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26 January 2013

The award ‘for significant service to archaeological scholarship, particularly of Australia’s desert regions’ recognises the work of Dr Mike Smith over the last 30 years in reconstructing the environmental and Aboriginal histories of these immense drylands.

'Archaeology has been involved in a great enterprise to uncover the deep history of a desert continent, and the history of its people. I feel rather privileged to have played a part in this — and it has been the adventure of my life,' said Dr Mike Smith, Senior Research Fellow at the National Museum of Australia.

Dr Smith’s early work was instrumental in opening up archaeological research in Central Australia, showing that Aboriginal groups were already established in the heart of the desert 35,000 years ago, at a time, when half a world away, modern humans were moving into Western Europe.

The National Museum of Australia has been the institutional base for Dr Smith’s work over the last decade and a half.

'The Museum has an ongoing program exploring the cultural history of Australia's deserts. Mike’s enthusiasm for this is reflected not just in his research but also in museum exhibitions and his role in convening a string of international conferences that have brought together desert researchers from South America, Southern Africa and Australia. This award nicely demonstrates the strength of the Museum’s scholarship,' said Andrew Sayers, Director of the National Museum of Australia.

Only a handful of archaeologists have previously received national recognition in the Order of Australia for their work on Indigenous prehistory.

'I am very proud of this award because it reflects increasing appreciation of the role of archaeology in understanding the Indigenous history of our continent,' Dr Smith said.

The National Museum of Australia will celebrate 30 years of Dr Mike Smith’s work at a free symposium:

The Compleat Archaeologist: Mike Smith, Desert Archaeology and Museums
10am - 4.30pm, Friday 8 February 2013
Bookings essential: or (02) 6208 5021


For interviews and images please contact the National Museum of Australia’s media relations office on 02 6208 5338 or

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