Share in $70,000 by contributing to a state’s collective memory

Artists, academics and storytellers from all disciplines are invited to apply for a range of research fellowships as part of the Queensland Memory Awards.

As a storehouse of lived experience, memories help us adapt to new situations by recalling what we’ve learned in the past. But while we tend to think of memories as personal recollections, some memories are shared – such as the collective story of a state and its people.

Founded in 1896, State Library of Queensland contains a comprehensive collection of cultural and documentary heritage including the many diaries, manuscripts, artworks and maps held in the John Oxley Library.

Allocating $70,000 in awards and stipends, the Queensland Memory Awards enable access to this important collection for researchers who wish to contribute to the sum total of Queensland’s history.

‘The awards definitely play on that idea of collective story. You could call it a “history fellowship” or something like that, but I think it’s really about the communal and community narrative that people contribute to through their work on these initiatives,’ said Gavin Bannerman, Director, Queensland Memory at State Library of Queensland.

The Queensland Memory Awards are made possible by the support of donors and philanthropists through the Queensland Library Foundation, with the program featuring a range of fellowships, awards and residencies, including the Monica Clare Research Fellowship (open to people who identify as Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander), the Mittelheuser Scholar-in- Residence, and the prestigious John Oxley Library Fellowship (whose recipient receives a $20,000 stipend).

‘There’s a fellowship for everybody,’ said Bannerman, ‘and we have an information night coming up on 23 February for prospective applicants to ask questions; it’s a safe space where there are no dumb questions at all, because a lot of people have never done a fellowship before.

‘If I didn’t work in a library, I’m not even sure I’d know what a fellowship is,’ he added, laughing.

The Queensland Memory Awards also offer Queenslanders the chance to recognise and celebrate the work of historians and community groups.

‘There’s a John Oxley Library Award, and the John Oxley Library Community History Award, which comes with a $5000 cash prize. So they’re not fellowships for research projects about to be undertaken; they’re merit awards for contributions to Queensland history. So if there’s a community group or a particular individual doing especially important work, we’re encouraging people to nominate those outstanding groups or individuals,’ Bannerman said.


Potential applicants are urged to familiarise themselves with the John Oxley Library’s collection before applying for a Queensland Memory Award.

‘I think that there’s nothing that makes the judges feel better than if there’s an obvious demonstration that the person has looked at least at the material on our catalogue … I think what demonstrates less of a deep engagement with a collection is when people just blithely say, “Oh, I will use newspapers on Trove to do my research,” and it’s not specific, it’s not tied to a particular collection.’

While access to the collection – together with a stipend and a personal, 12-month work space in the Neil Roberts Research Lounge – are important aspects of the awards program, so too is the opportunity to confer and share ideas with State Library of Queensland’s knowledgeable staff.  

‘The access to the collection in a wonderful aspect of the fellowships, but it’s really the expertise and assistance, the stewardship, the mentoring from staff as well, that helps the successful fellows on their research journey. It points them in directions that they never would have thought of,’ said Bannerman.

‘It’s also a two-way street – we’re greatly enriched by our researchers, and by going along on their journey with them, it also enhances our understanding of the collection.’

Receipt of a Queensland Memory Awards fellowship provides the successful applicants with the rare opportunity to dedicate themselves to their research for months at a time.

‘One of the loveliest things in our time-poor world at the moment is the opportunity to actually search and delve into one particular topic in detail. So through the bursary and the stipend that you receive as a fellow, it recompenses some of your time, and gives you access and opportunity to look deeply at one particular thing for an extended period of time,’ Bannerman explained.

‘And it’s not just someone going through dry historical material and telling that story back to us; it’s often actually working with people’s living memories.’

Learn more about the Queensland Memory Awards and how to apply for a research fellowship. Entries close at 5pm on Thursday 25 March.

Richard Watts is ArtsHub's National Performing Arts Editor; he also presents the weekly program SmartArts on Three Triple R FM, and serves as the Chair of La Mama Theatre's volunteer Committee of Management. Richard is a life member of the Melbourne Queer Film Festival, and was awarded the status of Melbourne Fringe Living Legend in 2017. In 2020 he was awarded the Sidney Myer Performing Arts Awards' Facilitator's Prize. Most recently, Richard was presented with a Lifetime Achievement Award by the Green Room Awards Association in June 2021. Follow him on Twitter: @richardthewatts