Dr Michael Ondaatje

Lecturer in US Politics


Dr Michael L. Ondaatje is Senior Lecturer in American History at the University of Newcastle (UoN), and a Research Associate at the United States Studies Centre at the University of Sydney.

Ondaatje was awarded his PhD, with Distinction, from the University of Western Australia (UWA) in 2008. That year his thesis on black conservatism was recognised with the Robert Street Prize for the most outstanding PhD across all of the University’s disciplines. In 2010, Ondaatje’s first book, Black Conservative Intellectuals in Modern America became a Top 20 International Bestseller in US history. In 2011, the book was recognised with the University of Newcastle Vice-Chancellor’s Award for Research Excellence, and in 2012 was shortlisted for the Australian Historical Association’s W.K. Hancock Prize (receiving a High Commendation).

Ondaatje’s research has been supported by grants and fellowships from the Australian Academy of the Humanities, the United States Studies Centre (at the University of Sydney), and the Rothermere American Institute in Oxford. In 2011/12, he was a Senior Visiting Research Fellow at the University of Oxford and a Researcher-in-Residence at the United States Studies Centre in Sydney. Ondaatje is currently co-editor of the Australasian Journal of American Studies, and in 2012 served as Head of History and Co-Director of International Operations in the School of Humanities and Social Science at the University of Newcastle.

Ondaatje is the winner of several major teaching awards at the national, university and faculty level, including an ALTC Award for Teaching Excellence (2011); an ALTC Citation for Outstanding Contributions to Student Learning (2010); the Vice-Chancellor’s Award for Teaching Excellence (Newcastle, 2010); and a Faculty of Education and Arts Award for Teaching Excellence (Newcastle, 2009).

Beyond the walls of the University, Ondaatje is a regular media commentator on American history and politics. Since 2009, he has also been invited to deliver a number of keynote addresses, most notably the Annual Human Rights Day Address at the United Nations Association of Australia in 2011.

In 2012 the Australian Academy of the Humanities awarded Ondaatje the Max Crawford Medal, ‘Australia’s most prestigious award for achievement and promise in the humanities’. The Crawford Medal is ‘granted to early career Australian researchers for outstanding scholarly achievement in the humanities in Australia, and to those whose publications make an exceptional contribution to the understanding of humanities disciplines by the general public’.

Ondaatje has recently been selected by the US Embassy in Australia for the International Visitor Leadership Program, the flagship exchange program of the US Government. He is currently working on a number of projects in two broad research fields: African American political history and the history of American foreign policy (with special emphasis on US-Australia relations). Two new books in these areas are due for completion in 2013/14.