Steve Cooke

Staff member

Steve Cooke is a cultural and historical geographer and an expert in issues related to heritage, memory, and identity, particularly the spatialities of difficult histories. This is evidenced through over 30 scholarly publications, including two highly commended books on the memory of war and genocide and the award of over AU$1.3m in grants to support his work. He spent five years in Higher Education in the UK, first as a Research Fellow at the University of Stirling and then as a Lecturer in Historical and Cultural Geography at the University of Hull. In 2002, Steve moved to Australia and worked in high-level management positions in some of Victoria’s most significant places, including the Melbourne Maritime Museum (home of Polly Woodside) and the Shrine of Remembrance. In 2011, he returned to academia at Deakin University where he is an Associate Professor of Cultural Heritage and Museum Studies and course director for the cultural heritage and museum studies programs. He was appointed Associate Head of School (International and Partnerships) within the School of Humanities and Social Sciences in 2019. 

  • Research

    Steve’s research on the spatialities of difficult histories falls into three main areas: the historiography of Holocaust exhibitions, museums, and memorials; the conservation, management, and interpretation of sites associated with difficult histories; and new methodologies for exploring engagement with heritage places.  Steve has received major national and international funding for his work, including: $100,000 for the Brookes Cultural Heritage PhD Studentship, Sir Wilfred & C H (Roger) Brookes Charitable Foundation (2020 – 2023) for a project related to the new ways of representing the journeys of Holocaust survivors to Australia; $343,000 (187,960 euros) Holocaust Sites at Risk: Conservation Guidelines for Best Practice, International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance, Deputy Project lead, member of the core project team (Lead Institution – University of Cambridge) (2019-2024); and $293,933 Australian Research Council grant DP140101188 Citizen Heritage: Digital and Community-based Histories of Place, (Lead Institution – University of Melbourne), Chief Investigator  (2013-2017).

  • Publications

    Holocaust Exhibitions, Museums, and Memorials 

    • 2019. Steve Cooke and Donna-Lee Frieze, ‘Temporary Exhibitions at the Jewish Holocaust Centre: Shifting Responses to Race and Racism in Australia’, in Avril Alba and Shirli Gilbert (eds), Holocaust Memory and Racism in the Postwar World, Wayne State University Press.
    • 2018. Steve Cooke, ‘”A Modern Chamber of Horrors”?: Temporary Holocaust Exhibitions as Sites of Memory – The 1961 Warsaw Ghetto Commemoration Exhibition, Melbourne, Holocaust Studies: A Journal of Culture and History, Vol 24, No. 4, 445-465.
    • 2015. Steve Cooke and Donna-Lee Frieze, The Interior of Our Memories’: A History of Melbourne’s Jewish Holocaust Centre, Melbourne, Hybrid.
    • 2000. Steve Cooke, S. ‘Negotiating Memory and Identity: The Hyde Park Holocaust Memorial’, Journal of Historical Geography, Vol. 26, No.3, 449-465.
    • 1999. Steve Cooke, ‘Beth Shalom: Rethinking History and Memory’, Journal of Holocaust Education. Vol. 8, No 1, 21-30.


    Management and Interpretation of Sites associated with Difficult Histories

    • 2021. Steve Cooke et al., ‘Managing Difficult Heritage at Kildonan/Allambie: The Heritage Values of Former Orphanages and Children’s Homes’, Historic Environment.
    • 2015. Steve Cooke, The Sweetland Project: Remembering Gallipoli in the Shire of Nunawading, Melbourne, Australian Scholarly Publishing.
    • 2015. Steve Cooke and Donna-Lee Frieze, ‘Imagination, Performance and Affect: A Critical Pedagogy of the Holocaust?’, Holocaust Studies: A Journal of Culture and HistoryVol. 21. No. 3, 157-171.
    • 2014. Steve Cooke and Donna-Lee Frieze, ‘”It’s Still in Your Body”: Identity, Place and Performance in Holocaust Testimonies’, in G. Lean, R. Staiff, and E. Waterton (eds), Travel and Imagination, Abingdon: Ashgate.


