'Innovation – Indigenous genius then and now’

Friday, 27 September 2019 - 12:45pm
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Professor Marcia Langton AM delivers the 2019 Wentworth Lecture. Photo: AIATSIS

Professor Marcia Langton AM delivered the 2019 AIATSIS Wentworth Lecture at the National Press Club in Canberra on Wednesday 25 September, 2019. In her lecture, Professor Langton examined several instances of ancient Indigenous knowledge and their relevance to modern problems in Australia.

“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,” Professor Langton said. 

“They have been transmitted from generation to generation over thousands of years by knowledgeable people, and as questions arise about the sustainability of human systems and natural environments, these knowledge systems become relevant to the key challenges of humanity. 

“There has been a realisation on the part of 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 mega-fauna, the rising of the seas and the drying up of the continent.”

Watch the 2019 Wentworth Lecture on ABC iView.

Professor Langton used the lecture to call for an online curriculum portal for teaching about Indigenous Australia developed with experts from various disciplines.

“As a result of my work on developing curriculum on our histories and cultures, I have learnt that most Australians do indeed want their children to learn about the First Peoples and our achievements,” Professor Langton said.

Professor 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. 

The Wentworth Lecture is held in honour of the Honourable W C Wentworth AO. It was established in 1978 to pay tribute to Mr Wentworth's contribution to Indigenous studies in Australia and as a means to encourage all Australians to gain a better understanding of issues that go to the heart of our development as a nation. Past orators include Dr Martin Parkinson AC PSM, Dr Megan Davis and Justice The Hon. Michael Kirby AC, CMG among others.

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Watch or read past Wentworth Lectures.

Last reviewed: 27 Sep 2019