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Distinguished Lecture in Anthropology

The Distinguished Lecture in Anthropology was introduced by the AAS in 2009 and has continued on a mostly biennial basis as an important feature of the AAS Annual Conference.


2022 Lecture


Photos in [Worimi] Biscuit Tins: Exploring the relationship between Anthropology and Aboriginal Studies, with Kathleen Butler

As an Aboriginal undergraduate student more than thirty years ago, the first piece I read in which I saw myself reflected was Dr Gaynor McDonald’s Photos in Wiradjuri Biscuit Tins. My title pays homage to that moment and the subsequent shaping of my belief that Aboriginal cultures could be reflected in the academy. 

This presentation gives voice to the ongoing tensions between the disciplines of Aboriginal Studies and Anthropology. Acknowledging my own place leading a School of Aboriginal Studies, I remain hopeful that there can be meaningful dialogue between disciplines, and the vast repository of Anthropological research can be both repatriated to, and interrogated by, Aboriginal communities for their benefit. I argue that this has the potential to contribute to both a decolonising and Reconciliation/Truth-Telling agenda for the tertiary sector and more broadly. Recognising my position as both insider and outsider to this process, I frame my analysis using the Fish Trap Methodological Framing developed by the Wollotuka Institute, which recognises that the sharing of resources for the good of Country and Peoples is critical in our current environment/s. 


Previous Lectures

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2019 Emeritus Professor David Trigger
2019 Emeritus Professor David Trigger

Professor David Trigger

Native title: implications for Australian senses of place and belonging

September 12, Australian National University

In 2019 the AAS Distinguished Lecture was decoupled from the annual conference and was presented instead as part of Social Sciences Week (9-15 September, 2019). The public lecture was not recorded however Professor David Trigger supplied the text and slides for reproduction.

On the evening of the Public Lecture, two discussants - Mr Kevin Smith, CEO, Queensland South Native Title Services & Professor Tim Rowse, Western Sydney University - were invited to provide comment. They too have kindly provided their responses for readers.

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2017 Dr Suzi Hutchings
2017 Dr Suzi Hutchings

Dr Suzi Hutchings

Inside Out: Indigeneity in the era of Native Title in Australia

December 13, University of Adelaide

Dr Suzi Hutchings is of Arrernte descent. She is a social anthropologist with a doctorate from the University of Adelaide. For the past 20 years Suzi has worked as an anthropological consultant and expert witness on native title claims and Aboriginal heritage protection across Australia. She has also provided expert cultural evidence in the Federal Magistrates Court, the Supreme Court and the Magistrates court in family law, criminal law and injury compensation cases involving Aboriginal families. Suzi is currently a senior lecturer in the Indigenous Studies Unit in the School of Global, Urban and Social Studies at RMIT University in Melbourne.
In 2011 former Australian Prime Minister, Paul Keating, in his Lowitja O’Donohue Oration, revisited the history of the implementation of native title law and the passing of the Native Title Act in 1993 by the Australian Federal Labor Government. The most telling message in his speech was the level of change in intent of the Act, as it has been enacted during the past 22 years. Originally native title was an existing title recognized by the common law of Australia, now the burden of proof of native title is firmly the responsibility of Aboriginal people. For those whose lands lay in areas of intense rural and urban colonisation the level of proof of prior occupation required to obtain native title rights has been almost insurmountable.

Many urban and rural communities have suffered a history of removals of knowledgeable members variously disrupting a lineage of the laws and customs needed to show a continuous connection to the lands they once occupied. But it is within the social and intellectual spaces created by the requirements of native title that many claimants and community members have re-interpreted and combined the often-fragmented knowledge they have learnt from their elders into a comprehensive Indigenous knowledge that they believe does meet the requirements of the burden of proof. Invariably, what they have faced is skepticism among practitioners including lawyers, judges and anthropologists, as to whether their knowledge is authentic, or fabricated to suit a new political game in the face of oppression from the dominant society.

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2015 Associate Professor Martha Macintyre
2015 Associate Professor Martha Macintyre

Associate Professor Martha Macintyre

Other Times, Other Customs: Islands of Nostalgia and Hope

December 1, The University of Melbourne

Martha Macintyre is an honorary Associate Professor in Anthropology in the School of Social Sciences at the University of Melbourne. A former president of the Australian Anthropological Society, she was editor of its flagship journal, TAJA, from 2008–2015. In 2012 she was elected a Fellow of the Academy of Social Sciences in Australia. Initially an historian, her early anthropological research focused on the economic and social effects of colonial intrusion in Tubetube, Milne Bay Province. More recently she has concentrated on gender inequality and the broad social changes associated with resource extractive industries in Melanesia. She has published on land tenure and resource management, human rights and the status of women and local responses to environmental change and degradation. From 1986–2005 she also worked as an independent consultant, preparing social impact reports over several years on two major PNG gold mining projects – Misima and Lihir. Her academic and applied research interests are all concerned with the effects of economic change on local communities.

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2012 Dr Genevieve Bell
2012 Dr Genevieve Bell

Dr Genevieve Bell

The Anthropologist in Industry: A Thrice Told Tale

September 25, The University of Queensland

Dr. Genevieve Bell is the Director of the User Experience Group within Intel Corporation’s Digital Home Group in Portland, Oregon. Gathering a team of anthropologists, interaction designers, and human factors engineers to transform consumer-centric product innovation, she has fundamentally changed how Intel envisions, plans, and develops its platforms.

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2011 Professor Tim Rowse
2011 Professor Tim Rowse

Professor Tim Rowse

Themes in the History of Indigenous Political Thought

July 4, The State Library of Western Australia

Prof. Tim Rowse is Professorial Fellow with The Centre for Citizenship and Public Policy. Although much of what he writes can best be described as history, his formal training has been in government, sociology, and anthropology. He has taught at Macquarie University, The Australian National University, and Harvard University (where he held the Australian Studies Chair in 2003-4), and he has held research appointments at The University of Sydney and The Australian National University. Since the early 1980s, his research has focused on the relationships between Indigenous and other Australians, in Central Australia (where he lived from 1989 to 1996) and in the national political sphere. In the 1990s, this and other interests led him to write two books about the life and works of Dr. H. C. Coombs.

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2009 Professor Ghassan Hage
2009 Professor Ghassan Hage

Professor Ghassan Hage

The Open Mind and its Enemies: Anthropology and the Passion of the Political

December 8, The State Library of New South Wales

Prof. Ghassan Hage is an internationally acclaimed thinker, both as an academic and an arresting public intellectual. He is the author of many works on nationalism, racism, multiculturalism, and migration from a comparative perspective. The most well-known is White Nation (2000) examining White experiences of Australian Multiculturalism. Prof. Hage taught anthropology at The University of Sydney for fifteen years until 2007. He has held many prestigious visiting professorships including at Harvard University, L’Ecole des Hautes Etudes en Sciences Sociales in Paris, The University of Copenhagen, and The American University of Beirut. He is now based at The University of Melbourne. His provocative, insightful, and sometimes moving press and radio discussions have been a valuable part of public life in Australia during the last decade.