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

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 followed by a reception at 6pm.

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


9:00am The Edge, State Library of Queensland


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

Session 1 


Future technological, social, cultural, and economic challenges facing humanity and the world call for concerted efforts to bring hyper-specialised knowledge formations back into a greater degree of what Edward O. Wilson (1998) explores as ‘consilience’.

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

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.

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.

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.

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

Friday 15 November 2019


9:00am The Edge, State Library of Queensland

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.

    Session 5


    There has been much work in the humanities on cyborg and other ‘post-human’ identities, on ‘deep green’ and other approaches to the nature of human relationships with other sentient beings and the environment, and on the implications for the future of an era now putatively called the Anthropocene.

      • 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

      Session 6


      This is a free public event on the past, present and future for the humanities in Australia – aligning with the overall theme for the Academy’s 50th anniversary. The session will be the national launch of a special anniversary publication with a panel discussion on future directions for the humanities by leading scholars and institutions.

      Keynote by Professor Emeritus Lesley Johnson AM FAHA on ‘The Humanities Cause’, drawing on her ARC Discovery Project The Institutions of the Humanities: A history of Australian humanities.

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

      About the image

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