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.


Read more about John Mulvaney here.

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


Heritage Alert: Z Ward, Glenside Hospital, Adelaide

Jordan Ralph

Glenside Z Ward Insane Asylum
Z Ward at Glenside Hospital (formerly Parkside Insane Asylum). Photograph: Brad Shepherd, Flickr. Licensed under Creative Commons Attribution 2.0.

This Saturday may be the last chance for the public to visit the State Heritage registered Z Ward of Glenside Hospital (formerly Parkside Lunatic Asylum) free of charge. Z Ward is due to undergo renovations to convert it into office space for SA company, Beach Energy early in 2015. Thanks to negotiations between the National Trust (SA), the Glenside Hospital Historical Society, and Beach Energy there will be a second open day on 15/11/14.

The first open day was held on 02/11/14 and was attended by over 5,000 people, most of whom had to be turned away due to the lack of space within the building. To address the problem encountered at the previous open day, those who want to attend on Saturday must book a spot via the National Trust (SA)’s new website, Heritage Watch. Tickets are free; to book you must sign up to the Heritage Watch newsletter, then click the link titled ‘Second open day at Z Ward, November 15’ once the page loads.

Over the next few months, there will be guided day and night tours available for a fee (more information at Heritage Watch):

These tours will be available for a fee, which will be used by the National Trust to undertake the work of documenting the history of the Z Ward building and capturing the many stories we have heard from people who have a connection to the building and its past.

About Z Ward

Dave Walsh – a blogger from South Australia – has published a number of articles on the website Weekend Notes about Adelaide and its natural and built heritage, including Glenside Hospital and Z Ward. Of interest to those who want to find out more about Z Ward, Dave has written about the Glenside Hospital historical precinct, Z Ward, and the first and second open days.

Heritage significance

According to the National Trust, architectural heritage consultants are involved in the Z Ward project; however, I cannot find any mention about how (or even if) cultural heritage managers and archaeological consultants were engaged:

South Australia’s former Hospital for Criminal Mental Defectives known as Z Ward was sold by the State Government in August to local company Beach Energy. It had been hoped that this important State Heritage listed building designed by Edward John Woods, SA Architect in Chief from 1878 to 1886, would become a South Australian medical museum. The new owners are in the process of appointing a heritage architect to oversee their plans to re-use the building as office space. They have met with the National Trust and the Glenside Hospital Historical Society to discuss the site’s future. We are looking forward to working with Beach Energy to achieve an adaptive reuse which respects the building’s significant history and provides for regular public access to parts of the building. (Heritage Watch).

From my point-of-view, the supposed lack of engagement with archaeological and other heritage consultants is problematic. Can anyone confirm no archaeological consultants were/are involved?

While it is important to work with architectural heritage professionals for built heritage projects such as the Glenside Hospital and Z Ward, the heritage significance of these places is multi-faceted and needs to be assessed from more than one viewpoint. By viewing the heritage significance of these sites through more than one lens (e.g. archaeological, historical, social, cultural as well as architectural), we are able to arrive at a more holistic, comprehensive assessment that focusses on more than one layer of a multi-layered story. Perhaps then we will have a greater chance at protecting these places.

Z Ward in the news

Here are a couple of recent news articles about Z Ward and the open days from the ABC and The Eastern Courier Messenger and a photoblog from the ABC. Don’t forget to check out the National Trust (SA)’s Heritage Watch website for more updates about Z Ward and at-risk heritage sites in South Australia.

Look out for our article about Z Ward next week after our visit. Please leave some feedback below or on Twitter (@talkarchaeology) if you want us to expand on anything in our next post.