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Poetry in Hansard

A collaboration with Dr Julieanne Lamond (ANU) 


  • Lamond, Julieanne., Morgan, Fiannuala., Burton, Sarah-Jane. “Hansard as literary reception: the uses of poetry in Australian political debate." The Journal of Australian Studies (Forthcoming accepted 27 October 2023)


  • Lamond, Julieanne. & Morgan, Fiannuala.“Hansard as literary reception: the uses of poetry in Australian political debate.” Co-presented with Julieanne Lamond. CuSPP Seminar Series, The Australian National University, 8 June 2023.

  • Morgan, Fiannuala. “Hansard as Publisher of Australian Poetry: Poet-Parliamentarians and a New Archive of Australian Poetry.” Out of the Ordinary: On Poetry and the World. Presented at The University of Canberra, 7-9 December 2022.

  • Lamond, Julieanne. & Morgan, Fiannuala. “The Uses of Literature: Hansard as Literary Reception.” Texts and Their Limits, Victoria University, 21-23 July 2021.


  • Recipient seed funding CASS Small Grants Scheme 2022 ($7000)

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This project explores the uses of poetry in parliamentary debate as recorded in Australian Hansard. Poetry has always played a significant role in Australian political debate with a long and established history of published poet-parliamentarians, including Adam Lindsay Gordon, Alfred Deakin and Gough Whitlam amongst many others.  The role of poetry in Australian political discourse has, however, received little scholarly attention. In parliamentary debate, poetry is a powerful rhetorical device that is performed, misquoted, parodied, re-written, attacked, defended and ultimately, published. 

The recent digitisation of Australian Hansard presents the opportunity to collate this material for the first time and, through the application of innovative methods from digital humanities, political and literary history, to understand the uses of poetry in Australian political discourse and public life. Drawing on other international parliamentary meta-data based projects, this pilot project demonstrates the potential for linked data and targeted research in Australian Hansard based on a close analysis of the decades 1901-1950. In the process, it also investigates the role of Hansard as a site of literary reception, circulation and production.

Our initial research has already revealed a substantial body of original parliamentary poetry and identified significant historical moments that were informed by poetic performance. For example, in 1975, the entirety of Oodgeroo Noonuccal’s poem, ‘Civilization,’ was performed by Labor Senator Arthur Gietzelt in relation to debate surrounding the Racial Discrimination Bill. Poetry has been used in parliamentary speeches about questions from the White Australia Policy to the Workchoices Bill to the sale of Telstra. This project seeks to understand when, why and how poetry is used in political speeches in Australia, across a period that has seen dramatic transformation in how these speeches are made and communicated to the public.

This project aims to:

  • Investigate the role poetry has played in Australian politics and improve understanding of the role of literature in public life

  • Provide an entirely new way for scholars and public alike to explore the history of Australian politics through the production of a publicly-accessible database, searchable by electorate, of references to and performances of poetry in Australian Hansard

The changing nature of the poetry referred to in Hansard - and the uses to which it is put - is revealing of how poetry circulates and is understood in Australia from 1901 until 1950. The completion of a gold-standard dataset will facilitate the scaling of this project to the present day, and present the opportunity to incorporate state and/or international Hansard, through the application of machine learning and other computational approaches.

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