The Annual Academy Lecture

Every year the Academy invites a Fellow to deliver the Annual Academy Lecture. Lectures presented between 1970 and 2009 were published in Proceedings. From 2010, the Academy Lecture can be found in Humanities Australia.

The 2013 Academy Lecture

Professor Peter Hiscock FSA FAHA,Tom Austen Brown Professor of Australian Archaeology, The University of Sydney. 

Creators or Destroyers: The Burning Questions of Human Impact in Ancient Aboriginal Australia

Did Aboriginal people create an Eden-like estate or did they destroy the delicately balanced natural ecosystem they found in Australia? Popular visions and current concerns about human impacts in the modern world are paralleled by theories of earlier human impacts. In Australia these concerns have been translated into visions of the role of Aboriginal people within the Australian landscape. Those roles are subject to both academic and popular debate, and those debates are the context of tensions between the Humanities and the Sciences. This talk critiques some of the latest theories and discoveries to reveal the intellectual biases and analytical constraints that underpin these debates. Pre-European Aboriginal economic, ecological and social practices have often been depicted in terms of stability and uniformity, and yet the emerging archaeological and environmental evidence reveals dynamic ancient worlds and lives shaped by change operating at multiple scales. The magnitude of change that we can recognise in Aboriginal Australia prior to the arrival of Europeans challenges static and idealist stories of Australia’s human past.

Previous Academy Lectures

  • 2011: Professor Joseph Lo Bianco AM FAHA, Politics, Poetics and Policy: Humanities and the New Borders
  • 2010: Emeritus Professor Graeme Clarke AO FAHA, Can the Mute Stones Speak?
  • 2009: Professor Ian Donaldson FAHA, The Idea of an Academy
  • 2008: Professor Jaynie Anderson FAHA, Spectacle in Sixteenth-Century Venice: or How Carpaccio, Giorgione and Titian represented Patrician Youth Theatre 
  • 2007: Professor Iain Davidson FAHA, Scales and Balance: Archaeology, Cultural Heritage and Sustainability 
  • 2006: Professor Michael Clyne FAHA, Multilingual Society with a Monolingual Mindset 
  • 2005: Professor Graeme Turner FAHA, Informing the Public: Is There a Place for a Critical Humanities? 
  • 2004: Professor Iain McCalman FAHA, Teddy Roosevelt’s Trophy: History and Nostalgia
  • 2003: Dr Inga Clendinnen FAHA, Backstage at the Republic of Letters
  • 2002: Professor Mark Finnane FAHA, Inquiries into Truth 
  • 2001: Professor Malcolm Gillies FAHA, Alternative Australias: Fates and Fortunes 
  • 2000: Associate Professor David Christian FAHA, 'Big History', Globalisation and Australia: Towards a More Inclusive Account of the Past 
  • 1999: The Hon. Barry Jones AO FAHA, Framing a New Australian Republic
  • 1998: Professor Margaret Clunies Ross FAHA, Ancestral Songs: Understandings of Aboriginal Song since 1788
  • 1997: Professor Rhys Jones FAHA, Australian Archaeology: A Contested Discipline
  • 1996: Professor Roger Covell FAHA, Bush and Backwoods: Myths of Musical Identity in Australia and the United States
  • 1995: David Malouf FAHA, The Uses of the Past
  • 1994: Professor D.M. Schreuder FAHA, History’s Page: The Humanities and Australia as a Post-Colonial Society
  • 1993: Professor J.R. Green FAHA, Theatre and the Greeks
  • 1992: Professor Dame Leonie Kramer AC DBE FAHA, 'Wild Words': The Condition of Language in Australia
  • 1991: Professor G.E. Schulz FAHA, Philosophers and Kings: Variations on an Old Theme
  • 1990: Professor M.M. Manion FAHA, The Humanities and the Australian Environment
  • 1989: Professor J.P. Hardy, The Humanities and the Challenge
  • 1988: Emeritus Professor S.A. Wurm FAHA, Language Atlases
  • 1987: Professor J.A. Scott FAHA, Myth in Dante and Petrarch
  • 1986: Professor G.A. Wilkes FAHA, The Role of the Critic and the Language of Criticism
  • 1985: Associate Professor K.K. Campbell FAHA, Technology and Philosophy of Work
  • 1984: Professor A.R. Stephens FAHA, The Sun State and its Shadow
  • 1983: Professor G. Blainey FAHA, The See-Saw of Pride and Disillusionment
  • 1982: Professor Wang Gungwu FAHA, The Chinese Urge to Civilise: Reflections on Change
  • 1981: Professor G.A. Wilkes FAHA, Insurgents and Survivors: The Language of a Colonial Culture
  • 1980: Professor D.J. Mulvaney FAHA, European Vision and Australia’s Heritage
  • 1979: Professor A.D. Trendall FAHA, Twenty Years of Progress in Classical Archaeology
  • 1978: Professor B.W. Smith FAHA, Art as Information: Thoughts on the Art from Captain Cook’s Voyages
  • 1977: Professor J. Golson FAHA, The Ladder of Social Evolution: Archaeology and the Bottom Rungs
  • 1976: Professor R.N. Coe FAHA, The Persecution and Assassination of Macbeth as Performed in Two Centuries of French Theatre
  • 1975: Professor J.A. Passmore FAHA, Imagination in the Arts and Science
  • 1974: Professor Wang Gungwu FAHA, The Rebel-Reformer in Modern Chinese Biography
  • 1973: Dr F.J. West FAHA, Biography as History
  • 1972: Dr Ursula Hoff FAHA, Goethe and the Dutch Interior: A Study in the Imagery of Romanticism
  • 1971: Professor H.J. Oliver FAHA, 'Cur’d and Perfect': The Problem of Shakespeare’s Text
  • 1970: Professor A.D. Hope FAHA, The Literary Influence of Academies
  • 1969: Professor J.T. Burke FAHA, Neo-Classicism and the Enlightenment: The English Phase

Event Details

The lecture took place on 9 August 2013 at the Webb Lecture Theatre, The University of Western Australia.









The Academy gratefully acknowledges the support of The University of Western Australia.



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