Australia’s mining boom of recent years has spawned a surge in unmet demand for archaeologists, according to Flinders lecturer and Chair of the Australian Archaeological Association’s 2009 Conference, Dr Alice Gorman.
“For decades Australian archaeologists have been working alongside and consulting traditional owners, playing a vital role in Aboriginal heritage legislation, land rights and Native Title,” Dr Gorman said.
“Now, there’s a new wave of Australian archaeologists, equipped with the knowledge and field skills to continue that important work as consultants to the mining industry,” she said.
It is a phenomenon reflected in the theme of this year’s conference, Old Guard, New Guard, to be hosted at Flinders between 11 and 14 December.
The conference will bring together some of Australia’s pioneering senior archaeologists, Aboriginal traditional owners and members of the “new breed”.
“People tend to think of the ancient civilisations of Rome and Egypt when they think of archaeology, forgetting there’s at least 50,000 years’ worth of archaeology here in Australia,” Dr Gorman said.
“Australia is a world leader in Indigenous archaeology and, on the whole, we engage with Indigenous people far better than our counterparts in the United States and in other parts of the world.
“It is one reason why the repatriation of Aboriginal remains is so keenly felt and understood in Australia.”
The conference will include sessions on the notion of community archaeology; exploring some of the issues that arise working as a consultant to the mining industry; and a poster and photo competition.
Dr Gorman said there would be a heavy emphasis on student involvement.
“Flinders has a national reputation for producing archaeology graduates with good field skills and expertise in cultural heritage management. The conference is also an opportunity to showcase some of the work our current students are doing,” she said.
Special guests include Professor John Mulvaney, the first academically trained archaeologist to work in Australia, and keynote speaker Professor Geoff Bailey from the University of York, whose visit is sponsored by the Society of Antiquaries (London) and the SA Museum.
His keynote address will explain why coastal and maritime exploration is likely to reveal that Australian archaeology has much to contribute to our understanding of the world’s prehistory.