Symposia

The future isn’t just about automation and artificial intelligence — a truly human future requires communities, sustainability, ethics, diversity and more. Our annual conference series brings together leading thinkers from the humanities, and the broader creative and cultural sectors, to discuss issues of vital importance to our future. 

Our Symposium and special events are open to all. They bring together a large cross-section of Fellows, scholars, early-career researchers and representatives from government, education, peak bodies, industry, media and the community.

Past Symposia

Our Symposium has been held every year since the Academy was established in 1969.

2021 Culture, Nature, Climate: Humanities and the Environmental Crisis

The connected crises of climate change and biodiversity decline pose a multitude of threats to humanity. With the scale of the challenge demanding both the attention and collaborative endeavour of experts across the research sector, the 52nd Annual Symposium examined the insights and solutions the humanities and arts can bring to these critical issues.

The Symposium showcased ideas from established and emerging scholars from many disciplines – not only from the field of environmental humanities but also researchers with expertise in ethics, justice, emotions, ethical technology, art and design, cross-cultural analysis and linguistics whose work offers a new lens on the social and cultural dimensions of the climate crisis. Speakers considered how the humanities disciplines might need to adapt to be more effective in a volatile world where the category ‘human’ is being re-examined in the context of the Anthropocene and the ‘more-than-human’.

Downloads: program (PDF, 2.2 MB) 

2020 At the Crossroad? Australia’s Cultural Future

The 51st Academy Symposium—‘At the Crossroad? Australia’s Cultural Future’—examined, in
depth, our cultural landscape in light of the unprecedented challenges of 2020 and the suspension of many areas covering our nation’s creativity, research and cultural advancement. We explored what lied ahead and how we could secure our cultural, artistic and creative future. The Symposium brought together leading researchers, practitioners, creators and policy makers—who offered unique insights and vision as to how innovative cultural policy settings and creative practice will be vital in helping our communities and society recover from unprecedented events.

Downloads: program (PDF, 2.2 MB) 

2019 Humanising the Future

The Academy’s 50th annual Symposium explored the human dynamics by which the future has been imagined and brought into being. We asked whether we can humanise the digital future and how we can build smart cultural cities.

Downloads: program (PDF, 2.2 MB) | commemorative poster (PDF, 813 KB)

2018 Clash of Civilisations? Where are we now?

In 1993, American political scientist Samuel P. Huntington suggested religious and cultural identity would be the primary source of conflict in the post-Cold War era (Foreign Affairs, 1993). The 2018 Symposium reassessed this question in light of recent global developments and historical inquiries. It explored modern and ancient cross-cultural encounters and their contemporary implications in history, politics, and religion, as well as their cultural expressions in literature, film, and the arts.

Downloads: program (PDF, 1,939 KB) | commemorative poster (301 KB)

2017 Humanitarianism and Human Rights

Over the last decade, there has been an explosion of interest in the history of human rights. The long history of human rights has been shaped by the ideas of humanism, conflicts for religious freedoms and political representations, and colonial engagement that provokes debates about universal humanity and inviolable rights.

The 48th Symposium program explored three related questions:

  1. How is contemporary Australia shaped by these long intellectual and emotional histories regarding human rights and humanitarianism?
  2. Can we identify a distinctively Australian perspective on these questions?
  3. What are the challenges for Australia today in engaging with human rights related to matters as wide-ranging as sexuality, disability activism, Indigenous rights, linguistic imperialism, refugees, and religious freedoms.

Downloads: program (PDF, 1,816 KB)  | commemorative poster (PDF, 1,864 KB)

2016 Asia-Australia: Transnational connections

The 47th Annual Symposium explored the array of the rich, diverse and vibrant transnational connections that bind Australia with Asia, while recognising that Australia’s future will be profoundly shaped by economic, social and cultural developments in Asia. Understanding the distinctive patterns of these connections, across the full spectrum of activity from the philosophical to cultural collaborations will be vital not only for making sense of our world but better shaping its future.

Download: program (PDF, 2.1 MB)

2015 Intersections: Time, materiality and the Humanities

The 46th Annual Symposium explored new frontiers in humanities research centred on intersections between objects and timescales. A wide range of perspectives on time and materiality were presented across the fields of art practice, cultural studies, philosophy, history, linguistics, heritage, and archaeology.

Download: program (PDF, 1,504 KB)

2014 Look it up: Dictionaries, encyclopedias and atlases

Showcasing the work of Australian and international scholars, the 45th Annual Symposium explored historical and contemporary approaches to information access and knowledge construction, through dictionaries, encyclopedias and atlases. It demonstrated how the traditional print formats are increasingly used as online interfaces to multimodal, multifaceted information, suggesting new ways to understand the known world and supporting fresh kinds of research. 

Download: program (PDF, 2.4MB)

2013 Environmental humanities: The question of nature

What is the nature of nature? The sciences and humanities have wrestled with this question for centuries. With increasing environmental crises, the Humanities have responded to these challenges with vigour and the recent growth of innovative work under the rubric of the environmental humanities. The 44th Annual Symposium built on a long history of humanities scholarship that has highlighted the ways in which nature is entangled with culture.

