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Public Outreach and Professional Discipline: Chronicling the Anthropological Society of Western Australia


Public Outreach and Professional Discipline: Chronicling the Anthropological Society of Western Australia Greg Acciaioli (Anthropology & Sociology, – PowerPoint PPT presentation

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Title: Public Outreach and Professional Discipline: Chronicling the Anthropological Society of Western Australia

Public Outreach and Professional Discipline
Chronicling the Anthropological Society of
Western Australia
  • Greg Acciaioli (Anthropology Sociology,
  • The University of Western Australia)
  • with contributions from
  • Edward McDonald (Consulting Anthropologist,
  • Chris Griffin (Communications and Arts, Edith
    Cowan University)

Anthropological Societies in the Early
Institutionalisation of Anthropology
  • 1840s-1890s Museum Period ? Ethnological
    Associations Period
  • Société Ethnologique de Paris (1839)
  • Ethnological Society of London (1843) ?
    Aborigines Protection Society (1837)
  • Anthropological Society of London (c. 1862)
  • Merger The Anthropological Institute of Great
    Britain and Ireland (1870)
  • vs. Founding of Peabody Museum of Archaeology and
    Ethnology only in 1866
  • Forerunners in Leiden and St. Petersburg

Institutionalisation of Anthropology in Australia
  • Presentations and discussions in various Royal
    Societies, esp. branches of Royal Geographical
  • Anthropological Society of Australasia
  • Journal
  • Australasian Anthropological Journal (to 1898)
  • Science of Man and the Australian Anthropology
    Journal (N.S., to 1900)
  • Science of Man Journal of the Royal
    Anthropological Society of Australasia (to
    Societys end)
  • Semi-popular focus documentation recording
  • Ethnology as the proper term to define this

Institutionalisation of Anthropology in Australia
  • Establishment of first academic programs in
  • Department of Anthropology at University of
    Sydney (1925)
  • Board of Anthropological Research at University
    of Adelaide (1926)
  • Complementary rise of associations
  • 1926 Anthropological Society of South Australia
  • 1928 Anthropological Society of New South Wales
  • 1932 Anthropological Society of Victoria (ASV)
  • 1948 Anthropological Society of Queensland (ASQ)
  • mid 1950s (abortive?) Anthropological Society in
    Darwin (exact title?)
  • 1958 Anthropological Society of Western Australia

Institutionalisation of Anthropology in Australia
  • Scope of societies closer to American (4-field)
  • Social ( Cultural) Anthropology
  • Archaeology
  • Physical Anthropology
  • Linguistics
  • Material Culture
  • Link to museums
  • Applied Anthropology
  • Humanitarian impulses of societies and

Anthropological Society of New South Wales
  • Impetus from the Australian Museum, not
    Department of Anthropology
  • Parallel British precedent first professional
    anthropologists were museum curators
  • Later a stronger association with Department of
  • Venue for meetings after first few

Umbrella Organisation Australian Anthropological
Association (1939)
  • Established by ASSA, ASNSW, ASV
  • Seen as successor to Royal Anthropological
    Association of Australasia
  • Objects to promote through co-operative effort
    the science of Anthropology and to take public
    and official action in the interests of
    Anthropology, as may be deemed desirable.
  • Journal Mankind
  • Published by ASNSW (since 1931), now as organ for
  • No fixed set of officers
  • Rotate among executive councils of affiliated
    state societies (later include ASQ, ASWA too)
  • Handover at meetings of the Australian and New
    Zealand Association for the Advancement of
    Science (ANZAAS)
  • Meetings of Section F for Anthropology in
    association with AAA
  • No real activities beyond meetings at ANZAAS?

