Val Attenbrow is best known for her work on Sydney’s Aboriginal archaeological history, culminating in her major monograph Sydney’s Aboriginal Past – winning the John Mulvaney book award in 2004. Her other major monograph What’s changing: population size or land-use patterns, set out to see whether the proposed ‘intensification’ of Aboriginal occupation of an area could be substantiated by a close-grained analysis of excavation data. Her collaborative research has covered many aspects of the NSW past, including studies of artefact technology and use-wear, geology, land and sea fauna, population, dating, rock art and ethnography. In the last decade, following her formal retirement, she has continued research on the sourcing and distribution of NSW stone hatchet heads, with significant results, as well as on the use of backed artefacts. Along with her research, Val has been deeply involved in other aspects of archaeology. For the AAA she has been an Editor of the journal, has served on numerous judging panels and run the Awards sub-committee.
She was also among the founders and early administrators of the Australian Association of Consulting Archaeologists, developing its policies on standards of consultancy practice. She has supervised and mentored honours and post-graduate students from six universities, often on projects involving the use of Australian Museum materials. She has maintained a corps of volunteers involved in research and analysis and has included Aboriginal people from a number of land councils. At the Australian Museum she is constantly consulted about Aboriginal people and culture by a wide range of the public. She has served as archaeological and cultural advisor on many advisory panels for government organisations including Harbour Foreshore Authority, National Place Name Survey, Olympic Park Authority, and Sydney Harbour Catchment Management Board. As a pioneering female archaeologist Val Attenbrow has made an outstanding contribution to Australian archaeology and is a totally worthy recipient of the Rhys Jones Medal.