Download: program (PDF, 189 KB)

2012 Challenging the Humanities

The Academy’s 43rd Annual Symposium debated the contemporary challenges that face the Humanities and the challenging responses that these have elicited.

The Humanities are currently presented with a rare combination of intellectual challenges: changing policy environments and priorities necessitate new styles of thought and intervention; the still-unfolding financial crises urges a rethink of the economy and the interdisciplinary issues at stake in its investigation; there is increasing emphasis on the role played by material forces – technologies and infrastructures – in organising social life; and new cross-disciplinary concerns have been prompted by post-humanist perspectives and the environmental challenges presented by the conception of the Anthropocene.

The Humanities have responded vigorously to changing contexts

New paradigms for critical thought and its modes of social and political engagement have resulted in significant challenges to purely scientific, technocratic or economistic framings of policy challenges and solutions. Significant theoretical innovations and new research orientations have illuminated the role of ‘things’ in social life while also rethinking the concepts of matter and materialism. Humanities scholarship has brought new light to bear on the ways in which the human is always shaped by its relations to the nonhuman in its environmental, technical and animal forms. The increasingly prominent role of Indigenous perspectives in Australian intellectual life has prompted widespread recognition of the relevance of Indigenous knowledges to the practices of Australian universities.

Download: program (PDF, 964 KB)

2011 The Humanities in the new Australian curriculum

The Humanities disciplines are foundational to the new Australian Curriculum. The Academy’s 42nd Annual Symposium explored the future of humanities education in Australia, and the challenges and opportunities presented by the new curriculum for humanities research and teaching at all levels.

What experience of the Humanities is envisaged for our future citizens? What interest in the Humanities will be stimulated among Australia’s young people? What skills will they bring to university, further training or the workforce from the disciplines, and the discipline, of the Humanities? Who are Australia’s future scholars, researchers and teachers in all the disciplines of the Humanities, and what encouragement is being offered to them to pursue a widely based and rich encounter with human knowledge. How has the Australian nation been formed through schooling and how does this compare internationally?

Download: program (PDF, 176KB)

2010 Sharing our common wealth: Cultural institutions

Cultural institutions play a vital role in building understanding and dialogue. They both enable and draw from the rich research by Australia’s humanities researchers into our own history and culture, and that of other nations and peoples.

Key themes of the 2010 Symposium included issues surrounding the collection and representation of indigenous culture; access to culture of the Asia-Pacific region; festivals as cultural institutions; new developments in accessing culture and heritage in the digital age; scientific institutions and the Humanities and access to culture through traditional and new forms of media.

Download: program (PDF, 580 KB)

Please contact us to access our full archives for events before 2009.

2009 · The Humanities in Australia: Taking stock

2008 · Inspiration of place: The artistic life of cities

2007 · New methods and technologies for humanities research

2006 · Gift of the gab: Languages and Australia

2005 · Creating value: The Humanities and their publics 

2004 · Memory, monuments and memorials

2003 · Readers, writers, publishers

2002 · Proof and truth: The humanist as expert

2001 · Alternative Australias 

2000 · Cultures of peace 

Please contact us to access our full archives for events before 2009.

1999 · Humane societies

1998 · First peoples: Second chance. Australia in between cultures 

1997 · Our cultural heritage

1996 · Northern exposures 

1995 · Creative investigations: Redefining research in the arts and humanities 

1994 · Silver jubilee 1969–1994: Celebrating the Humanities 

1993 · Masks of time: Drama and its contexts 

1992 · The languages of Australia 

1991 · Beyond the disciplines: The new humanities 

1990 · The Humanities and the Australian environment 

Please contact us to access our full archives for events before 2009.

1989 · The relevance of the Humanities

1988 · Terra Australis to Australia

1987 · Myth and mythology in arts, sciences and humanities 

1986 · The flow of culture: Tasmanian studies

1985 · Open day

1984 · Utopias 

1983 · Who owns the past? 

1982 · The classical temper in Western Europe 

1981 · Peasants in history and literature 

1980 · Pompeii: Discovery and impact 

Please contact us to access our full archives for events before 2009.

1979 · The Australian Academy of the Humanities: The last ten years and the future (22 May, Canberra)

1978 · Romanticism (16 May, Australian Academy of Science, Canberra)

1977 · Some approaches to language (17 May, Australian Academy of Science, Canberra)

1976 · The historical mode (11 May, Australian Academy of Science, Canberra)

1975 · The changing image of Australia: Localism and universalism (20 May, Australian Academy of Science, Canberra)

1974 · The individual in traditional and modern Asian society (21–23 May, University of Melbourne)

1973 · Some aspects of change and continuity in the study of the Humanities during the past 100 years (16 May, National Library Australia, Canberra)

1972 · Neglected masterpieces  (17 May, Canberra)

1971 · Man’s place in nature (19 May, Canberra)

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.