Professor Melanie Oppenheimer

Emeritus Professor

College of Humanities, Arts and Social Sciences

place Humanities (217)
GPO Box 2100, Adelaide 5001, South Australia

Professor Oppenheimer was appointed to the Chair of History in July 2013. She previously held positions in Australian History at the University of Western Sydney and the University of New England. From July 2016 to June 2017, Melanie was Dean of the School of History and International Relations. She completed a three-year term as a member of the ARC College of Experts in 2018. Melanie is a Fellow of the Academy of the Social Sciences in Australia and was elected President of the Australian Historical Association for a two-year term (2020-22).

Her research interests include the role of voluntary organisations and patriotic funds in times of peace and war; the history of volunteering and voluntary action; and gender and imperialism. Her ARC funded projects include soldier settlement schemes post WWI; a history of the 1970s Australian Assistance Plan; Meals on Wheels; and sustaining volunteering in Australia. Melanie's centenary history of Australian Red Cross, The Power of Humanity. 100 Years of Australian Red Cross was published by HarperCollins in August 2014. Her book, co-authored with Bruce Scates, The Last Battle: Soldier Settlement in Australia, 1916-1939 was published by Cambridge University Press in November 2016. She co-edited (with Mandy Paul and Margaret Anderson), SA on the Eve of War (Wakefield Press, 2017) and co-edited (with Erik Eklund and Joanne Scott) The State of Welfare. Comparative Studies of the Welfare State at the end of the long boom, 1965-1980 (Peter Lang, 2018).

In September 2018, Melanie took up a ten-month appointment as Visiting Chair in Australian Studies at the University of Tokyo. She returned to Flinders in mid-July 2019.


PhD (Macquarie University) (1997)

M. Litt (University of New England, Armidale) (1988)

BA & Dip. Ed. (University of New England, Armidale) (1979)

Honours, awards and grants

2019 - ARC DP190101171 Lead CI 'Resilient Humanitarianism: The League of Red Cross Societies, 1919-1991'. Four-year project.

2017 - elected a Fellow of the Academy of the Social Sciences in Australia

2015 - ARC LP150100219 co-CI 'Beyond the Stage: Interpreting history through performance arts practice' (through University of Adelaide).

2015 - Winner of Ferguson Prize (with co-author Bruce Scates) for best article published on an interwar theme, '"I intend to get justice": The Moral Economy of Soldier Settlement', Labour History, no. 106, May 2014, pp. 229-253.

2014 - ARC DP150103022 Lead CI 'Developing a community soul: the Australian Assistance Plan and its impact on regionalism, localism and voluntary action from 1972'. Completed.

2014 - ARC LP140100528, co-CI 'Creating and sustaining a strong future for volunteering in Australia' (through Curtin University).

2010-13 ARC LP100200065 Lead CI 'Meals on Wheels: building towards a new social experiment for our times'. Completed

2010-14 appointed Centenary Historian for Australian Red Cross to research and write an organisational history, The Power of Humanity.

2010 & 2012 Two research projects with Great Community Transport Inc, 'Protection of volunteers in the workplace'.

2008-2012 ARC LP0883705 co-CI 'A Land Fit for Heroes: A social, cultural and environmental history of soldier settlement in NSW, 1916-1939' (through Monash University). Completed.

2007 - UWS College of Arts Teaching Award for excellence in undergraduate teaching.

2006 - National Archives of Australia (NAA) Margaret George Award to research the history of volunteering in Australia.

2003 - Canadian Studies Faculty Research Award for comparative project on Canadian and Australian volunteering during WWII.

2003 - All Work. No Pay. Australian Civilian Volunteers in War shortlisted for NSW Premiers' History Awards.

Supervisory interests
20th century Australian history
Contemporary volunteering
Gender and imperialism
History of the Australian Red Cross
History of third sector and voluntary action
Soldier settlement
Women, war and volunteering
Higher degree by research supervision
Principal supervisor: Volunteering (1), Australian History (2), Biography & History (1)
Associate supervisor: Australian History (2)
Principal supervisor: Australian History; contemporary volunteering (6)
  • volunteering; voluntary organisations; 20th century Australian history; women & war; Anzac Centenary
Further information

See & hear Melanie as she participates in "The Missing", a Wind & Sky documentary on missing soldiers from WWI, November 2019:

Anzac Day, 2018:

Hear Melanie on ABC Overnights, 18 September 2017 talking with Trevor Chappell about Catherine Helen Spence:

A story on ABC to accompany the book launch of The Last Battle: Soldier Settlement in Australia, 1916-1939 held at National Archives of Australia, 11 November 2016:

Hear Melanie on ABC Radio National's The Money program, 21 April 2016:

14th Biennial Labour History Conference, 13 February 2015. Melanie Oppenheimer & Bruce Scates receive the Ferguson Prize from The Hon Laurie Ferguson:

Listen to Melanie's interview with ABC 612 Drive program with Tim Cox, 26 August 2014,

Australian Red Cross celebrated its 100 years in 2014. Centenary author, Professor Melanie Oppenheimer, provided extensive expertise on ABC radio, ABC TV and other media outlets. Examples below:

On 12 August 2014, the Governor-General launched Melanie's book, The Power of Humanity: 100 Years of Australian Red Cross (Harper Collins).