Founding of Anthropological Societyof Western
Australia (ASWA, 1958)
  • Follow ASNSW model
  • Slightly after establishment of Anthropology at
  • Initial constitution by-laws (1959) modelled on
    those of ASNSW (1945 version)
  • Poised institutionally in intersection of
    University, Museum, and Native Welfare Department
  • Interim committee
  • Dr RM Berndt, Centre for Anthropology UWA
  • Dr WDL Ride, Director of the West Australian
  • Mr FWG Anderson, Deputy Commissioner of Native
  • Dr Catherine Berndt, Centre for Anthropology UWA
  • Mr VN Serventy (Sec-Treas), West Australian Museum

Tension in formulation of Aims
  • Not first attempt to found such a Society
  • Failure to materialise in AO Neville era
  • Tension of scientific and humanitarian/administrat
    ive impulses
  • Editor of Mankind/Treasurer of ASNSW to RM
    Berndt For Gods sake, keep it scientific and
    discourage crackpot sentimentalists from joining
  • Need for disciplining expressions of Anthropology
    in the state and through the AAA the country as
  • E.g. investigating qualifications of Dr.
    Hossfeld, discoverer of Aitape skull in PNG
  • Parallel earlier tensions in Ethnological Society
    of London
  • Humanitarian vs. scientific impulses

Scope and Orientation of Inaugural Meeting
  • Speakers at first meeting
  • Mr FWG Anderson ASWA as neutral ground for
    interchange of ideas of value to administrators,
    esp. in Department of Native Affairs
  • Subsequent correspondence fear of ASWA becoming
    a pressure group
  • Professor Joe Lugg (UWA Department of
    Biochemistry) Relation of Anthropology
  • Dr WDL Ride role of West Australian Museum in
    regard to anthropology
  • Dr RM Berndt
  • Maturity of anthropological theory
  • Problems demanding attention
  • Aboriginal adjustment to changing conditions
  • Dangling carrot of assimilation
  • Vexed question of citizenship status
  • Indonesian claims to West New Guinea, or West
  • Dutch-Australian administrative cooperation and
    the position of the indigenous New Guinea peoples
  • Greater understanding by Australians of the
    cultures and societies of Asian peoples
  • Generally
  • Particularly Asian student adjustment in this
  • Problems of rapid change and technological
    emphasis in our own society
  • Choice in a large number of situations
  • Tightening of controls in others

Differences from early societies
  • Predominant impetus from Academic Anthropology
  • Secondary influence from State Museum in WA case
  • Eventual formation of own Museum in academic
  • Different constituency
  • Studentsgt layfolk
  • Aim disciplining students productive and
  • ASWA started way back when we were
    undergraduates - when Peter Lawrence was here
    (1961?), it just emerged from the Department. It
    was a sort of meeting place for people with an
    interest in anthrop and sort of forum for talks.
    It was Uncle Ronnies sort of link with the wider
    community really only it wasnt that wide, it
    was mostly students.
  • ASWA included members of the community it was
    an attempt to promote anthropology in the
    community. Though most of the members were
    students Ron was very keen that honours students
    attended meetingsIt was an academic society
    really I was quite impressed with it. There were
    not many members of the public mainly students,
    almost all the graduate students and staff were

Relations with West Australian Anthropology and
Sociology Students Association (WAASSA)
  • ASWA subsidising of WAASSA student journal
  • Ilchinkinja ? eidos ? Ilchinkinja
  • WAASSA subsidising of ASWA functions
  • Representation of postgraduate students in ASWA
  • Realisation of Elkins model of proper
    integration into university activities

Developing orientation Objects of the society
in the 1959 Constitution
  • Cribbing from ASNSW Constitution
  • Objects
  • (a) To promote the study of General Anthropology
    with special emphasis on the Australian
    Aborigines. The fields to be included are Social
    and Cultural Anthropology, Physical Anthropology,
    Ethnology, Archaeology, Genetics, Linguistics and
  • (b) To provide a common medium and meeting place
    for people interested in these subjects, and
    facilitate the interchange of ideas.
  • (c) To encourage interest and research in these
  • (d) To act as a body in matters relating to these
  • (e) To encourage teaching and research in
    Anthropology in the University of Western
  • (f) To encourage anthropological teaching and
    research, as well as public interest in the
    relevant collections within the Western
    Australian Museum and assist in the collection of
    objects for that Institution.
  • (g) To take a lively, but informed, interest in
    matters of native welfare in this State as in
    Australia generally. (Constitution and By-Laws of
    the Anthropological Society of Western Australia
    undated draft, c. 1959).
  • Increasing emphasis in development of society on
    humanitarian/administrative issues of Indigenous
  • Publicising the need for tightened customs
    regulations and prohibitions on sale of sacred
  • (Co-)sponsorship of art exhibitions aesthetic
    appreciation of Aboriginality
  • Publicising survey of Aboriginal unemployment and
  • Eventually, vehicle of influence on drafting of
    Aboriginal Heritage Act (1972)

