In Memoriam – Dr Luise Anna Hercus AO

09th May 2018

Dr Luise Anna Hercus AO

January 16, 1926 to April 15, 2018


It is with great sadness that the Australian Archaeological Association learned of the recent passing of our friend and colleague, Dr. Luise Anna Hercus. Born in 1926, Luise and her Jewish family escaped Nazi Germany in 1938.  She later studied and taught French at Oxford, immigrating to Australia in 1954 with her husband Dr. Graham Hercus.

Luise became a celebrated Aboriginal linguist and lecturer at the Australian National University, authoring hundreds of articles, books and monographs on Aboriginal history and culture.  She worked her entire adult life as a linguist, participating on remote fieldwork projects in the Simpson Desert as recently as 2017, at the age of 91.

As some of you have seen, there have been a number of tributes written about her incredible life and scholarly contributions, including this article in The Australian:

Many of our members were fortunate to work with Luise, and we asked those that knew her to share some of their memories of her as a colleague and her interactions with archaeologists.

Dr. Marjorie Sullivan and Dr. Philip Hughes, who worked with Luise in the deserts of far north South Australia, recall these memories:

    • Luise was fiercely independent. She was friendly but private, and even as she grew old and physically more frail she hesitated to ask for assistance, and tried to maintain her independence. She loved the bush near Canberra, and lived happily with an assortment of domestic and native animals. Her love of wombats, in particular the very large semi-domesticated ‘Rainbow’, meant most of the wooden door of her house had been burrowed or tunnelled to accommodate her companions. Over the last decade of her life when she became less agile, Luise had to move the wombats out, as they became a tripping hazard or were too affectionate and prone to knocking her over. But she remained happy to live much of the time alone, on her bush block.
    • Luise was an excellent observer of the material culture of the desert people she worked with. She understood the importance of resource areas to the archaeological patterning of the landscape, and she tried to engage archaeologists or other specialists who could better record quarry sites and other resource areas. Isabel McBryde worked with Luise on quarries where large sandstone slabs were taken to make grinding dishes, and together they recorded the nature and use of these sites. We later worked on an unusual very extensive silcrete quarry Luise had recorded on a journey with Kuyani people. She had questioned the origin of the material described by other ethnographers as ‘chert’  or ‘jasper’ and was pleased when we visited to site (using her instructions and a map she had drawn many years previously) with Mick McKenzie and were able to explain its nature and origin in a way that made sense.
    • Luise was candid and honest in her interactions with people. Although she certainly did not set out to give offence, she was outspoken in her opinions and conclusions, even if this annoyed her colleagues. Overwhelmingly however Luise had a sharp sense of humour – which was both self-deprecating and at times directed at the people with whom she was speaking. I think she found many people comical. Again she was honest, and perhaps some people were offended if she laughed at them, but mostly she laughed with them.

As a recorder of Aboriginal languages, Luise forged many friendships with indigenous groups around Australia that spanned generations.  Senior Kuyani Man and archaeologist Mick Mckenzie shared some of his family’s personal experiences with Luise::

    • Luise came to the Flinders Ranges around the late 1950’s to 60’s and was interviewing my Grandparents Angus & Eileen Mckenzie and their daughter Aunty Myra Mckenzie whom all have contributed languages fluently to Luise. We visited her at Canberra with the help of Philip Hughes, Marjorie Sullivan and Adrian Henham who took us to ANU and introduced us to her. As soon as I heard her voice from a distance I knew it was her from listening to her tapes interviewing my Grandparents. I said, your voice has never changed with a smile but we both smiled with a tear because my Grandparents and Aunty Myra weren’t there. I spoke and sang a song in Kuyani to her, and she got so excited that she has never heard anyone else do that for a very long time. Her question was, Mick where were you in the fifties? My reply, sorry I wasn’t born Ha.ha.ha.ha we laughed. I kept the tradition alive!
    • Rosemary Mckenzie (my oldest sister) from Andamooka has had countless conversations with her also, and Luise has touched many out here to the west/north and south of the Flinders Ranges. She will be sadly missed by us McKenzie’s from the Wilpena Pound, Martins Well Station and Hawker areas where she walked a longtime ago learning and recording Kuyani, Wailpi, Yadliaurha and Piladappa languages with my close families.

