H.R was born and grew up in Tasmania and returned to live there in2000. He worked at James Cook University in Townsville for thirty years. His wife Margaret was a Senator for Queensland from 1983 to 1999. He taught both Australian history and politics. He is best known for his pioneering work on the history of settler-indigenous relations which became widely known with the publication of The Other Side of the Frontier in 1981. Many books followed. They have been widely read and have received many literary prizes including two Queensland Premier's Prizes. His book Drawing the Global Colour Line, co-authored with Marilyn Lake won the Prime Minister's Prize for non-fiction.
He has contributed widely to public discourse with many articles in national newspapers and frequent appearances on television and radio.