Dr Gwenda

Dr Gwenda Tavan

Associate Professor, Department of Politics and Philosophy

College of Arts, Social Sciences and Commerce

Humanities and Social Sciences

Department of Politics and Philosophy

SS 320, Melbourne (Bundoora)


MA (Melbourne), PhD (La Trobe).



Membership of professional associations


Area of study


Brief profile

Dr Tavan lectures in a variety of Politics areas, including Australian Politics, political communication and political culture. Her research interests include Australian political institutions and culture, the politics and history of immigration in Australian and international contexts, political communication and leadership studies. She has published several articles, book chapters and two edited volumes. Her best-known work is the award-winning The Long, Slow Death of White Australia (Scribe, 2005). She regularly engages in public debates and discussions on immigration and national identity issues. Dr Tavan is currently completing a biography of Australia’s first Immigration Minister, Arthur Calwell and has also commenced a project on the political history of the Commonwealth Immigration Department.

Research interests

Australian Government and Politics

- Australia-Asia relations

- Australian political culture and institutions

- Nations and nationalism

- Political history

- Political leadership

- Race and race relations

Australian History

- Australian political history

- History of Australian immigration


- Australian migration

- Immigration and National Identity

- International migration

- Politics of immigration

Teaching units

  • POL3MSS: Borders, Boats and Barricades: The Politics of International Migration
  • POL3DOP: Doing Politics
  • POL2/3APC: Australian Political Culture

Dr Tavan also teaches into a number of other subjects.

Recent publications

Edited volumes:

  • Tavan, G (ed.) 2013, The State of the Nation: Essays for Robert Manne, Melbourne, Black Inc.
  • Neumann, K and Tavan, G. (eds.) 2009, How History Matters in Immigration and Citizenship Policy: The past in the present in Australian and New Zealand policy-making, ANU Canberra, ANU E Press, ANZSOG series.

Book chapters:

  • Tavan, G. 2017 'From Those who've Come Across the Seas: Immigration and Multiculturlaism', in Stephens, D. and Broinowski, A. (eds.) 2017, The Honest History Book, Sydney, New South. 
  • Tavan, G. 2015 'You Can take the Girl Out of Reservoir', in Michell, D, Wilson, J and Archer, V. (eds) 2015 , Bread and Roses: Voices of Australian Academics from the Working Class, Rotterdam, Sense Publishers.
  • Tavan, G.  2013 ‘Creating Multicultural Australia: Local, Global and Trans-national Contexts for the Creation of a Universal Admissions Scheme 1945-1983’, Triadafilos Triadafilopoulos (ed.), Wanted and Welcome?: Policies for Highly Skilled Immigrants in Comparative Perspective, New York, Springer.
  • Tavan, G. 2009, ‘Testing times: the problem of history in the Howard government’s citizenship test’, chapter in K. Neumann and G. Tavan (eds.), How history matters in immigration and citizenship policy: The past in the present in Australian and New Zealand policy-making, to be published ANU E Press, ANZSOG series.

Journal Articles:

  • ‘Poor Little Nancy’, The Nancy Prasad case and the Commonwealth Department of Immigration 1962-1976, Australian Historical Studies, vol. 44, no. 2 , June 2013.
  • Tavan, G. 2012. ‘No Going Back? : Australian Multiculturalism as a Path Dependent Process’, Australian Journal of Political Science, vol. 47, no. 4, pp.547-56.
  •  Tavan, G. 2012. “Fractured Families”: The Jan Allen Controversy and Australia-British Relations 1970-1972, The Journal of Imperial and Commonwealth History’, vol. 40, no. 4, pp.669-690.
  • Tavan, G. 2012, ‘Paradoxical Leadership’: Arthur Calwell and the Post-World war II Immigration Program’, Australian Journal of Politics and History, vol. 58, no.2, pp.203-220.

Older publications


  • The Long, Slow Death of White Australia, Melbourne, Scribe Publications, 2005.

Chapters in edited books:

  • ‘Two Steps Forward, One Step Back: Australian Multiculturalism during the Howard Years’, in G. Willett (ed), Thinking Down Under: Australian politics, Society and Culture in Transition, WVT (Wissenschaftlicher Verlag Trier), Trier, 2006.

Refereed articles:

  • Tavan, G. 2005. ‘The limits of discretion: the role of the Liberal Party in the dismantling of the White Australia policy’, Australian Journal of Politics and History, vol. 51, no. 3, pp.418-28.
  • Tavan, G. 2004. ‘The Abolition of the White Australia Policy: Elite Conspiracy or Will of the Australian People?’. Australian Journal of Political Science, volume 39, number 1, pp. 109-25.
  • Gurry, M. and Tavan, G 2004. ‘Too Soft and Long-Haired?: The Department of External Affairs and the Dismantling of the White Australia Policy’. Australian Journal of International Affairs, volume 58, number 1, March 2004, pp. 127–42.
  • Tavan, G. 2001. ‘Immigration: Control or Colour Bar?: The Immigration Reform Groups 1959-1966’, Australian Historical Studies, no.117, pp.181-200.
  • Tavan, G. 1997. “Good Neighbours”: Community Organisations, Migrant Assimilation and Australian Society and Culture, 1959-1961’, in J. Murphy and J. Smart (eds.), The Forgotten Fifties, Aspects of Australian Society and Culture in the 1950s, special edition of Australian Historical Studies, no.109, pp.77-89.


Other publications by Gwenda Tavan:

  • 'Remembering the "old" Immigration Department's nation-building traditions, The Conversation, 14 July 2015.
  • ‘Why Chris Bowen isn’t afraid of multiculturalism (but others are), The Conversation, April 2011.
  • ‘Multiple choice time for Labor’, Age, 10 January 2008.
  • ‘Alcune osservazioni sulle elezione australiane del 24 Novembre’, Giano, 57, 2008.
  • Gwenda Tavan and Annabelle Astbury (eds.), Debating Australia’s Future: Immigration 1960-2000, History Teachers’ Association of Victoria, 2006.
  • J. V D’Cruz in conversation with Gwenda Tavan, Overland, 180–Spring, 2005, pp.17–20.
  • ‘Thank Holt and Whitlam’, The Australian, 22 August 2005.
  • ‘Race lessons for leaders in policy’s slow demise’, Sydney Morning Herald, 4 May 2005.

Research projects

  • Harold White Fellow, National Library of Australia 2013
  • Frederic Watson Fellow, National Archives of Australia 2013
  • Dr Tavan is currently completing a biography of Arthur Calwell, Australia’s first Immigration Minister.
  • She has  recently begun a history of the Commonwealth Department of Immigration.