Fred Cahir – Academic Researcher & Author

Dr Fred Cahir is an Associate Professor in Aboriginal Studies.

His Masters and PhD focused on Victorian Aboriginal history. His PhD ‘Black Gold: the role of Aboriginal people on the Gold Fields of Victoria’ was awarded the prestigious Australian National University & Australian Historical Association 2008 Alan Martin Award for ‘a PhD Thesis which has made a significant contribution to the field of Australian history.’

‘Black Gold’ was published in 2012 by Aboriginal History & Australian National University E-Press and subsequently was awarded a Commendation in the 2013 Victorian Community History Awards.

Fred’s latest book in 2019 is

    My Country all gone. The White men have stolen it. The Invasion of Wadawurrung Country 1800-1870

My Country all gone is a telling of the invasion of Wadawurrung Country (encompassing the wider Ballarat and Geelong districts of Victoria) in the period 1800-1870.

It is a history about international relations between the Wadawurrung and the ngamadjidj (the Wadawurrung word used to describe us which can be translated as ‘white stranger belonging to the sea’). Fred’s book acknowledges the necessity for non-Aboriginal Australians to recognise and confront their own place and role in the history of Aboriginal–colonial invader relations.

Fred has recently joined (2019) as a partner researcher with Victorian Traditional Owners who are developing a Victorian Cultural Fire Strategy to enable the reintroduction of Cultural Fire to the Victorian landscape in partnership with the Federation of Victorian Traditional Owner Corporations (FVTOC), contracted by the Department of Land, Water and Planning (DELWP).

This Traditional Owner led research program, in collaboration with a consortium of Universities from across Australia are developing a research program to explore the valuable contribution that science and research can provide to the body of evidence associated with the application of cultural fire knowledge and practice.

Another recent project of Fred’s is:

    Ordinary People in Extraordinary Circumstances: The Red Cross Enquiry Volunteers, the Australian War Graves Workers and the Crisis of the Missing.

This is a collaborative project between Fed Uni and Wind and Sky productions in partnership with the State Government of Victoria, Australian Red Cross, the Australian War Memorial, the RSL and the Shrine of Remembrance. This documentary film, digital gallery and education kit commemorates the Victorian volunteer men and women who helped bring closure to families of Australians lost in World War One. Distributed online and through regional and metropolitan community events it
forms a timely resource for the centenary of the Great War’s end. The official launch is scheduled to occur at the Shrine of Remembrance in Melbourne on 29th November 2019.

Fred is the lead author of a multi-authored book published by Palgrave Macmillan which will be launched in December 2019.

    ‘Devoted labour for the lost, the unknown but not forgotten dead’: The Australian War Graves Workers’ (1918-1922).

This study of the Australian Graves Detachment (AGD) and the Australian Graves Service (AGS) begins with a discussion of the ideological motivations for the inception of graves work. The book provides a biographically nuanced and uncensored view into the living and working conditions of selected individual Australian War Graves (AWG) workers as they undertook the necessary, yet gruesome, work of transforming bloodied and devastated terrain into peaceful and revered sites of mourning. Showcasing how battlefields were transformed into cemeteries through the lens of AWG workers exposes the complexities of the task and provides a bridge between stories of battlefield and home-front experiences post-WWI conflict. By embracing an eclectic variety of biography writing expression styles, the authors hope to bridge the significant gaps, which exist in our knowledge of the Australian War Graves workers.

Fred is on the Editorial Board of ‘Provenance’, the journal of the Public Records Office of Victoria. He is a member of the Royal Historical Society of Victoria, Australian Historical Society and AIATSIS (Australian Institute of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Studies). 

Two of his books, The Aboriginal Story of Burke and Wills: Forgotten Narratives (co-edited with Professor Ian Clark and short listed for the ‘NSW Premier’s History Awards’ in 2014) and Aboriginal Bio-Cultural Knowledge in southeastern Australia (2018) co-written with Ian Clark and Philip Clarke, are now in their second edition.

Fred was a ‘University of Queensland Industry Fellow’ (2014) researching ‘Aboriginal people’s roles on the Queensland Gold Fields’ and also an ‘Australian Prime Ministers Centre Fellow’ (2014) examining the ‘Relationships that Prime Ministers John Curtin and Alfred Deakin forged with Aboriginal people’.

Over the past thirty years Fred has worked with Aboriginal communities in both Victoria and the Northern Territory in many capacities and settings including: homeland outstations, TAFE, schools, Native Title groups, Registered Aboriginal Party’s, Universities, Traditional Owners, Aboriginal Cultural Centres Catchment Management Authorities and prisons.

Fred works as a teacher/researcher consultant with communities, institutions and organisations exploring the application of Cultural Renewal Restorative Practices.

His work on Cultural Renewal Projects such as: ‘Possum Skin Cloak Making’, ‘Indigenous people on the goldfields’, ‘Indigenous Ecological Knowledge’, ‘Aboriginal Land Management with Fire’, ‘Stringy bark canoe making’ and ‘Bush Tucker Gardens’ have substantially contributed to many teaching and research achievements including successful documentary grant applications, major exhibitions, national educational initiatives at museums, schools and web based resource tools.

Fred’s research projects have recently contributed to major cultural education outcomes for Culture Victoria, Public Record Office of Victoria, Old Treasury Building Museum and Sovereign Hill Museum. See them at:

Fred presented the inaugural Lecture at the Gnarrwirring Ngitj (Learning Together) Festival 2016 and led an exciting month long public lecture series ‘Rethinking the Australian Legend Lecture’ in 2017, 2018 and 2019. See:

Seeing the Land from an Aboriginal Canoe

This project explores the significant contribution Aboriginal people made in colonial times by guiding people and stock across the river systems of Victoria.

Before European colonisation Aboriginal people managed the place we now know as Victoria for millennia. Waterways were a big part of that management. Rivers and waterholes were part of the spiritual landscape, they were valuable sources of food and resources, and rivers were a useful way to travel. Skills such as swimming, fishing, canoe building and navigation were an important aspect of Aboriginal Victorian life.

Sovereign Hill Hidden Histories

{Fred’s contribution goes here}









  • Doctor of Philosophy – University of Ballarat – 2007
  • Master of Arts – University of Ballarat – 2001
  • Diploma TESOL – University of Ballarat – 2001
  • Preliminary Master of Arts – University of Ballarat – 1994
  • Graduate Diploma of Education – University of Ballarat – 1993
  • Bachelor of Arts – Deakin University – 1992