Rhys Jones Medal for Outstanding Contribution to Australian Archaeology

This year’s winner of the Rhys Jones Medal is Peter Veth.


Peter Veth epitomises the criteria associated with the Rhys Jones Medal, namely ‘an outstanding and sustained contribution to the field of archaeology’ in Australia.  His work in the arid region of Western Australia spans more than 30 years and is foundational to our understanding of the entire span of human occupation of the arid zone, from initial Aboriginal occupation until European colonisation.  His landmark study Islands in the Interior (1993) still serves as the framework for discussion of arid land adaptations in the Pleistocene and into the Holocene.Peter Veth

Peter’s more recent research has been no less significant, producing advances in knowledge from the Barrow Islands on the northwest shelf of Australia; from eastern Indonesia, East Timor and the Torres Strait; and expanding his earlier work in the Western Desert.  In all these endeavours Peter has clearly been at the fore-front of Australian archaeology for over 30 years. To list just a few of his achievements, Peter has published over 300 peer-reviewed volumes, chapters, papers and Expert Witness reports; produced over 800 public education pieces, including newspaper articles and multimedia interviews; and developed new curriculum and research alliances in Australian Indigenous archaeology, maritime archaeology, Native Title and contact studies.

Peter’s significant achievements in archaeology are reflected in his international impacts, with his work being pivotal to current research by scholars based in in the USA, Europe, Chile and Argentina; and his success in nationally and internationally competitive grants. He has lead over 50 researchers on major ARC funded projects such as the Barrow Island Archaeology Project, the Australian Historic Shipwreck Protection Project and the Canning Stock Route Project. These large multi-disciplinary projects, conducted closely with numerous Indigenous and other partner organisations, have helped recast Australian archaeology and set new standards for collaborative research endeavours.

Peter’s career is particularly significant in his singular commitment to, collaboration with and empowerment of Indigenous communities to manage their cultural heritage, particularly across Western Australia.  Peter is very well respected by the Indigenous communities with whom he has worked, and his recent work on the Canning Stock Route is just one of many examples of the collaborative work he has undertaken with Traditional Owners.  A central guiding philosophy of Peter’s approach is that any archaeological or cultural heritage project should enable Indigenous peoples to exercise a primary role in the management of their cultural heritage.  Peter’s achievements have been recognised by his peers in numerous awards, including his induction into the Australian Academy of the Humanities, and as the 2010 winner of the Bruce Veitch Award for Excellence in Indigenous Engagement.

One of Peter’s most significant contributions to Australian archaeology relates to his leadership role in the discipline.  Peter has set an extraordinarily high standard for best practice in archaeological and cultural heritage endeavours, earning enormous respect from his peers. He has made significant contributions to improving cultural heritage practice at local, regional, state, national and international levels. Peter is an extraordinarily generous mentor, freely spending his time and energy on encouraging the next generation of researchers and practitioners in Australian archaeology and cultural heritage.

Congratulations, Peter, on being the very worthy winner of the 2014 Rhys Jones Medal.