Transcript

Professor Tim Murray:

We’ve been working in Melbourne since 1996, and since then, that’s now thirteen years we’ve looked at the products of seven sites. Some very large ones, Casselden place in the centre of Melbourne and some smaller ones, and we’ve been able to put together a detailed picture of life in Melbourne from about 1850 to the end of the 19th century.

Professor Marilyn Lake:

My research has covered a wide range of fields. I’m basically an Australian historian. I’ve worked on the 19th and 20th century, but I’ve also worked in international history and on world history, so in the twenty or so years in which I’ve been researching I’ve covered a huge terrain.

Dr Ben Kear:

Palaeontology is about the study of life on Earth, fossils. My research in particular is about how the environment has shaped everything from dinosaurs right through to kangaroos that we see running around on the land today. Basically climate is something that has altered life, plants, animals, and I’m interested in seeing how these long term processes have affected evolution of life and environments, even down to what we see around us today.

Professor Tim Murray:

It’s now widely acknowledged that the way we approach urban archaeology in Melbourne and in Sydney is at the cutting edge of things globally. Our work is very strongly influencing the way that people deal with 19th century archaeology in London and New York City. Two places I can mention, but other places as well. The second thing is probably just as important, the impact it's had on the cultural life of Melbourne as well.

Professor Marilyn Lake:

I think it’s really important for people to understand where we’ve come from, and to understand the struggles and political mobilisations that enable people to enjoy the freedoms that we enjoy today.

Dr Ben Kear:

Palaeontology is actually much more relevant to our modern day world than most people realise. By and large most people think palaeontology is about dusty skeletons in museums, but it’s far much more than that. Palaeontology is the only way we can understand the long-term evolutionary processes that have shaped life that we see around us today.

Professor Tim Murray:

Well the first thing we’ve found is that there is a lot of expectations that people had about how people lived, the sorts of things they did, what they ate, what kinds of people they were, have pretty much changed from an expectation of when you’re poor you’re kind of really destitute, to ones where we know that the people are actually, even in the poorest parts of Melbourne, lived reasonable lives, certainly at a higher standard of living than they would have if they were living in London at the same period.

Professor Marilyn Lake:

If we think about world historic turning points, well the only one that Australia participated in was that we were the first country in the world to give women full political rights.

Dr Ben Kear:

Using fossils to see how life has adapted and survived these changes is a critical point in understanding biodiversity today, and understanding the relevance of fossils for our modern day world.

Professor Marilyn Lake:

So many people just take for granted that we live in a country like Australia in which we have basic freedom and political rights and equality. But in fact we only have those things because people in the past struggled to win those reforms, and this was a crucial reform.

Professor Tim Murray:

People need to be connected to where they come from, and all those programs like ‘Who Do You Think You Are’ and all that sort of stuff answer a very specific need in people, to explain not just where they are now, but where they’ve come from and where they’re going. It’s that which is an incredibly powerful connection between people and their pasts.

Dr Ben Kear:

I’m Ben Kear, and I’m a palaeontologist.

Professor Marilyn Lake:

I’m Professor Marilyn Lake, I’m a professor in history at La Trobe University.

Professor Tim Murray:

My name is Tim Murray, I’m Professor of Archaeology at La Trobe University and Dean of its Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences.