New Chair in Archaeological Science created

A new Chair in Archaeological Science has been established in order to advance the scientific understanding of Indigenous Australian rock art.

Rock Art The Chair was founded thanks to donations from the Kimberley Foundation Australia (KFA), Chancellor Allan Myers AC QC and the Minderoo Foundation.

University of Melbourne Vice-Chancellor Professor Glyn Davis thanked the donors for their vision and generosity towards enabling the Chair, which will be based in the Faculty of Science.

“This Chair will be a catalyst for the scientific study of Australia's archaeological record of human origins and migrations and for recounting the story of Aboriginal art as told in the Kimberley,” he said.

“It’s an Aboriginal story and this Chair will assist Aboriginal people in the Kimberley to get to the science behind their story.

“It will also help develop and train a new generation of early career researchers and post graduate students in the field of archaeological science, with a focus on rock art dating and conservation.

“The science program this Chair in Archaeological Science will lead will complement the humanities-based program offered at the University of Western Australia and already supported by the Kimberley Foundation Australia.”

Karen DayDean of the Faculty of Science, Professor Karen Day

Dean of the Faculty of Science, Professor Karen Day, said the University of Melbourne is the natural place for leadership on this project.

“We’ve got superb researchers and world-class facilities and a sizeable commitment in the field," she said.

"The new Chair will further put Australian scientists onto the world stage."

The Kimberley Foundation Australia is at the forefront of scientific research with a commitment to supporting Kimberley rock art research.

Kimberley Foundation Australia Chief Executive Officer, Cas Bennetto, said that establishing this Chair has been a cherished goal of the Foundation, as it will drive applied science in rock art research and complement the humanities-based archaeology programs at the University of Western Australia and other universities.

“The need for this Chair comes from the work the Kimberley Foundation and scientists at Melbourne University are doing with the Aboriginal communities. They realised they need more science to get the big picture,” she said.

“We are grateful that KFA Patrons Andrew and Nicola Forrest, Allan Myers and the University of Melbourne have backed KFA’s vision. This Chair cements the leadership role Australia has taken in rock art research.”

University of Melbourne Chancellor, Allan Myers AC QC, said the benefits of this Chair will flow back to the Aboriginal communities.

“The University of Melbourne is working in collaboration with the Aboriginal people who want to know their own story,” he said.

“The Chair gives us the opportunity to deepen our understanding of our own heritage. This is vital for us as a nation. The University and Australia will reap the rewards of the international collaboration that will follow.”

Minderoo Foundation Chief Executive Officer Nicola Forrest said that the aim is to strengthen the opportunities for academic research between the east and west coast, and drive engagement and collaboration between the University of Western Australia, where KFA has already established a Chair in Rock Art, and the University of Melbourne.

“The opportunity for Minderoo to contribute to this Chair is an exciting way to effect this goal,” she said.

The endowment is composed of $3.5 million from the donors, plus a further $1.5 million from the University and was announced at a Melbourne event that marked the twentieth anniversary of the Kimberley Foundation Australia's establishment.

The University of Melbourne recently received a $880,000 grant from the Australian Research Council enabling the Earth Sciences team to continue the rock art dating research initiated and sponsored by the Kimberley Foundation and developed under the leadership of Professor Andrew Gleadow, Emeritus Professor of Geology and Chairman of the KFA’s Science Advisory Council.

The Chair in Archaeological Science will sit within the School of Earth Sciences in the Faculty of Science. It is the latest philanthropically-funded endowed Chair given through Believe – the Campaign for the University of Melbourne, which aims to raise $1 billion and engage 100,000 alumni in the life of the University by 2021.