Leading Museums, Museum Leaders

New Centre  unlocks Australasian heritage

Corrie Baker, New Centre of Excellence for Australian Biodiversity and Heritage, University of Adelaide Environmental Blog, 8 September 2016

A seven-year, $45.7 million centre will investigate the beginning of Australia’s unique biodiversity and Indigenous heritage, while inspiring Australian children to engage with science.

The Australian Research Council (ARC) Centre of Excellence for Australian Biodiversity and Heritage will bring together 20 institutions and museums worldwide to unlock the history of Australia, Papua New Guinea and eastern Indonesian from 130,000 years ago until the time of European arrival.

This Centre is the first of its kind in the world, and will encourage budding young scientists through a unique outreach program at schools and museums throughout Australia, by focusing on nurturing the careers of Indigenous and female researchers.

The Centre will be led by University of Wollongong, in collaboration with the University of Adelaide, James Cook University, the University of New South Wales, the Australian National University, Monash University and the University of Tasmania – together with leading organisations in public education and engagement, including the Australian Museum, Queensland Museum, South Australian Museum and the State Library of New South Wales.

The University of Adelaide will receive more than $5 million, with three of its researchers leading key research areas: ARC Laureate and Director of the Australian Centre for Ancient DNA Professor Alan Cooper; Sir Hubert Wilkins Chair of Climate Change Professor Corey Bradshaw; and ARC DECRA Fellow Dr Laura Weyrich.

This new centre will uncover insights from archaeology, palaeoanthropology, genetics, ecology, Earth sciences and climate science, and will transform our knowledge of past environments and human activities in Australia and the neighbouring regions to our north, which were joined to Australia by a land bridge for most of the last 130,000 years.

“Australia’s Indigenous peoples have a unique genetic and cultural history that extends for millennia, yet we are still exploring how the past has impacted Australia Indigenous heritage and biodiversity,” says Professor Cooper. “Australia boasts an array of fauna and flora that is unique on this Earth but is under considerable threat. We need to understand its past before we can predict its future.

“Everyone involved is excited to lead research that is so vital to understanding Australia’s past and explore how the continent and its connection with people, animals, and climate have adapted and changed through time.”

Centre Director, Distinguished Professor Richard (Bert) Roberts, an ARC Laureate Fellow and the Director of University of Wollongong’s Centre for Archaeological Science, says: “By filling these vast gulfs in our knowledge, we will be better able to predict the responses to future environmental changes and the knock-on effects for biodiversity and Indigenous heritage, and so protect our precious national assets.”

A comprehensive program of education, outreach and science communication events is planned for schools, museums, science festivals and a range of digital media, to bring the extraordinary environmental and human history of Australia to the public.

Council of Australasian Museum Directors, c/o Ms Daryl Karp, Museum of Australian Democracy at Old Parliament House PO Box 3934 Manuka, Australian Capital Territory 2603 Australia, © CAMD 2021
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