Professor Jo McDonald from The University of Western Australia has been recognised at the Australian Archaeological Association (AAA) conference for her outstanding contribution to archaeology.
The Rhys Jones Medal for Outstanding Contribution to Australian Archaeology is the association’s highest award. This year for the first time it was presented to two recipients: UWA’s Professor McDonald and Professor Paul Taçon from Griffith University on the Gold Coast.
AAA President, Associate Professor Lara Lamb said the researchers both had long careers in researching and promoting the archaeology of Australian Aboriginal rock art.
“Although the researchers have worked on international projects involving the archaeology of ancient art, it is their contribution to Australian rock art, both ancient and recent, that won them the Rhys Jones Medal” Professor Lamb said.
Professor McDonald’s long history of engagement with rock art studies began in her undergraduate days and continued with her PhD: Dreamtime Superhighway, which demonstrated the connection between rock art and occupation evidence in the Sydney region – and used information exchange theory to demonstrate how rock art could be part of mainstream archaeological interpretations.
She is currently the Director of the Centre for Rock Art Research and Management at UWA, and is in the final stages of an ARC Future Fellowship.
Professor McDonald is best known for her work on Australian Aboriginal rock art. In 2012 she co-edited a global synthesis of rock art papers (Wiley’s Companion to Rock Art), which is now a leading text book internationally. She also pioneered the direct dating of pigment art sites in Australia, and has produced management plans for regional art bodies and individual rock art sites and assessed rock art’s significance at both national and World Heritage levels.
She spent many years as a cultural heritage practitioner, which has given her strong links with industry and government. She has been an expert witness in Native Title and Land and Environment Court actions, as well as providing advice to governments on heritage matters and policy. She holds the Rio Tinto Chair in Rock Art Studies and is supported by the Rio Tinto Conservation Agreement with the Federal Government to research the values of the Dampier Archipelago (including Burrup Peninsula) National Heritage Place.
Professor McDonald’s contribution to Australian archaeology includes innovations to cultural heritage management practice. She has revolutionised the methodologies and management of open site archaeology, with large scale open area excavations creating new understandings for the Sydney region.
Professor McDonald said she was especially pleased to have received the award at the first AAA conference to be hosted by an Aboriginal Corporation – the Darkinjung LALC.
"I am honoured to have been awarded the Rhys Jones Medal," Professor McDonald said.
"I feel that this medal really should be shared with my family, all my colleagues, and especially the Aboriginal people with whom I have worked with over many years."
Jess Reid (UWA Media and PR Adviser) (+61 8) 6488 6876