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The Royal Historical Society of Queensland and the Professional Historians Association (Qld) Inc are pleased to award the 2018 John Douglas Kerr Medal of Distinction to Dr William Metcalf. The medal was presented to Metcalf by the Governor of Queensland, the Honourable Paul de Jersey AC at the Queensland Day Dinner. Hosted by the Royal Historical Society of Queensland at the Brisbane Club, this year the event’s guest speaker was Dr David Fricker, Director-General of the National Archives of Australia, President of the International Council on Archives, and Vice-Chair, UNESCO Memory of the World International Advisory Committee.
Dr Metcalf has produced a prodigious body of work across a research career spanning over four decades. He has advanced the study of Queensland and Australian history most notably through his investigation of utopian communalism in Australia, a project which he commenced in 1990. His publishing in this field includes two books, The Gayndah Communes, published in 1998, and Herrnhut: Australia’s First Utopian Commune, co-authored with Elizabeth Huf and published in 2002. In addition to these volumes, Metcalf has authored an extensive bibliography of journal articles and essays on this topic, and continues to explore this subject in his ongoing project, The Encyclopedia of Australian Utopian Communalism.
In addition to his work in this field, Bill has contributed significantly to the study of local history in Brisbane. Bill’s work in this field include the chapters ‘The Toohey Family: Irish Catholicism and Land Speculation in Early Brisbane’, published in People, Places and Pageantry in 1987; ‘Henry George’s Utopia: Wintergarden Centre, Queen Street Mall’, published in Radical Brisbane in 2004; and ‘Dr Thomas Pennington Lucas and Plague Denial – “More terrible than war!”’, published in Brisbane Diseased: Contagions, Cures and Controversy in 2016. Bill’s most recent volume, Brisbane: Tertiary Education 1825-2018 – Training, Teaching and Turmoil, co-edited with Barry Shaw and released earlier this year, brings together several viewpoints on the development of Brisbane’s academic landscape from the earliest period of the Moreton Bay penal settlement to the present day.
Throughout his career, Bill has supported and enhanced academic rigour in professional historical work. He has served as President of the International Communal Studies Association and locally on the management committee of the Brisbane History Group; he has acted as a peer reviewer for The Queensland History Journal; and has performed as Assessor and Advisor for the Brisbane City Council History and Heritage Grants program. Most impressive, however, is Bill’s commitment to ensuring historians of the future are capable of producing work of the highest scholarly standard. Bill has been invited three times, in 1991, 1995, and 1998, to Queen’s University, Belfast, to deliver public lectures and liaise with staff and postgraduate students as a Distinguished-Scholar-in-Residence; and in his service as a research methodologist at Griffith University, taught and encouraged tertiary students to engage with history laterally to develop relevant research questions for the discipline.
In all his research, Bill has demonstrated extraordinary energy in identifying sources and people relevant to his research; this enthusiasm is testified in the impressive quantity and consistent standard of his published work. A commensurate historian, Bill has very much ensured that the events and personalities of the past remain remembered and considered in the present.
In conclusion, Dr William Metcalf is a most deserving recipient of the 2018 John Douglas Kerr Medal of Distinction.