The Land of Dreams: How Australians Won Their Freedom, 1788–1860

Shortlist year: 2019

Shortlist category: Australian history

Published by: The Miegunyah Press an imprint of Melbourne University Publishing

The Land of Dreams tells the story of how Australians became a free people, gaining the liberties they desired to take control of their own lives, the right to govern themselves and the capacity to address their own political problems through democratic institutions. It reveals how Australians laid the foundations for one of the world's most successful countries, with unprecedented levels of personal liberty and social equality. It required a brilliant political campaign and from it Australia gained a national identity and political leaders who would write their constitutions, introduce democracy and later lead the fight for one Australian nation.

About the author

 David Kemp

David Kemp

David Kemp's career spans both academia and practical politics. From 1990 to 2004 he was member of the Federal Parliament, and from 1996 he was a minister in the Howard government. Before entering Parliament he was Professor of Politics at Monash University, and after leaving Parliament Professor and Vice-Chancellor's Fellow at the University of Melbourne. He has published seminal books on voting behaviour and political analysis, and has written extensively on political liberalism, political ideas and Liberal Party icons such as Robert Menzies and Malcolm Fraser.

Judges’ comments

In The Land of Dreams, David Kemp shifts our understanding of Australian history as he explores the emergence of 'small L' liberal traditions, and the development of the modern political entity and nation—Australia. Covering a relatively short period, less than a century, from the arrival of the first fleet to 1860, this book is detailed, comprehensive and confident. There are three aspects to Kemp's freedom, the first arrives with the cessation of convict transportation to the eastern colonies. The next freedom is established with the shift to self-government (though still within the yoke of the British Empire), and the third represented by literate, white, male suffrage. Unlike other works about the settler phase of Australian history, war is not a dominant feature, nor is the focus on our convict roots. Kemp provides the historical-cultural context whereby the village, the settlement and the city, in various iterations provided the framework for Australian freedom and our liberal traditions. It is a unique and significant contribution to the Australian history canon.