Role of ASWA in Demise of AAA (1)
  • Early tension concerning urging of members to pay
    higher membership fee to include subscription to
  • Undated circular letter from C.M. Berndt,
    President (1961-2)
  • The journal Mankind is the official organ of the
    combined Anthropological Societies of Australia,
    of which our own Society is one. It was
    established in 1935-36 and, along with the
    journal Oceania has pioneered the publication of
    anthropological materials. At first it was
    published only by the New South Wales
    Anthropological Society, but other State
    Societies (as they were formed) joined the
    parent body It is vitally important that
    members of the different Anthropological
    Societies should support what may be regarded as
    their own journal.

Role of ASWA in Demise of AAA (2)
  • Letter of W.D.L. Ride of Western Australian
    Museum in reply
  • I appreciate the views which you have expressed
    about the need for support for the journal
    MANKIND but I see no reason why we should
    consider that this should be taken as a Society
    matter instead of a matter for individuals to
    have to consider in their support of things
    anthropological. I say this because MANKIND is
    not published by the combined anthropological
    societies of Australia but by the Anthropological
    Society of New South Wales. While I appreciate
    that the Anthropological Society of New South
    Wales requires support for MANKIND, I can see no
    reason why they should consider it is in any way
    our journal unless they are prepared to give us a
    voice in its organization and editorship and, in
    return, we should be prepared to pay a portion of
    the running costs. Surely the time has come for
    us to make a definite stand in this matter.

Role of ASWA in Demise of AAA (3)
  • Letter of RM Berndt to ASNSW Secretary after 44th
    ANZAAS Congress (Uni of NSW, 1972) meeting in
    which the moves to set up the Australian
    Anthropological Society to succeed Association of
    Social Anthropologists discussed
  • AAA as a body in name only, with no officers
    except those elected by constituent societies
  • Mankind published under the auspices of the AAA,
    but by and for the ASNSW
  • Editorial board and other officials all from the
    University of Sydney Department of Anthropology
  • No decision making role of ASWA in policies of

Role of ASWA in Demise of AAA (4)
  • RM Berndts demands for re-organisation for AAA
    to reflect opinions and aims of its constitutent
  • Executive Board be elected from the
    office-bearers of the constituent societies for a
    2-year period. Such a board must constitute the
    effective executive committee (Board) of the
    Anthropological Societies of Australia and be
    empowered to transact its businesss. Need for
    strict parity of constituent State societies to
    transact its business
  • Executive Board with its newly drawn up
    Constitution to meet at least once within a 2-yr.
  • Association to take over publication of the
    journal Mankind so that it may effectively become
    the official organ of the combined societies
  • Executive Board needs to appoint an editorial
    committee to manage and publish journal under its
    own auspices
  • Business of journal and its publication should be
    rostered among the constituent societies,
    State-wise along the lines of the present
    practice of the American Anthropologist

Role of ASWA in Demise of AAA (5)
  • Discussion of overall lack of definition of AAA
    at its general meeting at 45th ANZAAS (Perth,
  • Transfer of AAA Council of Management to members
    of ASWA
  • Passing of resolutions in line with Berndts
    demands by Council of Management in Perth
  • Circular requesting that all societies affiliated
    to AAA demonstrate constitutional authority for
  • Resolution to disband AAA after unsatisfactory
    meeting at 1975 ANZAAS
  • Final disbanding at AAA meeting held at 1977
  • Motion by RH Pearce from ASWA agreed to that
    since the Australian Anthropological Association
    has not functioned for several years, the
    constitution be formally terminated and the books
    and papers be offered to the National Library,
    and the the Editor of Mankind be informed of
    this resolution and requested to delete all
    reference to the Association from the journal.

