Crucial Aboriginal perspective in archaeology

In 2017 Ngarrindjeri and Kaurna man Dr Chris Wilson became the first Indigenous person in Australia to complete a PhD in Archaeology. Studying Aboriginal sites through the lens of Aboriginal experience enabled Chris able to bring a crucial perspective to his academic discipline at Flinders University.

Dr Chris Wilson (BArchaeol(Hons) ’06, PhD(EHLT) ’17) is passionate about working ‘on country’, talking to Elders and learning about his community’s cultural heritage as he explores the Ngarrindjeri lands of the Lower Murray, Lakes and Coorong region of South Australia.

His professional interactions with the Ngarrindjeri community began during his Honours research on repatriation and was developed in his doctoral research which investigated human occupation along the Lower Murray River.

“By engaging in the theoretical issues and debates involving archaeology and the impacts of colonisation for Indigenous Australians, I have come to truly understand the significance of cultural heritage in Australia,” says Chris whose work has included assisting in the repatriation of Ngarrindjeri ancestral remains from domestic and UK museums and in community reburials of these remains.

Chris has also been involved in Indigenous leadership and policy making as a member of the National Indigenous Youth Leadership Group and the review of the federal governments international repatriation program and current member of the South Australian Museum Aboriginal Advisory Committee. He has received two significant awards, the Department of Education, Science and Training National Indigenous Education Partnerships Award and the Office for Youth Outstanding Young Indigenous Achiever for South Australia.

Chris says that while studying at Flinders University Professor Claire Smith was an inspiration.  He is especially grateful for her encouraging him to present at the 5th World Archaeological Congress in Washington DC during his third year of study.

“This experience further enhanced my understanding of Indigenous archaeology globally and led to my interest in pursuing a career in academia,” says Chris.

Chris is now Senior Lecturer in Archaeology and Indigenous Studies at Flinders University. He has also been an Academic Advisor in Yunggorendi – the Office of Indigenous Strategy and Engagement at the University and is thrilled that some of his undergraduate students from Indigenous studies have now completed PhDs, and that Indigenous medical students he mentored have now graduated as doctors.

“It’s an honour and a privilege to be part of a student’s journey in higher education,” says Chris.

While growing his academic networks internationally, Chris continues to work with Indigenous communities in South Australia and globally around the care, management and protection of cultural heritage through archaeology, museums and public education, including media and television.

“I’m particularly excited about working on a series called The First Inventors that will be broadcast on NITV and Channel 10 during 2021.”

Dr Christopher Wilson was awarded a 2020 Early Career Alumni Award for his significant contribution to Indigenous education and archaeology. Read more about the Flinders University Alumni Awards

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