Profile image for Karen Hughes

Dr Karen Hughes

Associate Professor
PhD in Australian Studies and History, Flinders University, Australia


Karen Hughes is an Australian historian whose academic career is informed by Indigenous studies, visual studies, gender studies and cultural geography. Her career is distinguished by a more than 20-year commitment to deep engagement and collaborative research with Aboriginal communities in South Australia, the Northern Territory and Western Australia. Since 2015, she has undertaken research in North America, on the interconnected histories of Indigenous Australians, Native Americans and African Americans, a result of the mobility occasioned by the Second World War. Her theoretical innovations in the field of microhistory, to explore contemporary settler colonial race relations and Indigenous lived experiences, has defined her contributions to Australian history and Indigenous history. While she publishes widely, she also devotes considerable time to public histories expressed in exhibitions and digital knowledge platforms and collaborates on Aboriginal community-based heritage projects. Aligned with this, she was the Subject Matter Expert for the development of Australia’s recently released $50 banknote, David Unaipon side. Her research is addressing themes of social justice, Indigenous ways of knowing, the impact of settler colonialism on the present and the relationship between reclaiming history and Indigenous social and emotional wellbeing. She maintains ongoing academic engagements with scholars in the USA and Canada.

Prior to her academic career, Karen worked as a documentary filmmaker and journalist and she brings these skills to her academic work.

Research interests

History; Indigenous Studies

PhD candidate and honours supervision

Higher degrees by research

Accredited to supervise Masters & Doctoral students as Principal Supervisor.

PhD topics and outlines

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander History

Australian History

Indigenous Photographic Histories

Indigenous US and Australian comparative histories

Ngarrindjeri History

The life and work of Ngarrindjeri Scholar, David Unaipon (1872-1967):

Women's History


Available to supervise honours students.

Fields of Research

  • Aboriginal And Torres Strait Islander Cultural History - 450103
  • Aboriginal And Torres Strait Islander History - 450107
  • Biography - 430303
  • Sexualities - 440506
  • Intersectional Studies - 440505

Teaching areas

Indigenous Studies


  • 2020, International, 70th Anniversary Fulbright Scholar Award in honor of Jill Kerr Conway, Fulbright Australia
  • 2019, Swinburne, Research Impact Award, Swinurne University
  • 2016, International, Visiting Research Fellow, , New York University, Centre for Media, Culture and History
  • 2016, National, Visiting Research Fellow, Adelaide University, Faye Gale Centre for Research in Gender
  • 2014, Select, Vice Chancleeors Award for Excellence in Research, Highly Commended (EC), Swinburne University
  • 2014, National, Mary Bennet Prize for Best Journal Article by an Early Career Researcher, Australian Historical Association Australian Women's History Network
  • 2014, Swinburne, Faculty of Health Arts and Design Excellence in Research Award (EC), Swinburne University
  • 2013, Swinburne, Vice Chancleeors Award for Excellence in Research, Highly Commended (EC), Swinburne University
  • 2011, International, Visiting Research Fellow, University of Paris


Also published as: Hughes, Karen; Hughes, K.
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Recent research grants awarded

  • 2023: Photography and Reconciliation: the Ngarrindjeri and the SA Museum *; ARC Linkage Projects Scheme
  • 2021: Connecting Indigenous Community Photographies: a transnational case study *; ARC Discovery Projects Scheme
  • 2018: The Ngarrindjeri Photography Project: bringing together historical photos, stories of the elders and family genealogies and in a permanent digital keeping place for the Stolen Generations and their Descendants. *; Department of State Development (SA) - Community Reparations Fund
  • 2015: Children of War: Australia and the War in the Pacific 1941 - 1944 *; ARC Discovery Indigenous - Grant applications for funding commencing in 2014
  • 2015: Indigenous Research *; Visiting Researcher Scheme
  • 2014: Bearing Witness - Four generations of Wandarrang Women *; Australian Institute of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Studies

* Chief Investigator