Challenging the Colonial Legacy of/at Macquarie

Prof. Richie Howitt1

1Macquarie University, Sydney, Australia


Macquarie University takes its name from a man known simultaneously as the early colony’s greatest colonial administrator, a key inspiration for Australia’s egalitarian ethos, the military strategist who authorised the Appin Massacre and established the Parramatta and Blacktown Native Institutes, which were the first institutions aimed at separating Aboriginal children from their families, culture and language. This paper explores Macquarie’s ambiguous legacy and how it is mobilised to promote the university. It discusses how geographers might contribute to engaging with the ‘Macquarie legacy’ and its implications for Macquarie University. Decolonising this particular university must involve much more than simple renaming – although that would be far from simple. Transformation of the institution into a partner with Dharug and other Indigenous groups must involve uncomfortable reflection and action on the purpose, process and outcomes of education, on the nature and purpose of partnership, and more generally on the nature of decolonising transformations.


Richie Howitt retired as Professor of Geography at Macquarie University in 2018. As an elected member of the University Council he grappled with how institutional racism in higher education is played out in that university and how carrying the name of a controversial colonial governor influences its engagement with colonial legacies. Since retiring he has become a Director of the Dharug Strategic Management Group Ltd, which received title to the Blacktown Native Institute site, which was established by Lachlan Macquarie. His presentation will address the challenges of decolonising Macquarie.


The Institute of Australian Geographers (IAG) is the principal body representing geographers and promoting the study and application of geography in Australia. It was founded in 1958 and since then has promoted, supported and defended Australian geography.

IAG Website

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