by Paul Taçon
ARC Australian Laureate Fellow (2016-2021).
Chair in Rock Art Research and Professor of Anthropology and Archaeology, Griffith University, Australia.
Director, The Place, Evolution and Rock Art Heritage Unit (PERAHU)
But there comes a time in every field of research when enough time has passed for its early practitioners to become founding members and their actions to become the subject of critical reflection. Now is that time for the study of Australian rock art. This complex history of research is imbued with unique personalities, international influences, politically charged debate, and shifting relationships within and across established disciplines, such as archaeology. The Histories of Australian Rock Art Research symposium aims to bring together people to reflect upon unique events, ideas and trajectories in the history of Australian rock art. Papers will reflect from a variety of viewpoints, including but not limited to the discussion of Australian rock art research from international perspectives, Indigenous engagement and community experiences, regional studies, reflections on the work of individuals, particular sites, techniques and influential paradigms.
With 29 presentations over two days we have a full program and one representing the diversity of rock art research in Australia. We are particularly delighted to have 14 Indigenous/First Nation presenters from Western Australia, Victoria and the Northern Territory. Their stories of past and current rock art research in their country will bring an important element to these histories and will help to guide ongoing rock art research across Australia. The intense interest in this symposium took us a little by surprise. We had expected a small, tightly focused collection of papers, but were happily overwhelmed with abstracts from across Australia and neighbouring countries. This suggests that the timing is right for these discussions.
The symposium is organised by Sally K. May (Place, Evolution and Rock Art Heritage Unit, Griffith University), Ursula Frederick (the Australian National University), Paul S.C. Taçon (Place, Evolution and Rock Art Heritage Unit, Griffith University) and Jo McDonald (Centre for Rock Art Research + Management, University of Western Australia). Rock Art Network members Taçon and McDonald will be giving opening and closing papers; Rock Art Network member Richard Kuba will also be giving a paper. The symposium is sponsored by Paul S.C. Taçon’s Australian Research Council Laureate Project grant ‘Australian rock art history, conservation and Indigenous well-being’ (FL160100123), Griffith University’s Centre for Social and Cultural Research, Griffith University’s School of Humanities, Languages and Social Science, as well as Australia ICOMOS through the National Scientific Committee for Rock Art and the Indigenous Conference Fund.
We hope that this symposium inspires reflection and re-evaluation and helps to guide continuing collaborative rock art research, conservation and management programs into the future. For more details and to view the preliminary program go to:
You can also follow the symposium on social media: #rockarthistories.