The Australian Rock Art Research Association (AURA) was established in October 1983 to provide an international forum for the dissemination of research findings in rock art studies and cognitive archaeology, and to promote awareness and appreciation of the indigenous cultural heritage. AURA is the largest rock art organisation in the world, and one of the sixty member organisations of the International Federation of Rock Art Organisations (IFRAO). It produces the Federation’s official organ, Rock Art Research, and hosts the premier academic event in the discipline, the AURA Congress.
The First AURA Congress was held in Darwin in 1988, the Second in Cairns in 1992. The Third AURA Congress coincided with the beginning of a new millennium and was held in July 2000 in Alice Springs, in the very centre of Australia. It provided a summary of what has been achieved in this discipline so far and an indication of where it may be heading in the new century. Like the First and Second Congress, it was attended by most of the world’s foremost researchers in the field.
The oldest surviving word for a convention is ‘corroboree’. For tens of millennia, the Aborigines of Australia have gathered under the timeless cliffs of a dramatic and thoroughly sacred landscape to exchange ideas and information. AURA’s international corroborees, with their five days of multiple academic sessions, continue this ancient tradition with the enthusiastic participation of the land’s traditional custodians. In addition to the three AURA Congresses, six smaller Inter-Congress Symposia were held over the past 34 years.
The position of Chairperson of the AURA Congress has become vacant
due to the sudden resignation of Robert G. Bednarik from this position.
Proposals for filling it are invited from Australian full or subscribing
members of AURA.
The position of Chairperson of the AURA Congress involves planning and
conducting the Fourth AURA Congress, to be held in July 2022 in Perth, and any
subsequent similar events. It entails no remuneration or reward but requires intensive
work in planning field trips and negotiating with site custodians and tour operators;
in planning accommodation, travel and logistics for participants; obtaining support
for Aboriginal and developing countries delegates to attend; planning the event’s
program and refreshment breaks; securing insurance, forming a support committee
and finding volunteers; balancing the expenditures and income of the event;
promoting and advertising the congress; securing conference satchels and producing
the event program; and managing numerous other related matters. Previous AURA
Congresses (in 1988, 1992 and 2000) have been highly successful but involved
the investment of several hundred days of demanding work by the Chairperson
— for each of these three events. In realistic terms, this is an unpaid job involving
considerable responsibility and intensive, enthusiastic work. Previous experience in
organising academic conferences would be required.
Following competitive tenders, the Fourth AURA Congress is to be held at the
The University of Western Australia. The venue has been secured and substantial
financial support for a participants subsidisation program has been pledged by
the State Government of Western Australia, through Business Events Perth. The
event was nominated by the International Federation of Rock Art Organisations as
the IFRAO-2024 Congress late last year, and it is being planned for 1000
participants. Please direct proposals relating to the position of AURA Congress Chair to the
Editor and Secretary of AURA, R. G. Bednarik, at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Statement by R. G. Bednarik: With a heavy heart and much regret, I resign my position as AURA Congress Chair, having organised three congresses and six Inter-Congress Symposia over the past 34 years. However, I have long been paying a price for my opposition to archaeological vandalism at Murujuga, Dampier Archipelago; for my espousal of Aboriginal control over indigenous cultural heritage; for my opposition to farcical heritage legislations and to the infiltration of university departments by major resource companies who are heritage vandals. Some rock art agencies whose support the AURA Congress needs to secure have declined to be involved in it, and I do not wish to encumber the event’s success by the impediment of my involvement. I regard organising an AURA Congress as a thankless task at the best of times, but I could not perform it under such adversarial conditions. I apologise for my lack of perseverance but recognise that it is time to pass on the baton. The future Chairperson(s) can be assured of my most complete cooperation in the transition.
AURA/IFRAO Congress of 2024 cancelled
In October 2021, the Senate Joint Standing Committee formed in the wake of the Juukan Gorge disaster formulated its finding that the Aboriginal Heritage Act 1972 needed to be reviewed. Specifically, its Section 18 provisions meant that rock art was ultimately without effective protection in Western Australia, being at the mercy of the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs. Nearly all applications for site destruction under that legislation have been granted for the past 50 years. We were confident that the State Government would adopt the recommendations of the parliamentary inquiry. However, in late December, the 1972 Act was replaced with the Aboriginal Cultural Heritage Bill 2021, which retained the Minister’s ultimate powers. Aboriginal people are denied the right to appeal, and rock art will continue to be destroyed in Western Australia on a large scale. The deliberate damage of monuments is incompatible with the UNESCO Declaration Concerning the Intentional Destruction of Cultural Heritage(2004, Section VI), to which Australia is a signatory. In these circumstances, it would be inappropriate to hold an international rock art conference in Western Australia and to accept financial support from a Western Australian government agency.
In addition to this significant impediment to the event, there has not been a single expression of interest by any Australian member or subscriber of AURA in response to the above-announced invitation to fill the position of AURA Congress Chair. While this obstacle might have been overcome, the status of Western Australia as a cultural heritage vandal that has destroyed hundreds of rock art sites and will continue to do so excludes it from hosting an international conference on rock art.
All parties involved in the planning and preparation for the AURA/IFRAO Congress have been informed of this decision.
Any future announcements pertaining to the AURA/IFRAO Congress of 2024 will be made on this page and in Rock Art Research.
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