* Delivered on Tuesday 30 April for the Public Policy Institute, as part of the Global Speakers Series
Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples of Australia maintained knowledge traditions with their own philosophies and epistemologies that originated in ancient Australia, at least six millennia before the present day. They have been transmitted from generation to generation over thousands of years by knowledgeable people. As questions about the sustainability of human systems and natural environments become the key challenges globally, the realisation has dawned on environmental thinkers that Indigenous populations lived in parts of this continent for at least 65,000 years, adapting and innovating as they witnessed an Ice Age, the disappearance of the megafauna, the rising of the seas, and the drying-up of the continent. In this paper, I look at several instances of the relevance of ancient Indigenous knowledge to modern problems in Australia and discuss their relevance to the endeavours of scientists and researchers from a range of disciplines.
Professor Marcia Langton is an anthropologist and geographer, and since 2000 has held the Foundation Chair of Australian Indigenous Studies at the University of Melbourne. She has produced a large body of knowledge in the areas of political and legal anthropology, Indigenous agreements and engagement with the minerals industry, and Indigenous culture and art. Her role in the Empowered Communities project under contract to the Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet and as a member of the Expert Panel on Constitutional Recognition of Indigenous Australians are evidence of Professor Langton’s academic reputation, policy commitment and impact, alongside her role as a prominent public intellectual. In 1993 she was made a member of the Order of Australia in recognition of her work in anthropology and the advocacy of Aboriginal rights.
Professor Langton is a Fellow of the Academy of Social Sciences in Australia, a Fellow of Trinity College, Melbourne and an Honorary Fellow of Emmanuel College at the University of Queensland. In 2016 Professor Langton was honoured as a University of Melbourne Redmond Barry Distinguished Professor. In further recognition as one of Australia’s most respected Indigenous Academics Professor Langton has in 2017 been appointed as the first Associate Provost at the University of Melbourne.