A leading world expert in Indigenous archaeology has been appointed as the inaugural Kimberley Foundation Ian Potter Chair in Rock Art at The University of Western Australia.
Professor Peter Veth, a Fellow of the Australian Academy of the Humanities and the London Society of Antiquaries, will be based in UWA's Centre for Rock Art Research and Management (CRARM) and will work in collaboration with Traditional Owners and their representative bodies to help document date and study the Indigenous rock art of world significance in WA's remote Kimberley region.
In this role he will forge regional partnerships with Aboriginal communities, researchers and heritage managers on topics of community and scientific interest. Understanding these extraordinary art bodies in cultural, archaeological and environmental contexts will be paramount.
The Chair is funded by a $2 million gift from the not-for-profit Kimberley Foundation Australia (KFA). This amount consists of $1.5 million contributed to the KFA by the Melbourne-based Ian Potter Foundation - a leading Australian philanthropic foundation founded by the late Australian businessman Sir Ian Potter (1902-1994) - and a $500,000 contribution from global energy company INPEX, which is developing the Ichthys liquefied natural gas project in the Browse Basin, about 180km off the Kimberley coast.
UWA has provided matching funding of $2 million, enabling the Chair to be fully endowed, and the State Government of Western Australia through the Department of Indigenous Affairs has provided an additional $300,000 to UWA's Centre for Rock Art Research and Management to help fund on-going research and teaching in Kimberley rock art.
These bequests follow UWA's announcement last April of a $1.08 million agreement with international mining group Rio Tinto to establish the Rio Tinto Chair in Rock Art Studies - held by CRARM Director Professor Jo McDonald - primarily for research in WA's National Heritage-listed Dampier Archipelago.
Professor Veth has worked extensively as a researcher, advisor and consultant on Indigenous rock art and heritage throughout the south-east Kimberley, Pilbara, Western Desert and Goldfields regions of Western Australia.
He carried out his Honours research on WA's Burrup Peninsula in 1981 and completed his Doctorate 1986-89 with the Martu people of the central Canning Stock Route region. Some of the rock art of this remote Western Desert area has recently been systematically recorded and dated with custodians and Professor McDonald, making this the first pigment rock art dated in the Australian arid zone.
UWA Vice-Chancellor Professor Paul Johnson congratulated Professor Veth on his appointment and said it placed UWA at the centre of leading research into one of the world's most significant collections of Indigenous rock art, likely dating back to over 35,000 years.
"This University is both proud and privileged to join with Kimberley Traditional Owners to advance our knowledge and understanding of this rich cultural heritage and the extraordinary place held by Australia's Indigenous peoples in human history," Professor Johnson said.
"We are grateful to the Kimberley Foundation Australia and we look forward to developing Kimberley-based research projects with KFA. We are also grateful to its funding partners The Ian Potter Foundation and INPEX, to enable this important archaeological study to be undertaken, and to the State Government for its generous support for UWA's Centre for Rock Art Research and Management."
Professor McDonald also congratulated Professor Veth on his appointment and said it meant UWA's Centre for Rock Art Research and Management was now positioned strategically to lead Australian rock art research in a number of globally significant research agendas.
"By building on existing research collaborations with Kimberley Traditional Owner groups and developing cross-campus collaborations to date rock art, we will achieve internationally recognised research excellence in another significant art region of Western Australia," Professor McDonald said.
Professor Peter Veth (Kimberley Foundation Ian Potter Chair in Rock Art) (+61 8) 6488 1807 / (+61 4) 08 094 607
Cas Bennetto (CEO Kimberley Foundation Australia) (+61 3) 9653 3780 / (+61 4) 18 410 072
Michael Sinclair-Jones (UWA Public Affairs) (+61 8) 6488 3229 / (+61 4) 00 700 783