The Australian Centre was founded in January 1989 with the assistance of a grant from the Hugh Williamson Foundation. Its directors have included Professor Chris Wallace-Crabbe (founding Director 1989-1994), Professor Ruth Fincher (1995-1996) and Professor Kate Darian-Smith (1998-2005 and 2010-2012). Professor John Murphy, Dr Fay Anderson and Dr Sara Wills have also served as directors. During this time the Centre achieved national and international recognition for its undergraduate and graduate level teaching in Australian Studies, interdisciplinary doctoral program and a distinguished record of ARC and other external funding for research projects and fellowships that fostered an appreciation and critical examination of Australian society, culture and history. The Australian Centre also administered a suite of national cultural and literary awards and continues to do so.

From 2013, following a refocus of its activities, the Australian Centre is based in the School of Culture and Communication, with Professor Ken Gelder and Professor Denise Varney as its co-directors. It aims to develop innovative research projects in the Australian arts and humanities across a range of disciplines, including Art History, Theatre Studies, Literary Studies, Cultural Studies, Media and Communication, Cinema Studies, Indigenous Studies and Creative Writing.

From 2013-2015 the Australian Centre aims to develop research capacity in two key areas:

The Australian Centre also aims to develop research and community interest across three annual topics:

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