Ann MacGrath, member of Concurrences' Advisory Board, wins prize

ANU history Professor Ann McGrath has been awarded one of Queensland's most prestigious awards for her book on the hidden history of interracial relationships between Indigenous people and settlers.

The John Douglas Kerr medal for Distinction in Research and Writing Australia History is awarded each year by the Royal Historical Society of Queensland and recognises a recipient's demonstrated excellence in historical research in Queensland or Australian history in general.

Professor McGrath received the medal for her career achievement, and her book titled Illicit Love: Interracial Marriage in the USA and Australia, which is a history of love, sex and marriage between Indigenous peoples and settlers from the two nations during the 19th and 20th centuries. It draws on many letters couples sent each other, which contain vivid descriptions of courtships and child-raising.

"I was born and grew up in Queensland and I guess it's that experience of growing up there that made me interested in finding out what had been hidden in our history," she said.

"I was also aware that there was racism against Aboriginal people in Brisbane and I felt that if I found out more about the history, that that would improve that situation.

"My research showed how entwined the Queensland people were. It is not a simple story of segregated peoples."

Professor McGrath, who is the Director of the Australian Centre for Indigenous History, said she hoped her book would help people better understand the history.

"What they don't think about are the families that have crossed frontiers - including people being left out of inheritances and so on," she said.

"You can't understand Aboriginal people's attitudes today properly unless you understand the way they were treated."

Professor McGrath received the award at a special dinner to commemorate Queensland Day.

Her book, Illicit Love: Interracial Marriage in the USA and Australia, will be launched in Brisbane at the Queensland terrace room at the State Library, Southbank on Wednesday from 5.30pm.