The road to fieldwork

At the beginning of June last year, I set off for Barunga from my home in Adelaide with my partner, Antoinette, and our friend Jasmine. We’ve made this trip a number of times before, but this one was a little different. Ant and I were going to live in Barunga for several months for my PhD fieldwork. Jasmine, of course, is from Barunga but now lives in Adelaide while she finishes her degree.

Barunga is an Aboriginal community in Jawoyn Country, roughly 80km south-east of Katherine in the Northern Territory. It’s home to around 300 people and hosts an annual sport, culture and music festival. My supervisor, Claire, has worked there for almost 30 years with her anthropologist husband, Jacko.

Jawoyn Country, featuring the three largest communities: Barunga, Beswick and Manyallaluk. The map also shows the location of past and present shelters where the consumption of liquor is legal.
The three largest communities in Jawoyn Country: Barunga, Beswick and Manyallaluk. The map also shows the location of various ‘drinking places’

I’ve been working in Barunga since 2010 when I started my Honours research, looking at visual and material responses to the Howard Government’s Northern Territory National Emergency Response (or the Intervention). After graduating Honours, I continued visiting Barunga during the dry season each year while I taught on the Community Archaeology Field School and developed my next research project.

While the roughly 2,500km drive to Barunga was old news to us, the prospect of the next few months was daunting. We stopped at the usual spots along the way Continue reading “The road to fieldwork”


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