Mick further shares the following memorium to Luise:

Yura (Thura) Ngawarla
Ngachu Adnyani, Nguarli , Artapi kinjara Ikandha Ardla niarringha

My Grandparents and Aunty are waiting for you near a warm fire.
Rest In Peace my dear from the Mckenzie’s and Clark’s

Luise Hercus was 92 when she passed, and she worked almost right to that point. She was an energetic and enthusiastic scholar and a very professional record-keeper and writer.  Her contribution to the study of Australian Aboriginal languages is important and inspiring. She is survived by her son, Dr Iain Hercus, and daughter-in-law, Dr Anne-Mari Hercus.


12th April 2018



A series of fascinating, illustrated presentations and stories by rock art experts and other archaeologists describing investigations into a range of depictions, found across Australia, of European and other sea craft encountered by Aboriginal Australians.  This will be followed by a Q&A panel. (


Visions Theatre, National Museum of Australia, Acton

When: Sat. 14 April 2018
Start time:
 9.30 am
End time: 12.00 pm
Cost: Gold coin donation
Contact: 1800 026 132

This is a free event (gold coin donation), part of the Canberra and Region Heritage Festival, and we encourage everyone who wants to learn about maritime rock art to attend.

Also, coinciding with the ACT Heritage Festival will be an open day at Tuggeranong Schoolhouse

For more information see here or please go to the CAS website –

Calga Aboriginal Cultural Landscape considered for Heritage Register

02nd April 2018

AAA has been approached by the  NSW Heritage Council who are considering a listing of the Calga Aboriginal Cultural Landscape on the State Heritage Register.  Anyone who would like to comment on the proposed listing should contact within the next week

Review of WA Aboriginal Heritage legislation announced

09th March 2018

The West Australian Government announced today that the Aboriginal Heritage Act (1972) is under formal review with an intended bill by 2020.  They have asked for external parties to express interest in the process and to review their consultation paper.  Links to the media statement and the review are below.

AAA intend to take a proactive role in this consultation, headed up by the NEC, and will keep membership up to date on all developments.  If there are interested members that would also like to be involved in the official AAA management of this important issue please contact directly.


See links below:


SA Government Rejects Sale of Land Containing Archaeological Site

The AAA recently responded to the South Australian government regarding our organisation’s opposition to the proposed sale of waterfront Crown Land on Kangaroo Island.  The Crown Land contains a registered Aboriginal archaeological site, and the local geomorphology has high potential for additional buried archaeological sites.  See the AAA media release below:


We are happy to report that the SA government has rejected the sale of the Crown Land.  The AAA joined 775 submissions opposed to the sale of the land, highlighting its important archaeological conservation values (only 5 submissions supported the proposed sale).  See the story here:

2018 Prime Minister’s Prizes for Science

06th March 2018

2018 Prime Minister’s Prizes for Science

Minister for Jobs and Innovation, Senator the Hon Michaelia Cash has opened nominations for the 2018 Prime Minister’s Prizes for Science and announced some exciting changes.

Each year the Australian Government honours Australia’s best scientists, innovators and science teachers through the Prime Minister’s Prizes for Science, and we need your help to find potential winners.

