Professor Tony Hughes-d’Aeth

Started at UWA: 2002

Acclaimed Australian author and historian using literature to study social and environmental change

I love connecting with people through literature. Literature brings out dimensions to life that are sometimes missed in the transactions of everyday discussions. But it also opens a door to our deepest beliefs, fears and hopes. Professor Tony Hughes-d'Aeth

Professor Tony Hughes-d’Aeth is a respected historian and author of significant Australian literature. Professor Hughes-d’Aeth has lived around the world, from Australia, to Europe and the United States, giving him a sense of how important the land on which we stand is in relation to our sense of identity.

It is this experience that sparked his lifelong interest in the societies created in the global movement of people known as settler-colonialism that helped produce the modern settler nations of Africa, Australasia and the Americas. He believes it is literature, more than any other document, that tells us what the past felt like because it offers a record of interior life experiences.

Professor Hughes-d’Aeth’s published works on Australian literature and cultural history have attracted national acclaim, receiving the Ernest Scott and the WK Hancock prizes for Australian history for his book Paper Nation: The Story of the Picturesque Atlas of Australasia, 1886–1888 (Melbourne University Press, 2001). He has completed research on comparative media studies, including new media theory, film and television studies, on Australian literature and film, and on psychoanalytic criticism.

Professor Hughes-d’Aeth is Director of the Westerly Research Group, a member of the UWA EcoPeoPle (Ecology, People, Place) research cluster, and is currently working on the creation of an Environmental Humanities Laboratory


  • BA, PhD W.Aust

Positions held:

  • Member of The Association for the Study of Australian Literature
  • Member of The Association for the Psychoanalysis of Culture and Society
  • Co-editor of Westerly magazine from 2010 to 2015

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Chair in Australian Literature 2020

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Student Choice Award, UWA Student Guild, 2017

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Consistently Excellent Award, Students’ Unit Reflective Feedback, 2017

Nominated for Excellence in Research Supervision, 2016

Two units nominated for Excellence in Teaching, 2016

Author of Like Nothing on this Earth: A Literary History of the Wheatbelt, UWA Publishing, 2017

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Author of Paper Nation: The Story of the Picturesque Atlas of Australasia, Melbourne UP, 2001

Winner of the Ernest Scott and W.K. Hancock prizes for Australian history for Paper Nation, 2001

Professor Tony Hughes-d'Aeth talks about his book, Like Nothing on this Earth



Wheatbelt Development Commission

  • Interdisciplinary Wheatbelt Service Learning Unit

2012 – 2015

ARC Discovery Project

  • The Wheatbelt: A Literary History

2013 – 2014

LIEF Grant

  • The Austlit Database


Professor Hughes-d’Aeth’s teaching style aims to connect students to real-life problems and promote interactive discussion and real-time analysis of literary, cinematic and televisual examples. He’s taken groups of students to Beijing Foreign Studies University to learn and experience Chinese literature while immersing themselves in the Chinese culture and way of life – an essential element to really understanding a country or region’s literature.

Like Nothing on this Earth

During the 20th century, the southwestern corner of Australia was cleared for intensive agriculture. In the space of several decades, an arc from Esperance to Geraldton (an area of land larger than England) was cleared of native flora for the farming of grain and livestock. Today, satellite maps show a sharp line ringing Perth. Inside that line, tan-coloured land is the most visible sign from space of human impact on the planet. Where once there was a vast mosaic of scrub and forest, there is now the Western Australian Wheatbelt.

Professor Tony Hughes-d’Aeth examines the creation of the Wheatbelt through creative writing. Some of Australia’s most significant writers wrote about their experience of the Wheatbelt. Each gives insight into the human and environmental effects of this massive-scale agriculture. Through examining their writing, Professor Hughes-d’Aeth demonstrates the deep value of literature in understanding the human experience of geographical change.

Find out more


Like Nothing on this Earth book cover

Supervisor opportunities

Professor Tony Hughes-d’Aeth has been supervising PhD students since 2002 and is keen to supervise students interested in exploring literary history and our relationship with place, people and environment. Previous PhD topics supervised have included:

  • Representing psychiatric illness in mid-twentieth century Australian poetry
  • Humanitarian discourses in Dominique Lapierre’s writing on India
  • The history of curricular control: literary education in Western Australia, 1912–2012
  • The discourse of war: Australian political speech and armed conflict
  • Houses in modern Australian fiction

If you are interested in studying a PhD with Professor Hughes-d’Aeth, get in touch using the details below.

Contact Professor Tony Hughes-d'Aeth