The 50th Academy Symposium and free public events will be held 13-15 November 2019 in venues around South Bank Brisbane.

Download the full program.

Wednesday 13 November 2019

The 9th Hancock Lecture

5:00pm Griffith University Art Museum, South Bank Brisbane

The Australian Academy of the Humanities’ Hancock Lecture series invites young Australian scholars of excellence to talk about their work with a broader audience. The lecture series is made possible through a bequest from the estate of Sir (William) Keith Hancock KBE FAHA.

This is a free public event, open to all, commencing 5pm Wednesday 13 November at the Griffith University Art Museum lecture theater, South Bank Brisbane. A reception will  follow at 6pm hosted by Griffith University’s Dean of Research in the Arts, Education & Law Group, Professor Gerry Docherty.

The 9th Hancock Lecture — Maaya Waabiny: Mobilising song archives to nourish an endangered language — will be given by Wirlomin Noongar researcher Associate Professor Clint Bracknell from the Kurongkurl Katitjin Centre for Indigenous Australian Education and Research and WAAPA, Edith Cowan University on his interdisciplinary approach to enhance the revitalisation of endangered Noongar language and song in the south coast region of Western Australia.  

Thursday 14 November 2019


The Edge, State Library of Queensland

9:00am Introduction 

  • Welcome to Country.
  • Opening remarks from the Convenors and the Academy.

9:45am Session 1 


Writing back in the 1960s, as he surveyed the growth of computers and their impact, Saul Gorn, an early American pioneer of computing, wrote: “It seems to me that such a development will, willy-nilly, have to stabilize, and when it does there will be a completely new department responsible for the new discipline” (Gorn 1963). Of course, it didn’t happen that way. There were deliberate efforts by the Association for Computing Machinery (ACM), the international learned society for computing, to co-ordinate conversations about a new discipline (ACM 1965, 1968) and several American universities drafted and commenced teaching curricula and the ACM adopted a standardised curriculum for computer science and distributed it widely. This allowed the field to grow quickly and for the practitioners to be standardised and certified – it created jobs, careers, and remarkable five decades of innovation, and economic growth. Sixty years later, we have a new set of technologies that are proliferating. This session will focus on what it takes to stabilize knowledge around AI in the 21st century.

Key note presentation by Distinguished Professor Genevieve Bell FTSE — Autonomy, Agency & Assurance (3A) Innovation Institute and Florence Violet McKenzie Chair, College of Engineering & Computer Science, Australian National University.

11:15am Session 2


Histories fundamental to European understandings of the world, including the West’s roots in the classical age, and the impact of the Enlightenment and the scientific revolution on religion are now much contested. At the same time European responsibilities for indigenous and global harms have been brought to historical account. Narrative modes, the linear sense of time and the scale of an intelligible past are being recast. This session will focus on some of the ways in which these developments are expressed in contemporary research and ask what kinds of past may inform our future.

1:45pm Session 3


Rapid urbanisation is one of the great megatrends driving humanity into the future. Discussion and debate on urban futures is often dominated by the notion of ‘smart cities’ which focuses on technological approaches to urban development, and stresses connectivity and efficiency. But cities’ liveability must be secured as much through the robust articulation of civic cultural futures. This session engages south-east Queensland stakeholders, especially galleries, libraries, archives and museums (GLAM) institutions, to consider the role of community and cultural sectors in responding to the challenge of smart and cultural futures.

The 50th Academy Lecture

4:30pm The Edge, State Library of Queensland

Every year the Australian Academy of the Humanities invites a Fellow to deliver the annual Academy Lecture. Since 1970, this tradition has demonstrated the extraordinary breadth and depth of our Fellows’ contribution to the Australian and international humanities community, and to enriching the cultural life of the nation.

The 50th Academy Lecture — Being Humane: A contested history — will be given by Academy President Professor Joy Damousi FASSA FAHA.

This is a free public event, open to all, commencing 4:30pm Thursday 14 November at The Edge, State Library of Queensland, followed by a reception at 5:30pm.

Opening comments will be given by Professor Mandy Thomas — Queensland University of Technology’s Executive Dean, Creative Industries Faculty, and Associate Professor Kim Wilkins — the University of Queensland’s Deputy Associate Dean Research, Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences. 

Friday 15 November 2019


The Edge, State Library of Queensland

9:00am Session 4


New technologies have always been accompanied by both enthusiastic solutionism and dystopian anxieties, including around the shape of future work. So-called ‘Industry 4.0’ (automation, machine learning, big data, the Internet of things, cloud and cognitive computing) would seem to have marginalised the knowledge and skills that humanities, arts and social sciences cultivate. However, high impact research has challenged automation as a primary driver of workforce change and shows that critical thinking, creativity, and collaborative/ cognitive skills that effectively knit specialist knowledges together are increasingly important in job profiles. Furthermore, the humanities have much to contribute to ensuring that the potential of new technologies to enhance human flourishing is as important as uncovering and exposing their potential to deepen surveillance, discrimination and control over humanity and society.

    11:45am Session 5


    A key challenge for the contemporary humanities is understanding the transformation of human identity in relation to technologies and other species, and especially with respect to the future of the earth after the Anthropocene. This session brings together leading Australian and international scholars to consider and question the boundaries of the human, and to provide new perspectives on our ongoing evolution. Taking the overall theme of the Symposium as a provocation, we might well ask whether, rather than ‘humanising the future’, we will instead need to ‘futurise the human’. At a minimum, that might mean reinventing ourselves yet again to adapt to the world we have made; more challengingly, it might even mean no longer putting humanity first.

      • Dr Elise Bohan — Historian of Transhumanism and Research Associate at Edith Cowan University

      • Professor Barbara Creed FAHA —Honorary Professorial Fellow, School of Culture and Communication, University of Melbourne and Chair, Human Rights and Animal Ethics Research Network

      • Professor Neil Levy FAHA — Professor of Philosophy, Macquarie University and the University of Oxford’s Uehiro Centre for Practical Ethics

      • Professor McKenzie Wark — Professor of Culture and Media, Eugene Lang College, The New School, New York USA

      2:00pm Session 6


      Hosted by Academy President, Professor Joy Damousi FASSA FAHA, the closing session for the Symposium asks what does the future have in store for the humanities, and what can the humanities offer the future?

      The session opens with a keynote presentation by former Academy president Professor Emeritus Lesley Johnson AM FAHA on ‘The Humanities Cause: The Humanities Cause: Reflections on the history of the Australian Academy of the Humanities’.

      Followed by a facilitated panel discussion with the Vice-Chancellors from Griffith University, Queensland University of Technology and the University of Queensland.

        Closing remarks for this session will be given by Associate Professor Ronika Power of Macquarie University, the Academy’s 2019 recipient of the Max Crawford Medal.

        About the image

        Detail from Jon Cattapan’s ‘The Group Discusses’ (2002). Reproduced with kind permission of the artist.