The Academy’s early days
The Australian Academy of the Humanities was established by Royal Charter in 1969 to advance knowledge of, and the pursuit of excellence in, the humanities.
A Learned Academy
Our Academy is one of Australia’s four Learned Academies – independent organisations established to encourage excellence in their respective fields and to provide expertise and advice at public, institutional and government levels. The four Learned Academies as named in Commonwealth legislation are the Australian Academy of the Humanities, the Australian Academy of Science, the Australian Academy of Technology and Engineering, and the Academy of the Social Sciences in Australia.
Australian Humanities Research Council: 1956–69
The Australian Humanities Research Council (AHRC) first met in 1954 and was formally established in 1956 to promote and publish the work of Australian humanities researchers. The Royal Charter was granted to establish the Australian Academy of the Humanities in 1969. At that time, 51 Members of the Australian Humanities Research Council became the Foundation Fellows of the new Academy.
Instituted by Royal Charter: 25 June 1969
Royal consent from Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II to the petition to establish the Australian Academy of the Humanities was granted on 25 June 1969. The Royal Charter specifies the objectives and purposes of the Academy, and incorporates the Australian Academy of the Humanities.
The Royal Charter, By-laws and Petition are legally binding documents which govern how the Academy operates, and provide a legal framework for its activities. The By-laws are the rules which govern the day-to-day business of the Academy, including the electoral procedures for Fellows. They can only be altered with the assent of the Governor-General.
At the date of the grant of the Royal Charter establishing the Australian Academy of the Humanities in 1969, there were 51 Members of the Australian Humanities Research Council who became the Foundation Fellows of the new Academy.
The first intake of Fellows
The highest distinction in scholarship in the humanities was required of candidates for election to the Fellowship of the newly established Academy.
The first intake comprised 16 Fellows including Geoffrey Blainey, Kenneth Inglis, John Mulvaney, David Monro, Franz Philipp, Saiyid Rizvi, Oskar Spate and Judith Wright, and one Honorary Fellow, J. C. Beaglehole. They were elected by the 51 Foundation Fellows at a Special General Meeting on 20–21 September 1969. Annual elections have taken place since that time.
For an account of the debates and efforts that led to the establishment of the Academy, see Graeme Davison’s article in the inaugural edition of Humanities Australia: Phoenix rising: The Academy and the humanities in 1969.