    New Methods for Exploring Engagement with Heritage Places

    • 2020. Steve Cooke and Kristal Buckley, ‘The Historic Urban Landscape: New Methodologies for Exploring Sense of Place’, in K. D. Silvar (ed.), Routledge Handbook on Historic Urban Landscapes in the Asia-Pacific, London and New York: Routledge.
    • 2019. Hannah Lewi, Wally Smith, Steve Cooke, and Dirk vom Lehn (eds), The Routledge International Handbook of New Digital Practices in Galleries, Libraries, Archives, Museums and Heritage Sites, London and New York: Routledge.
    • 2019. Steve Cooke and D. Constantinidis, ‘Investigating “Ordinary” Landscapes: Using Visual Research Methods to Understand Heritage Digital Technologies and Sense of Place’, in H. Lewi et al. (eds), The Routledge International Handbook of New Digital Practices in Galleries, Libraries, Archives, Museums and Heritage Sites, London and New York: Routledge.
    • 2016. Kristal Buckley, Steve Cooke, and S. Fayad, ‘Using the Historic Urban Landscape to Reimagine Ballarat’, in W. Logan and S. Labadi (eds), Urban Heritage, Development and Sustainability: International Frameworks, National and Local Governance, Routledge ‘Key Issues in Cultural Heritage’ Series.
    • 2002. Steve Cooke and F. McLean, ‘Our Common Inheritance? Constructing National Identity within the New Museum of Scotland’, in D. Harvey, R. Jones, N. McInroy, and C. Milligan (eds), Celtic Geographies; Landscape, Culture and Identity, London and New York: Routledge.
  • Teaching

    Steve’s main areas of teaching relate to the Cultural Heritage and Museum Studies postgraduate programs at Deakin.  These include: the unit Leadership in Museums and Heritage Organisations, which he developed and which foregrounded that strategic planning, marketing, governance, and fundraising are key skills for the Cultural Heritage and Museum Sector; Applied Heritage Project, a group internship project which involved a partnership with Port Arthur Historic Site in Tasmania; and Museums, Heritage and Society, the introductory theoretical unit in the Masters of Cultural Heritage. Steve also developed and taught the undergraduate  unit Geographies of Heritage and Tourism, part of the re-introduction of the discipline of Geography within the Bachelor of Arts. He has run a two-week field course on the Memorial Landscapes of Berlin (2016 and 2017) for Brandenburg University of Technology (Germany) funded through the German Academic Exchange Program (DAAD).

  • Supervision

    Steve supervises projects which relate to the broad area of the use of the past in the present, often with a specific focus on the heritage of difficult histories, such as war and genocide.


    Principal Supervisor 

    • Michelle Stevenson (submitting 2020), Snowflakes in a Sunburnt Country: The Development, Culture & Significance of Skiing in Australia
    • Rachael Cottle (submitting 2023), Women of the Victorian Railways



    • Katrina Lolicato (submitting 2020), Representing Australia’s Cultural Diversity for Social Benefit and Contemporary Relevance
    • Beatrice Harris (submitting 2021), How Can Museums Ethically Navigate Emotion in Representations Of ‘Difficult’ History?


    Associate Supervisor 

    • Lorinda Cramer (graduated 2016), Needlework and Genteel Identity in Gold Rush Victoria
    • Erik Berroets (graduated 2020), The Myth of Chinese Market Gardening
    • Manca Ogrizek (submitting 2022), Interaction Techniques in 3D Immersive Environments for Transport Heritage Experiences
    • Fiona Gatt (submitting 2022), The History of Hotham/ North Melbourne



  • Awards, fellowships, and honours

    • January 2021. Visiting Fellow, The McDonald Institute for Archaeological Research, University of Cambridge
    • 2016 – Appointed to the Museum Committee of the Jewish Holocaust Centre, Melbourne
    • 2016. Vice Chancellor’s Award Outstanding Contribution to Global Experiences for the development of a new Dual Award Postgraduate Degree Program with Brandenburg University of Technology, Germany (team award)
    • 2016. Commendation for outstanding non-fiction publication on Victorian History in the Victorian Community History Awards for ‘The Interior of Our Memories’: A History of Melbourne’s Jewish Holocaust Centre (Melbourne, Hybrid) – with Donna-Lee Frieze
    • 2015. Commendation for outstanding work or project on the impact of World War One on Victoria or Victorians in the Victorian Community History Awards for The Sweetland Project: Remembering Gallipoli in the Shire of Nunawading (Melbourne, Australian Scholarly Publishing) 
    • 2015 – Appointed by the Australian Government’s Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade as an Australian Nominated Expert to the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (reappointed 2017)
    • 2012 – Honorary Research Fellow in the Department of Archaeology at the University of Winchester in the UK

Australian Policy
 and History

Find out more