ASWA after 25 years
  • Silver Jubilee (1983)
  • Particularly celebrate applied interventions
    (e.g. Noonkanbah)
  • Strengthening of orientation to Indigenous issues
  • Transition to pressure group status feared by
    FWG Anderson?
  • Emergence of problems in disciplining
    professional practice
  • Less emphasis on disciplining students?

ASWA Interventions in Noonkanbah
  • Historical record emphasise RM Berndts
  • That evening Professor Berndt issued a statement
    that was the lead story in the West Australian on
    the morning of 2 April. He demanded a halt to
    drilling on the station, and criticised the
    Governments repeated direction of the Museum
    Trustees. He also called for the appointment of a
    specialist group to assist Amax in negotiating
    with the Community, and for a Royal Commission to
    look into all matters relating to Aboriginal
    land rights. The Western Australian
    Anthropological Society sic supported his call
    and attacked Grayden and the Government. (Hawke
    and Gallagher, Noonkanbah Whose Land, Whose Law
    1989 207)
  • Contrast with reticence in specific interventions
    in past
  • Purveyor of expert advice
  • A priestly role

ASWA Interventions in Noonkanbah
  • Motions tabled and passe at prior ASWA Special
    meeting called on 31 March, 1980
  • 1 That this Society reaffirms its support of the
    principle of the need to protect Aboriginal sites
    of significance to living people, and
    furthermore, reaffirms that the nature of sites
    should in each instance be determined on the
    basis of professionally collected and presented
    anthropological evidence.
  • 2 That this Society calls on the Minister for
    Cultural Affairs and the Trustee of the Western
    Australia Museum to give effect to the spirit of
    the Aboriginal heritage Act by asking AMAX Mining
    Company to cease operations at Noonkanbah and to
    reopen discussions with the Aboriginal community.
  • 3 That in any discussions taking place between
    the Government, the mining company and the
    Aboriginal community at Noonkanbah, the
    professional advice of anthropologists and
    archaeologists be taken into account.
  • 4 That this meeting asks the Executive Committee
    of the Society to pursue the recommendations made
    tonight with the Minister for Cultural Affairs as
    a matter of urgency, and to take such additional
    steps as may be required.
  • 4(i) That this meeting affirm that information
    about Aborigines derives in the first place from
    Aborigines themselves.
  • 4(ii) That this meeting deplore the action of the
    Government in having ignored the professional
    advice of anthropologists in their handling of
    the Noonkanbah issue.
  • 5 Motion 4(ii) was put again as a substantive
    motion of the meeting.
  • 6 That the Executive Committee call a further
    meeting in two weeks time to report on the
    outcome of their meeting with the Minister.
  • Release of these motions as a press statement
  • Sent to all Indigenous communities in Western
    Australia and to interested bodies in the rest of

ASWA Interventions in Noonkanbah
  • Deputation to Minister Grayden on 2 May 1980
  • Discussions on possibility of a tribunal to
    consider interests of various parties
  • Formation of an Aboriginal Heritage Subcommittee
    within ASWA (14 April 1980 Special meeting)
  • Brief to examine all existing and proposed
    legislation relevant to ownership and protection
    to Aboriginal land
  • Take note of impending changes to Aboriginal
    Heritage Act
  • Motion urging AAS to to approach Trustees of
    Western Australian Museum and Western Australian
    Government to urge them to take into account
    professional advice of anthropologists in matters
    concerning Aboriginal people
  • Motion to call for donations to support these

Tensions between academic and applied
orientations counterorganisations
  • Formation and death of GRASS (Group Research and
    Action for the Social Sciences)
  • Attempts to form Australian Association for
    Applied Anthropology (AAAA) (53rd ANZAAS, 1983,
  • Counterproposal and Decision (13 September 1982)
    to establish The Professional Association for
    Applied Anthropology and Sociology (PAAAS)

