Power of the humanities

Explore stories about the social benefits and impact of the Humanities and the remarkable outcomes that can be achieved when humanities researchers collaborate on national and global challenges. Visit our Newsroom to explore stories about our people, community and research.

The work of pioneering Australian historian Beryl Rawson reveals that ancient Roman family culture – from the celebration of new life, divorce, remarriage and funerary customs – has a lot in common with our lives today.

What links a once-maligned 19th-century French explorer, the humble platypus and Darwin’s theory of evolution? Thanks to groundbreaking work from Australian researchers, we now have a better understanding of the role that Australia and its unique flora and fauna played in the development of cultural and scientific understanding of our world.

How exactly did the Protestant Reformation – one of the last millennium’s defining moments, that splintered Western Christianity and paved the way for individualism, scepticism, civil rights, capitalism and modern democracy – gain currency among Europe’s common people? It all came down to satirical images and chats at the pub.

Kings and chieftains, pagan gods and goddesses, saints and apostles. The rich tradition of Skaldic poetry – which originated in Norway in the ninth century – has all this and more. Now, thanks to a large-scale international collaboration initiated and led by Australian researchers, the entire collection of surviving skaldic poetry will be available to be read and appreciated around the world.

One can only imagine what Emma Woodhouse would have thought of her carefully chosen words being run through a computer – but by doing just that, an Australian scholar pioneered a new field of literary studies, making it possible to identify authors of anonymous books, date written works, detect plagiarism and chart the evolution of a writer’s style.

In August 2018 the Australian government released Sport 2030 – a comprehensive plan to reshape Australian sport and build and healthier, more physically active nation. But what makes for an effective, comprehensive and inclusive policy when it comes to the arts and culture sector? How can policy inspire and create cultural confidence in all Australians? And is it wishful thinking to aim for a national arts and cultural policy that spans three tiers of government, with agreed levels of investment and targets, and an effective delivery mechanism? For independent think tank A New Approach (ANA), these questions are top of mind, especially as the role of arts and culture in our daily lives take on a striking new relevance in the context of the Covid-19 pandemic.

Acknowledgement of Country

The Australian Academy of the Humanities recognises Australia’s First Nations Peoples as the traditional owners and custodians of this land, and their continuous connection to country, community and culture.