Dr Michael Westaway

Australia’s ancient History – finding the hook

Students are easily seduced by the mysteries of the old world, the monumental architecture of ancient Egypt, the clash between the Spartans and Persians at Thermopylae, the expansion and fall of Rome, but how do we draw them into engaging with the 50,000 year past of ancient Australia? A rich archaeological record is dispersed across this continent, our state museums hold artefacts from hundreds of archaeological excavations, and yet these resources are very seldom accessed for learning about the Aboriginal past.

In this presentation I shall discuss some of the hooks that I believe can excite students about our continent’s fascinating ancient history, and discuss some initiatives that have been undertaken by the Queensland Museum that aim to engage students with the significance and complexity of Australia’s ancient past.

Queensland Museum (QLD)
Link to Queensland Museum


Michael is an archaeologist and biological anthropologist. He undertook his undergraduate training at the Australian National University (1990–1992) and Honours year at the University of Sydney (1994) investigating the question of megafauna extinctions. Michael’s career has covered many diverse roles: consultant archaeologist in Queensland (1996–1997); state archaeologist with the Heritage Services Branch of Aboriginal Affairs in Victoria (1998–2001); manager and biological anthropologist at the National Museum of Australia with the repatriation unit (2001–2004); Executive Officer with the NSW National Parks Service for the Willandra Lakes World Heritage Area (2004–2008); archaeologist with the NSW National Parks Service at Yanga National Park (2008); and curator of archaeology at the Queensland Museum (2008–2010). Michael joined the Archaeology Department at Flinders University in 2010. In August 2010 he returned to the Queensland Museum to take up the position of Head of Cultures and Histories. Michael completed his PhD in 2009. His thesis explored the question of Aboriginal biological origins.