Subsidising of activities of ASWA
  • Note cards intersection of public outreach and
    political intervention
  • Partnership with UWA Anthropology Research Museum

Demise of ASWA? (1)
  • Reduction of frequency of meetings
  • Original monthly format from 1959 (10/yr)
  • 2003-4 3
  • 2004-5 1
  • 2005-6 3
  • 2006-7 0
  • Declining audiences (levels of engagement)
  • Approx. 50 recorded at initial 1958 meeting
  • Probable peak at time of Noonkanbah meetings
  • Current range of 15 5
  • Largely academics from Perth universities
    anthropology programs
  • General erosion of attendance by academics
  • Culture of accountability Academic criteria of
    efficiency, exposure and impact
  • ASWA activities not income-generating for
    universities (i.e. Development)
  • Paucity of students except from campus hosting
    the meeting
  • Virtual absence of members of general public
    unless formerly a student in one of these

Demise of ASWA? (2)
  • Transitions
  • No longer a forum of engagement with general
  • Ethnographic exposure in infotainment 4 Corners,
    Late Line, Asia Pacific, Message Stick, Foreign
    Correspondent, Global Village, etc.
  • Rise of reality TVs virtual exoticism
  • BBCs Tribe and more recent variants in the
    Netherlands, Australia, etc.
  • Infotainment
  • Up-to-date information on NGO web sites accessed
    conveniently at will through the internet
  • Television as the cause of declining rates of
    civic participation (Robert Putnam on social
  • Socialisation of younger generations into image
  • Plethora of images, Ways of Seeing (Berger, 1972)
  • Image as cool vs. written and spoken word
  • Celebrity as source of community, Amusing
    Ourselves to Death (Postman 1987)
  • Pragmatic/strategic orientation of current
    university generation?
  • Getting a life beyond the bounds of campus
  • Lifelong education as part-time training to be
    balanced with other activities (jobs, etc)
  • Student life not campus-focussed

Demise of ASWA? (3)
  • Exceptions in attendance
  • Better attendance at social events than ordinary
    meetings with presentations
  • Fun Sociation
  • Retention of professional engagement
  • Indemnity insurance for professional
  • Careers night
  • In many ways professional orientation of ASWA as
    the most capable of survival

Demise of ASWA? (4)
  • A greater orientation to the professional
    orientation may not be the salvation for ASWA?
  • Professionalisation of discipline also subject to
  • Why have a code of ethics provided for ASWA for
    practitioners in Western Australia when already a
    code provided by AAS?
  • General move from federated structures to
    centralised structures of association
  • Transition from AAA to AAS in mid-seventies (beg.
  • An ironic unforeseen consequence of the very
    actions of state associations such as ASWA

Demise of ASWA? (5)Concluding queries on
possible bases for the continuing existence of
  • Is the sub-national state or regional association
    an institutions whose time of relevance has
  • The only regional, non-national associations to
    belong to the World Council of Anthropological
    Associations (WCAA)
  • Member supra-national regional associations
  • International Union of Anthropological and
    Ethnologicalo Sciences
  • Association of Social Anthropologists of the U.K.
    and the Commonwealth
  • European Association of Social Anthropologists
  • Latin American Association of Anthropology
  • Pan-African Anthropological Association
  • Member sub-national regional associations
  • Catalan Institute of Anthropology
  • Catalonia as an autonomous nation within the
    state of Spain
  • E.g. Paralleling such non-WCAA associations as
  • Ankulegi (ANtropologia, KULtura Eta GIzartea)
    Elkartea (Anthropology, Culture and Society of
    the Basque Region)
  • The Hong Kong Anthropological Society
  • Special Autonomous Region (SAR) status for Hong
    Kong within China
  • Should we declare an end to ASWA?
  • or
  • Do we need to declare Western Australia an
    autonomous region
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