Medicine, Law and Gender in Australian History

November 2016February 2017
Summer Research Scholarship


This project will explore the ways medicine (including clinical medicine and psychiatry) was used in the courtroom in the 1970s and 1980s in Australia. The doctor was one of the key “expert” witnesses called at trial, and may also be required to give evidence at sentencing. Yet we know little of how medicine and the law intersect and collide, especially in Australia’s recent past. This project will explore medical writings on crime in the 1970s and/or 1980s, and how medicine and psychiatry understood criminal offences and potential treatment regimes. The main source will be medical journals in Australia and overseas; medical jurisprudence texts; and government legislation. Some research in newspapers would also be of use.

The project supervisor researches in sexual crimes, but would consider other forms of crime if the student preferred.

Expected outcomes and deliverables

The participant would expect to:

  • learn skills in primary source collection
  • gain skills in primary source analysis
  • develop writing skills looking towards publication
  • The student should be aiming towards publication (or co-publication with the supervisor) of 1-2 articles for a well- respected scholarly or historical blog.
  • Primary sources collected may be utilised in later work on sexual crimes by the supervisor, with acknowledgment of the student’s input.

Suitable for

The project is open to UQ students with a major in History in their 3rd of 4th year, including those who have completed fourth year and plan to go onto further research. A legal background is not required.

The student would need to be prepared to work with sensitive material, including potential discussion of sexual crimes including rape and child sexual assault.

The student may need to travel to UQ libraries in Brisbane and the State Library of Queensland.

Project members