Ancient history school: what's new with the old?

a historian at a writer's festival

a historian at a writer's festival

I have always wondered what goes on at a writer’s festival and whether it is the kind of place a history teacher should attend. So, I attended the Byron Bay Writer’s Festival over the weekend and was I impressed! I could feel my mind expand as soon as I walked in and then I was able to listen to and meet some of the favourite historians and authors. To be fair, this festival has some serious kudos and the line up for the entire three days looked fantastic. Alas, I could only spare one day, but what a day it was!

My first lecture session was the conversation between Tim Flannery and Sarah Kanowski. As a regular listener to ABC Conversations, I knew this would be good. Flannery was there to speak about his book Europe and as a palaeontologist, he certainly brought the rocks and the fossils alive. He enthralled the audience with stories of prehistoric animals and the possibility of another asteroid impact! I have long followed Flannery’s conservation work but his work in Europe is just as fascinating.

This lecture was closely followed by a panel discussion about the importance of preserving indigenous languages. Patrick Nunn, Samia Khatun and Tara June Winch all shared their experiences with indigenous language and how the preservation of these languages is critical to Australian culture and history. In relation to indigenous languages, Nunn commented that the loss of language is the loss of knowledge. So much is stored in the heads of the elders and it is lost when the language is lost. Winch encouraged audience members to seek out the language of the county upon which they live as a way to connect more deeply to history and to country. This is something I am keen to do.

With these messages in mind, I rushed to hear Dr Alice Gorman in conversation with Adam Spencer. I have written about Gorman’s work before and it was really fabulous to listen to her talk about her work. I was pleased to see a sizeable crowd of people who were also interested in the relationship between space and archaeology. As always, a conversation with Adam Spencer is vibrant, exciting and full of gesticulation!

The penultimate session was the conversation between Kerry O’Brien and Bruce Pascoe - a full house with people hanging from the rafters. Pascoe’s work is finally getting some serious traction and his recent publication of Young Dark Emu and associated resources has made the primary sources he used in his research, accessible to teachers. The consummate interviewer, O’Brien steered the conversation wisely and the audience was appreciative of his questions and supportive of the movement toward Makarrata.

Although a super busy day, it was a day of learning, questioning and thinking and days like that are always pleasurable. This history teacher will be going back!

What Matters? QHTA conference.

What Matters? QHTA conference.