Symposium to explore past and future of the Mallee

Archaeologists, anthropologists, historians and ecologists will descend on Mildura next week at a symposium that will explore the past and future of the Mallee.

The ‘Layers of Settlement’ symposium promises to offer a stimulating conversation about the history and future of the Mallee as a multicultural cornerstone of rural Australia.

The symposium is hosted by La Trobe University’s Centre for the Study of the Inland (CSI) – a research centre that brings together brings together key strengths of the University including Archaeology, History and Social Sciences. The Centre has a broad focus on inland Australia, and specifically the Murray Darling Basin, with environmental change a key theme.

The event, held over April 4 – 6, comprises panel discussions, a field trip to Mungo National Park led by archaelogists who have been working in the field for years, a conference dinner and finally an exhibition at The Art Vault that celebrates the theme - Layers of Settlement.

Director of the Centre for the Study of the Inland and environmental historian Professor Katie Holmes says the symposim recognises the unique history of the region.

“Five million years ago the region lay under the sea. Now it hosts a vibrant multi-cultural community. But that past history still shapes the present environment, the foods we grow and the recreation we enjoy. This sypmposium will capture those dramatic changes and look at the connections between the past, present and future of the region,” says Professor Holmes.

Professor Katie Holmes has published a forthcoming co-authored book on the environmental history of the Mallee.  Many of her colleagues presenting at the symposium also conduct research in the Mallee region.

Dr Nicola Stern is a world reknowned archaeologist who has spent over a decade working on the Willandra Lakes. She will lead a trip to Lake Mungo on Friday 5 April, providing a unique opportunity to see the area with researchers and Traditional Owners who know the area well. Professor Richard Broome will talk about what we know about Aboriginal history of the area at the time of settlement. Professor Alan Lester, who holds a joint appointment with La Trobe University and the University of Sussex, will set the European settlement of the region in the context of other Empire endeavours. Dr Makiko Nishitani has worked with recent immigrant groups to the area and will discuss some of the challenges they face.”

“We’ve also engaged many local community members on our panels, such as Dr John Cooke, Deputy Chair of the Mallee Catchment Management Authority, Anne Mansell, CEO of Dried Fruits Australia, Dean Wickham of Sunraysia Mallee Ethnic Communities Council and Stefano de Pieri.

“We’ve partnered with The Art Vault on the event, who did a call out through their artist community for pieces that explore the theme.  This exhibition will be opened by Sandra Bruce, Director of the La Trobe Art Institute on Saturday afternoon to close the symposium,” says Professor Holmes.

Tickets can be purchased to attend separate days, or the full conference. Meals are included, tickets are available by visiting

Images credits:
Walls of China, Krystal Seigerman
GW Bot, Lake Mungo Glyphs - A Portrait, 2018, linocut on BFK paper, 57.0 x 38.2cm, edition 30

Media enquiries
Ashlee Ryan, Community Engagement Coordinator  
T 03 5051 4069 E

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