AAS Distinguished Lecture in Anthropology

Presented by ANU College of Arts & Social Sciences

As part of Social Sciences Week 2019, the Australian Anthropological Society presents the 7th Distinguished Lecture in Anthropology


PROFESSOR DAVID TRIGGER (University of Queensland, University of Western Australia) with discussants MR KEVIN SMITH (CEO, Queensland South Native Title Services) and PROFESSOR TIM ROWSE (Western Sydney University)

Native title in Australia is a significant issue for Indigenous claimants but also for the wider society. Much debate occurs about achievements and frustrations for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander groups seeking recognition of traditional connections to land. There is less discussion of cultural implications for other Australians with lengthy settler family histories, migrant backgrounds from many countries, and recently arrived aspirations to make this nation their home.

Issues arising include whether there are lessons for Australia beyond addressing the legal claims of Indigenous people.

  • Are senses of place and heritage values in the land sharpened through awareness of Indigenous connections? 
  • Are some sectors of the society better positioned than others to learn from native title engagements with places of cultural and historical significance? 
  • Does contemporary urban life, replete with mobility, work against development of intimate personal links with physical and social spaces? 
  • Does it require residence over generations to produce place identification that is deeply embedded in the worldviews and personalities of residents? 
  • Anthropology as a social science has a substantial and important practical research role in native title negotiations. However, a further challenge is how to bring a broader societal appreciation of the kinds of place significance that are central to Indigenous claims. Can native title, across remote, rural and urban settings, complement and overlap with current and future Australian senses of belonging? 

This is to explore a form of cultural coexistence that is potentially in tension with a sharp and mutually exclusive categorical distinction between those who embrace 'indigenous' identity and others. Can such cultural co-existence reinforce legal and economic achievements of land justice for the Indigenous minority yet also contribute to rich senses of place and belonging across the broader Australian society?