Australian Archaeologists recognised

At the recent Australian Archaeological Association (AAA) conference in Terrigal, NSW, five archaeologists were recognised for their outstanding contribution to the discipline.

The highest award, the Rhys Jones Medal for Outstanding Contribution to Australian Archaeology was bestowed on two experts in Australian rock art research: Professor Josephine McDonald from the University of Western Australia in Perth, and Professor Paul Taçon from Griffith University on the Gold Coast.

“Jo and Paul have had long careers in researching and promoting the archaeology of Australian Aboriginal rock art” said AAA President, Associate Professor Lara Lamb.  “Although both researchers have also worked on international projects involving the archaeology of ancient art, it is for their work on Australian art, both ancient and recent, that Jo and Paul won the Rhys Jones Medal” Lamb continued.

Jo McDonald’s contribution to Australian archaeology includes innovations to cultural heritage management practice. She has revolutionised the methodologies and management of open site archaeology, recognising Aboriginal peoples’ rights to manage their heritage by mandating equal Aboriginal participation in excavation field teams. Her rock art research includes the application of new scientific techniques for the direct dating of pigment art and the development of highly sophisticated data bases and recording methods for rock art analysis and management.

“This medal is really to be shared with all my co-researchers, and especially the Aboriginal peoples with whom I have worked over many years.  It is through the willingness of Traditional Owners to share their knowledge with us that we have advanced rock art studies to be an integral part of mainstream archaeological research.” McDonald said.

Like Jo McDonald, Professor Paul Taçon has had a long career in Australian Aboriginal rock art research which has been published in Nature and other academic publications and has been brought to public attention through his appearances on TV and in newspapers.  Professor Taçon has used these opportunities to promote the importance of archaeological research generally, and to push for greater protection of archaeological and rock art sites globally.

“Our rock art is the keystone of our national heritage and among the best in the world.  The recognition provided by the Rhys Jones Medal will further help to promote rock art conservation here and around the world” Taçon said.


This year, the John Mulvaney Book Award took on a special significance.  The man after whom this award is named, Father of Australian Archaeology Professor Derek John Mulvaney, passed away in October.  This year the award went to a small book titled Kakatungutanta to Warrie Outcamp: 40,000 years in Nyiyaparli Country, written to convey important information about the nature of heritage to community members, the general public, and to specialists and professionals.  It traces the history of Nyiyaparli occupation of the Pilbara, from the Kakutungutanta rock shelter site (dating to over 40,000 years ago) to a pastoral era outstation camp.

“But the book is more than just a history”, co-author Dr Caroline Bird said.  “It is a narrative of connectedness to country as seen in archaeological data, in archival sources and oral histories, and in the stories of Nyiyaparli dreaming.”

“We could not have produced the book without the assistance of Fortescue Metal Group, and a grant from the Australian Government’s Your Community Heritage Programme” said Fiona Hook, director and founder of Archae-aus, one of the partners.

The book is available as a free download at


The Bruce Veitch Award for Excellence in Indigenous Engagement was established by AAA in 2005 following the death of the young archaeologist, Dr Bruce Veitch, who championed the policy that all research into Aboriginal archaeology should be undertaken in close collaboration with Traditional Owner groups.  “It is always a proud moment for me to present this award” said Bruce’s widow, archaeologist and Vice-President of AAA, Fiona Hook.  “And this year it is a particular pleasure to honour Dr Colin Pardoe with this award” she said.

Dr Pardoe was the first physical anthropologist to publicly acknowledge Aboriginal ownership of ancestral remains and to argue for Indigenous rights to determine the future of human remains disturbed by development activity or research investigation.

“As a scientist, I am opposed to the reburial of skeletal remains.  Their value to archaeology and understanding the past is inestimable. However, I recognise that it is not my decision. By accepting Aboriginal ownership and control of their ancestors’ bones, I accept their decisions on the disposition of those remains” Dr Pardoe said.

“This ethical stance, initiated and championed by Colin, has now become a cornerstone of all aspects of archaeological research” Associate Professor Lara Lamb, President of AAA said. “Colin Pardoe also initiated the practice of producing community reports to explain archaeological investigations to descendant communities.  Such reports are now a normal part of most archaeological research and consultancy projects”, Lamb said.


The final award in the AAA annual stable of awards is the AAA Life Membership Award for Outstanding Contribution to the Australian Archaeological Association.  In 2016 the award was given to a young archaeologist from the University of Western Australia, Jacqueline Matthews.

“Jacq joined AAA in 2009 and from the outset took on a range of volunteer roles” said Associate Professor Lara Lamb, President of AAA, “but Jacq is best known for her role as Social Media Officer, which she has made her own.  She has overseen the rise of the AAA Facebook page and initiated the AAA Twitter account”, Dr Lamb said.


For more information, please contact Lara Lamb ( ) or Fiona Hook (


Associate Professor Lara Lamb
(Anthropology and Archaeology)
~ Discipline Group Coordinator (Humanities)
~ Institute for Resilient Regions
~President, Australian Archaeological Association inc.