AAA/ASHA Conference, Cairns, Australia

Antoinette Hennessy

Every year, the Australian Archaeological Association (AAA) holds its annual conference somewhere around Australia. Students and professional heritage practitioners gather from all around the country to present and share their ideas and experiences for three solid days – usually beginning and ending on a high (and hazy) note.

This year, the conference was held in Cairns, in northern Queensland, as a joint effort with the Australian Society for Australian Archaeology (ASHA). With a particular emphasis on archaeology in the tropics, many sessions and papers were dedicated to archaeological undertakings in tropical areas around the world, including South-East Asia, Africa, the Pacific Islands, and of course Australia. But as the biggest AAA conference to date (over 530 delegates), a number of sessions were also dedicated to engaging the school curriculum, public/community archaeology projects, identity and gender, the Federated Archaeological Information Management System (FAIMS), contemporary archaeology, and much more.

The number of student (or recent graduate) papers and posters this year was impressive, and it is great to see continuing support from the professionals in the field, but also the strengthening of confidence among the student body. Many students produce very high quality research, but many are not confident enough to present in public, so the large number of presentations this year gives us hope of a continuing trend.

Sessions on Australian school curriculum, as well as reports on recent (and successful!) public/community archaeology projects provided valuable insight into the issues affecting the current school (i.e. primary and secondary) curriculum – and teachers – and it is wonderful to see that archaeological practices provide an effective means of engagement for students and public alike. New resources for teachers are available, or will be available soon, so it is worth keeping an eye out for the upcoming ‘ArchaeoHub‘ project, and also for a new textbook ‘Ancient Australia Unearthed‘ which is now available for purchase.

But perhaps one of the best highlights was meeting the ‘father of Australian archaeology’, John Mulvaney. His work on Australian prehistory and his efforts to foster archaeology in Australia has inspired and won the admiration of many students and professionals alike. Unfortunately, we were too late to organise an interview with him, but he did not object to having a photo taken with me.

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Read more about John Mulvaney here.

You can see what went on at AAA/ASHA on Twitter: #AAA37

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