for this award. I don’t know how she did it, but she found out things I had long forgotten.
Thank you everyone.
Lilydale Star Mail Report