Celebrating our 50th anniversary

AAH News Academy

The Australian Academy of the Humanities celebrates its golden anniversary today, marking 50 years since its creation by Royal Charter from Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II on 25 June 1969.

It was three Australian giants of the 20th century – Prime Minister, Sir Robert Menzies and two of Australia’s most distinguished historians, Sir Keith Hancock and Max Crawford – whose combined efforts gave rise to the Academy’s creation. Our article on the history and future of the Academy shares more of our beginnings.

From its earliest days, the Academy has championed the contribution that the arts, culture, music, history, language and literature, philosophy and archaeology make to our national life. Five decades on, the work of the Academy has advanced to providing independent and authoritative advice – including to government, industry and the education sector – to ensure ethical, historical and cultural perspectives inform discussions regarding Australia’s future challenges and opportunities. The Academy plays a unique role in promoting international engagement and research collaboration and investing in the next generation of humanities researchers through our long-standing and extensive grants and awards programs.

Academy President Professor Joy Damousi said:

It is important on this significant anniversary for the Academy to acknowledge and celebrate the remarkable contribution of the humanities to our nation, dating back long before our formation in 1969.

While it is important to look back, we should also take stock of the here and now, and the current opportunities and challenges created by rapid technological change, globalisation, growing environmental issues, and shifting ideas about what it means to be human.

The Academy’s Fellowship, individually and as a collective, lead Australia’s vibrant humanities community of scholars and practitioners. They represent a constant, ever-present force in helping us understand our past and make sense of the present, and consider the role that the humanities will play in humanising the future.

The list of the Academy’s Fellows reads like a ‘who’s who’ of Australian cultural life. Its earliest Fellows included historians Manning Clark, Kathleen Fitzpatrick and Geoffrey Blainey and poet A.D. Hope. Today the number of Fellows has risen to more than 620 leading experts in their field.

On the occasion of the Academy’s 50th anniversary, we invited a number of eminent Australians who are Honorary and Corresponding Fellows of the Academy to share some thoughts on the past, present and future of the humanities and to reflect on what is really at the heart of the Academy’s motto Humani nihil alienum (“nothing that is human is alien to me”). Our article includes contributions from Robyn Archer, The Hon Michael Kirby, Professor Julianne Schultz, Professor Peter Singer and others.

World renowned historian, Professor Dipesh Chakrabarty, shares this message:

Many will grant that human futures stand threatened today by humanity’s spectacular and technological success … But the sciences cannot answer some critical questions affecting our future: What, for instance, is the experience or meaning of being human?

In marking this significant occasion with the Australian community, we have embarked on a program of events taking place across the country. A number of free public events are coming up soon in Perth, Adelaide and Sydney. The flagship events will occur in Brisbane, 13-15 November with the Academy’s 50th Symposium, themed Humanising the Future.