The Power of the Humanities


In 2015 the Academy published The Power of the Humanities to encourage a wider national conversation about the many and varied benefits of humanities research. The report was launched by The Hon Christopher Pyne MP, Minister for Education and Training, at Parliament House, Canberra on Thursday 17 September 2015. Download the full report Speeches from the launch

The Droeshout portrait of William Shakespeare, Martin Droeshout [public domain]

Enlisting Shakespeare to help fight cancer


Unlikely as it sounds, that is exactly what two academics working in very different fields—linguistics and bio-informatics—have achieved, through a remarkable cross-disciplinary collaboration. Hugh Craig is director of the University of Newcastle’s Centre for Literary and Linguistic Computing, with a long-standing interest in the mathematical qualities of language. Pablo Moscato is director of the university’s Centre for Bioinformatics, Biomarker Discovery …

Melbourne Rectangular Stadium

Changing the culture of rugby league—and the armed forces


A long-term partnership between academia and rugby league is transforming attitudes to sexual behaviour and violence, thanks to an approach now being adopted by other organisations including the Australian Defence Force (ADF). Following allegations of sexual assault by Canterbury Bulldog players at a training camp in Coffs Harbour in 2004, the National Rugby League (NRL) approached Catharine Lumby for advice on …

Burmese School and Kyaung Myoung Pottery

Using language to build peace in Australia’s region


When historians and political scientists analyse long-running conflicts, the role of language is often overlooked. Yet language can be a primary cause of problems, particularly in multi-ethnic societies, as well as a powerful tool for resolving them. Joseph Lo Bianco, a professor of language and literacy education at the University of Melbourne, is testing those theories on the ground in …

Chinese Lunar New Year 2014, Melbourne AU

A lifetime of cultural diplomacy helps to bind Australia and China


When China’s President, Xi Jinping, addressed the Australian parliament in November 2014, he made special mention of one person: Colin Mackerras, Emeritus Professor at Griffith University and one of the world’s foremost China experts. The President thanked Mackerras for building “a bridge of mutual understanding and amity between our people”. And he praised his “tireless efforts to present a real China to Australia …

Steels Creek Valley, Victoria, May 2009

Healing the scars of Black Saturday—and learning the lessons of history


Following the 2009 Black Saturday bushfires, survivors in the Yarra Valley hamlet of Steels Creek were tormented by three questions. What, precisely, happened that day? How on earth could they make sense of events? And how could a tiny community where 10 people and two-thirds of homes had been lost ever manage to heal and go forward? Tom Griffiths, director of the …

Section from 'MELBOURNE'. Colour engraving by A. C. Cooke (Albert Charles), 1836–1902.

Archaeology gets sexy—and draws in the tourists


Within a few years of arriving in Melbourne in 1849, John Maloney, an illiterate Irish labourer, had bought a small weatherboard cottage in the fast-growing city. He and his siblings decorated it with Staffordshire china, dined on chicken and beef, and fastened their clothes with carved bone buttons. The story of the Maloneys—and their neighbours in the bustling working-class area known …

Night sky, Wee Jasper, Australia, 2015

Big History: A global origin story for the next generation


It’s a story that bridges nearly 14 billion years, linking insights from fields as diverse as astronomy, geology, anthro­pology, archaeo­logy and physics. Spanning Earth, the stars, life and humanity, ‘Big History’ traces the evolution of the Universe from the Big Bang to the internet. For David Christian, the Macquarie University historian who coined the term and pioneered the new field, it’s …

Fish Markets, boats, Sydney

Making fishing more sustainable through cultural change


Andrew Puglisi’s father, Bob, trawled for prawns 280 days of the year, pulling in up to 2,000 tonnes from the clear, cold waters of South Australia’s Spencer Gulf. Andrew works just 50 days a year but harvests a similar quantity, thanks to his local fleet targeting only the largest prawns, leaving smaller ones to mature and spawn. The changes—which Puglisi …

Traffic, lights, city, night

Oiling the wheels of China’s New Silk Road


It’s a hugely ambitious vision: a vast complex of trans-global trade routes rivalling the ancient Silk Road, along which camel trains hauled Chinese silk, spices and precious stones centuries ago. The ‘New Silk Road’ will consist of roads, railways, ports, pipelines and fibre-optic cables linking China with Central Asia, the Middle East and, eventually, Europe and Latin America. Like its legendary predecessor, the network …