Encounters with the Deep Past: A Revolution in Australian History
Free Public Lecture
Kathleen Fitzpatrick Theatre
T: (03) 8344 1521
2019 Ernest Scott Lecture
In this public lecture, Dr Billy Griffiths charts the revolution in Australia’s timescale over the past half-century and the rise of a new historical consciousness.
In the 1950s, it was widely believed that Indigenous Australians had arrived on the continent only a few thousand years earlier. They were regarded as ‘primitive’ – a fossilised stage in Western evolution – rather than a people with an ancient, varied and dynamic history. In the decades since, Indigenous history has been pushed back into the dizzying expanse of deep time.
This lecture charts the revolution in Australia’s timescale over the past half-century. It follows the lives, passions, methods and mistakes of some of Australia's pioneering archaeologists, reflecting on how archaeological insights have transformed and continue to transform national narratives and sensibilities. This is also the story of Aboriginal activists and their fight to have a voice in decision-making about their land and their heritage. It explores what it means to live in a place of great antiquity, with its complex questions of ownership and belonging.
Billy Griffiths was awarded the 2019 Ernest Scott Prize for his book Deep Time Dreaming: Uncovering Ancient Australia (Black Inc. 2018). The Ernest Scott Prize is awarded annually for the most distinguished contribution to the history of Australia or New Zealand, or the history of colonisation.