We are looking for:

  • Leading Australian scientists who have made a significant contribution to the advancement of knowledge through science—for the $250,000 Prime Minister’s Prize for Science.
  • Exceptional innovators from both industry and research who have translated scientific knowledge into substantial commercial impact—for the $250,000 Prime Minister’s Prize for Innovation.
  • Early to mid-career scientists whose research is already making, and will continue to have, an impact on our lives—for the $50,000 Frank Fenner Prize for Life Scientist of the Year and $50,000 Malcolm McIntosh Prize for Physical Scientist of the Year.
  • Promising early to mid-career innovators from industry and research whose work has the potential to enhance our economy through the translation of scientific knowledge into a substantial commercial impact—for the $50,000 Prize for New Innovators.
  • Inspiring science, mathematics and technology teachers who are dedicated to innovative teaching and inspiring the next generation—for the $50,000 Prime Minister’s Prize for Excellence in Science Teaching (Primary and Secondary).


Note that the guidelines for the prizes have been updated for 2018 so make sure you review the latest information, including nomination forms, or contact 13 28 46.

Read about past winners at

If you have any nominations for these awards, please contact the AAA executive committee. Nominations will be collated and submitted on behalf of AAA to give nominees the maximum chance.  This is a great opportunity to recognise the contribution of our peers and members!

Vale Bruce James Wright

12th February 2018

Bruce James Wright has recently passed away, as announced  on 22 January 2018.

The following has been prepared by Moya Smith, on behalf of Alec Coles, of the Western Australian Museum, and reposted here with permission.

From 1975 until 1982 Bruce was the second Registrar of the Department of Aboriginal Sites, which was at that stage a department within the Western Australian Museum. Prior to his appointment as Registrar, Bruce was an Honorary Associate of the WA Museum, and renowned for his pioneering studies of Aboriginal rock art in the Pilbara region undertaken with the close involvement of Aboriginal community members. Initially employed as a teacher, then headmaster, before joining the WA Museum, Bruce was Superintendent of Curriculum for the WA Education Department.

His friendships  with local Roebourne Aboriginal Elders motivated what is perhaps his major publication, Rock Art of the Pilbara region, North west Australia, Occasional Papers in Aboriginal Studies No. 11, published in 1968 by the Australian Institute of Aboriginal Studies in Canberra (now AIATSIS). This foundational publication continues to be referred to in rock art research, 50 years after its publication.

Bruce’s time with the WA Museum occurred at the beginning of the exponential growth of mining and development in the State, and the refining of processes for protection of Aboriginal Heritage. He encouraged his staff to undertake fieldwork across the State, advocating the involvement of  local Aboriginal people in their work.

He was a founding member of the Australian Association of Consulting Archaeologists, and as a consultant subsequent to his time with the WA Museum, his own consultancy reports are models of breadth in their coverage of site analysis.

The WA Museum expresses condolences to Bruce’s friends and family.

Source: Moya Smith, for Alec Coles, Western Australian Museum

Warwick Thornton’s We Don’t Need a Map – Now in cinemas

05th February 2018

Warwick Thornton’s (Samson and DelilahSweet Country) critically acclaimed documentary We Don’t Need a Map is screening nationally in cinemas for a limited time. Originally screened as the opening night film at the 2017 Sydney Film Festival, We Don’t Need a Map is about the hijacking of an Australian icon.

The Southern Cross is the most famous constellation in the southern hemisphere. Ever since colonisation it’s been claimed, appropriated and hotly-contested for ownership by a radical range of Australian groups. But for Aboriginal people the meaning of this heavenly body is deeply spiritual. And just about completely unknown. For a start, the Southern Cross isn’t even a cross – it’s a totem that’s deeply woven into the spiritual and practical lives of Aboriginal people.

We Don’t Need A Map is an epic telling of Australia’s history, told through our collective relationship to one famous constellation.

It is a challenging, poetic, cosmic essay about who we are as a nation.

The film proudly defines Aboriginal people’s lore and spiritual relationship with the land as fundamental to this nation.

And yet under the one night sky, we are all connected now … all people of this land, all Australians. So how do we want to move forward?

When we are lost we don’t need a map,

we just need a clear view.

Visit for more information.

We Don’t Need a Map Screening Dates