Australian Dictionary of Biography

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Cultural Advice

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people should be aware that this website contains names, images, and voices of deceased persons.

In addition, some articles contain terms or views that were acceptable within mainstream Australian culture in the period in which they were written, but may no longer be considered appropriate.

These articles do not necessarily reflect the views of The Australian National University.

Older articles are being reviewed with a view to bringing them into line with contemporary values but the original text will remain available for historical context.

About the Australian Dictionary of Biography

The Australian Dictionary of Biography is Australia's pre-eminent dictionary of national biography. In it you will find concise, informative and fascinating descriptions of the lives of over 13,000 significant and representative persons in Australian history. The subjects come from all walks of life — from prime ministers, governors-general and premiers, generals and bishops, artists, actors and authors, engineers and schoolteachers, to prostitutes, thieves and murderers — providing a cross-section of Australian society.

The ADB is produced by the National Centre of Biography at the Australian National University (ANU) and is available both as a hardcopy publication and online.

Frequently Asked Questions


ADB structure

The Australian Dictionary of Biography is a national, co-operative enterprise, founded and maintained by the ANU. The project is headed by the General Editor, based at the ANU, and an Editorial Board, which discusses matters of general policy. ADB Working Parties draw up lists of individuals selected for inclusion in the ADB and give advice on appropriate authors. The General Editor then commissions the entries. Section editors, drawn from each of the Working Parties, and Editorial Fellows, who are eminent academic historians, read and review all entries.

ADB authors

Over 4,500 authors, not all of them academics, have written entries for the Australian Dictionary of Biography.

Authors are commissioned on the recommendations of ADB Working Parties. If you wish to have your name recorded as the possible author of a future entry, please notify ADB staff at Please supply a cv and indicate your subject area of expertise. Your details will be sent to the relevant Working Party for consideration.

Authors' Roll of Honour


ADB Medal

The ADB Medal is awarded to people who have given long and distinguished service to the Australian Dictionary of Biography. 26 Medals have so far been awarded.


ADB entries

Authors with a particular knowledge of the subjects or their fields are commissioned to write ADB articles. When the entries are submitted, members of the research and editorial staff of the ADB check every verifiable statement of fact, evaluate the article for balance and comprehensiveness, and edit the text in accordance with the ADB’s conventions and style. Edited versions are then sent to authors for approval before publication.

The most eminent people in Australia’s history are given entries of 2000 to 6000 words; other significant figures have entries that range in length from 500 to 2000 words. The ADB does not pretend to be setting up a pantheon of immortals, however. While the volumes cover the orthodox fields of politics, business, religion, the land, the professions and the arts, they also attempt to reflect the rich variety of Australian life by including representatives of every social group and sphere of endeavour. Entries on these representative people are usually 500 to 750 words in length. The ADB prides itself on its blend of elitism and egalitarianism.

Structure of ADB entries


Word of Explanation on the ADB Editorial Process

The ADB has a rigorous refereeing process and a robust editorial process involving its Editorial Board, State and Commonwealth working parties, authors, research editors, referees, readers and professional editors.

  1. Working parties select the authors to write ADB entries on the basis of their expertise.
  2. Once an author submits her or his commissioned entry, it is read and reviewed by the General Editor and one of seven section editors.
  3. At least three layers of editors within the ADB then work on the entries from that point, implementing the section and General Editor’s reports.
    i. The research editors check every fact (where possible) against the archival and documentary record and edit the entry. The research editors read each other’s articles in cooperative advisory roles.
    ii. The managing editor supervises the research editors’ work. The General Editor reviews this process overall.
    iii. The article is then independently refereed a second time by one/some of the Editorial Fellows.
  4. The author considers and approves the edited piece, or makes further suggestions.

High-quality journals are subjected to a process of independent refereeing. ADB entries are refereed independently at least twice. Few journals have such a thorough editing and refereeing process.

Print edition

cover of vol 16 of the ADBNineteen volumes of the Australian Dictionary of Biography, including a supplementary volume of ‘missing persons’ have, so far, been published.

Volume 1 of the ADB was published in 1966; volume 19 in 2021. Staff are now editing entries for those who died in 1996-2000.

Purchasing copies

Reviews of the ADB