Director of the Centre for Rock Art Research + Management at the University of Western Australia
Professor Jo McDonald is the Director of the Centre for Rock Art Research + Management at the University of Western Australia. She has been recording rock art in Australia for almost 40 years. She has recently completed an ARC Future Fellowship, undertaking a comparative study of rock art in Australia’s Western Desert and the Great Basin of the USA. She holds the Rio Tinto Chair in Rock Art Studies, funded by RTIO’s Commonwealth Conservation Agreement for the Dampier Archipelago. She has developed a considerable body of rock art management practise – formulating management plans at the regional level (e.g. Sydney Basin, Western Desert, Port Hedland, Dampier Archipelago) as well as site specific (e.g. Whale Cave, Blackfellow’s Hands). She has been an expert witness in Native Title cases, where rock art has been deployed as part of the legal argument (De Rose Hill, Martu and Birriliburru). She undertook the stylistic analysis and co-wrote the National Heritage Listing and Outstanding Universal Values documents for the Dampier Archipelago (NHL listed in 2007). She has been contextualising rock art through excavation and direct-dating since she undertook her PhD research in Sydney. Her recent excavation at Serpents Glen (Karnatukul) pushed back occupation of Australia’s desert to 50,000 years ago, as well as demonstrating contemporaneous rock art production and occupation evidence in the last millennium.
She was a Partner Investigator on the ARC Canning Stock Route: Rock Art and Jukurrpa Linkage Project (2007-2010), which recorded over 800 rock art sites through the Western Desert. She was Lead Chief Investigator (CI) on the ARC Murujuga: Dynamics of the Dreaming Linkage Project (2014-2018) with RTIO as the Linkage Partner and Murujuga Aboriginal Corporation as the collaborating partner. She is currently a CI on the Deep History of Sea Country ARC project, which is exploring the potential of submerged heritage around the Dampier Archipelago. Since starting at UWA in 2012, she has developed and led a culture of collaborative partnerships with the Aboriginal communities and Industry, particularly in the Pilbara, Western Desert and Kimberley regions.
Working with visualisation specialists and spatial scientists she explored the use of 3D visualisation, photogrammetry and laser scanning of Aboriginal art sites for research and management. She has been central to the current push for World Heritage Listing of the Dampier Archipelago, being a co-convenor of a World Heritage Summit in Karratha in August 2018. She is currently on two State-based interagency committees overseeing the nomination of this region to the Tentative List, and monitoring industrial emissions. She is the Chair of Australia ICOMOS’ National Scientific Committee on Rock Art.