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Prizes and awards

The Mike Smith Prize

Previously known as the Student Prize for Australian Environmental History and the History of Australian Science.

The National Museum of Australia, in partnership with the Australian Academy of Science, awards the Mike Smith prize to a postgraduate or undergraduate student for an essay based on original research in the fields of environmental history of the history of science in Australia. The Museum and the Academy have awarded the prize annually since 2006, with the aim of nurturing young scholars and encouraging them to publish their research.

In 2013 the National Museum re-named the prize after Australian archaeologist and Museum Senior Research Fellow Mike Smith, in recognition of his contribution to mentoring young researchers. The prize, offering $3,000, will now be awarded every two years.

2015 Mike Smith Student Prize

for History of Australian Science or Australian Environmental History

Submissions invited

First prize: $3000 and certificate

Runner up prizes: awarded at the judging panel's discretion

Deadline: 30 September 2014

The National Museum of Australia and the Australian Academy of Science through its National Committee for History and Philosophy of Science invite submissions for the 2015 biennial Mike Smith Student Prize for the History of Australian Science or Australian Environmental History.

The prize will be awarded for an essay based on original unpublished research undertaken while enrolled as a student (postgraduate or undergraduate) at any tertiary educational institution in the world.

Essays may deal with any aspect of the history of Australian science (including medicine and technology) or Australian environmental history, including essays that focus on the Australian region, broadly defined, including Oceania. Essays that compare issues and subjects associated with Australia with those of other places also are welcomed. The winning entry, if it is in a suitable subject area, may be considered for publication in Historical Records of Australian Science.


  • 4000-8000 words long (exclusive of endnotes)
  • Written in English
  • Fully documented following the style specified for the Historical Records of Australian Science
  • Submissions must be accompanied by a letter from entrant’s academic supervisor attesting that the essay meets the eligibility criterion

More information and full eligibility and submission requirements

For more information please contact, 02 6201 9456

2013 prize winners announced

Sonya Duus, Alessandro Antonello and Christina Dyson.
The 2013 Mike Smith prize winners: (left to right) Sonya Duus, Alessandro Antonello and Christina Dyson. Photo: George Serras.

First prize: Christina Dyson, PhD candidate in the University of Melbourne’s Faculty of Architecture, Building and Planning, has been awarded the 2013 Mike Smith Prize for her essay, ‘Living fossils and mouth-watering stones: manipulating history in the post-WWII natural Australian plant garden’. Dyson’s essay traces how, between the mid-1940s and the early 1970s, changing perceptions of Australia’s natural landscape, and particularly its ancient character, intersected with a new focus on national identity to foster the idea of the native or ‘bush’ garden.

Runner-up prizes: Alessandro Antonello and Sonya Duus, both from the Australian National University, were jointly awarded the 2013 runner-up prize. Antonello for his essay, ‘”Repelling the assault on the unknown”: Australia and the International Geophysical Year in Antarctica’; and Duus for ‘Contesting coal: echoes through time’.

The 2013 judging panel comprised Libby Robin, representing the Head of the National Museum’s Research Centre, Rachel Ankeny, Chair of the Academy’s National Committee for the History and Philosophy of Science, and Rod Home, representing the Academy’s journal, Historical Records of Australian Science.

2011 prize winners announced

First prize: Christian O'Brien of the Australian National University's School of History with the winning essay entitled 'A brief history of the monsoon'.

Second prize: Sonya Duus of the Australian National University's Fenner School of Environment and Society with her essay entitled 'Buried sunshine, sacrifical lands and industrial slaves: an environmental history of coal in Australia'.

Highly commended: Cameron Muir of the Australian National University with his essay 'Wheat for a white world: social and ecological relationships on the agricultural frontier in the early 20th century'.

Read more from the Australian Academy of Science media release

2011 prize winners Sonya Duus, Christian O'Brien and Cameron Muir standing outside the Museum annex
2011 prize winners Sonya Duus, Christian O'Brien and Cameron Muir. Photo: George Serras

Previous prize winners


Luke Keogh of the University of Queensland for an essay entitled 'Duboisia Pituri - A Natural History'

Read more about the 2010 winners


The co-winners of the 2009 student prize for Australian Environmental History were Jodi Frawley (University of Sydney) and Benedict Taylor (University of New South Wales).

Read more about the 2009 winners