A passion for researching and sharing World War One history that saw Dr Romain Fathi lead the significant Flinders project ‘South Australians in France’, has earnt him the 2018 South Australian Historian of the Year Award.
The Flinders lecturer was presented with his award on Thursday at the closing ceremony of last month’s History Festival. The annual honour is bestowed on a historian who has demonstrated outstanding achievements in teaching, research or raising the profile of history in the community.
Dr Fathi was recognised for his significant contributions through the South Australians in France project, his published articles and teaching and mentoring contributions at Flinders, Yale, the University of Queensland and respected French university, Sciences Po.
The substantial South Australians in France project showcased artefacts and extraordinary stories, presenting objects that Dr Fathi and his team had discovered over a six-month research stint of engaging with South Australians to uncover the most intriguing objects brought back by Australians at war.
Recognising the connections formed between France and South Australia over the years of the First World War, the initiative marked the centenary of the 1918 victory and received wide-spread media interest, culminating in a two-day event at Tonsley over 23 and 24 February 2018.
Central to the project’s success was the support that Dr Fathi secured from a broad range of collaborators including the French Consulate in Adelaide, The Embassy of France to Australia, the Alliance Francaise d’Adelaide and Creative France in Australia, together with local and State government.
The exhibition of treasured heirlooms included trench art, diaries, letters and weapons, which were brought to life through talks that revealed the hidden stories behind the century-old objects of those who served on the Western Front.
As part of the project Dr Fathi wrote a fascinating article (published in May 2018) on the Australian Graves Detachment, which was a unit formed on the Western Front in 1919 comprising more than 1,100 men, who had the daunting task of exhuming and re-burying the dead.
Together with his Flinders’ role, Dr Fathi is an affiliate researcher at the Centre d’Histoire de Sciences Po and is currently working on his next book, Our Corner Of The Somme: Australia at Villers-Bretonneux, to be published in early 2019.