Lecture to examine ‘bush parsons’ in history and literature

Published 08 April 2010

churchA public lecture at the University of New England next week will examine the role of “bush parsons” in Australia’s nineteenth-century frontier society, and their portrayal in literature.

Professor Hilary M. Carey from the University of Newcastle, the President of the Religious History Society, will present the lecture – the 22nd Russel Ward Annual Lecture – at UNE on Thursday 15 April. Titled “Bushmen and bush parsons: the shaping of a rural myth”, it will be in UNE’s Arts Building (the A2 Lecture Theatre) at 6 pm.

“The religious character of the Australian frontier was a source of perennial anxiety to respectable society,” Professor Carey says. “This paper will examine the character of the bush parson in Australian history and literature.

“Throughout the nineteenth century, colonial missionary societies fought hard to promote the character of the bush as a suitable field for missionary endeavours and the bush parson as part of the bush landscape, not an imposition on it.”

“To what extent were they successful?” is a question she will address in her lecture.

The Russel Ward Annual Lecture honours the memory and legacy of Emeritus Professor Russel Braddock Ward, one of UNE’s most renowned scholars. Russel Ward taught at UNE from 1957, and was Deputy Chancellor of the University from 1981 to 1989. He was the author of a number of important books, including The Australian Legend (1958), A Nation for a Continent (1977) and Finding Australia (1987).

Hilary M. Carey is a religious and cultural historian with a special interest in the colonial history of religious settlement in the British Empire. She is the editor of the book Empires of Religion, published by Palgrave Macmillan in 2008. Her Russel Ward lecture will draw on her research for another book, God’s Empire: Religion and Colonialism in Greater Britain, soon to be published by Cambridge University Press.

The Russel Ward Annual Lecture is sponsored by UNE’s School of Humanities. Past speakers include Henry Reynolds and Geoffrey Blainey.