Biography

Deborah Lee Talbot image.png

I researched and wrote my first history while attending primary school in 1990. This brief narrative examined the experiences of Anne, a young woman who matured during the Black Plague. This was the project that piqued my interest in the experiences of women from the past.

A couple of decades later, now fascinated with the production of stories for a wider audience, I completed my Diploma in Professional Writing and Editing at Swinburne University. During this period, my career focus was working with various community and professional organisations to produce content for their desired audiences. This work ranged from conducting interviews for The Boronia and The Basin Community News to writing monthly newsletters for a childcare center.

I returned to university in 2009 and undertook my Bachelor of Arts, majoring in Sociology and Australian Studies. In 2018, I completed my first-class Honours thesis ‘Imaginative Sketches: How expedition sketch maps represent the cultural work of both indigenous intermediaries and colonial emissaries’. This research analysed the sketch maps of The Argus expedition to Papua in 1883. I argued these maps were co-produced artefacts of cross-cultural encounter and knowledge.

My Ph.D., supported by a Deakin University scholarship, explores issues of multiculturalism, religious performances, materiality, and early encounters between Indigenous and colonial representatives across Oceania societies.

This thesis is tentatively titled A feminist frontier? Analysing women’s experiences on evangelical sites in Oceania, 1861-1907. I am currently writing a sample chapter titled ‘Not proper, not orthodox: The ‘Queen’ and ‘Prime Minister’ of Papua’. This chapter examines letters, reports, magazine articles, and photographs held in public archives. Using an intersectional feminist approach I deconstruct the discursive processes at play on-site at the London Missionary Society frontier. I focus on the relationship formed between two significant women in Port Moresby, Geua, an Indigenous intermediary, and Fanny Lawes from 1873 until 1898. Focusing on the narratives of these two women I describe how these women came to know one another, then I scrutinize their experiences of being named the ‘Prime Minister’ and ‘Queen of New Guineans’.

Besides my PhD research, I am currently involved with the following projects: Co-convenor of Deakin Universities PNG Study Group, a member of the PHA Employment and Professional Development Sub-Committee, coordinator for Deakin University’s pilot program ‘Beyond the Academy’, and a researcher with Langi Morgala Museum.

Contact me for history presentations, book reviews, or consultancy work.