In 1985 Griffith University’s Chair in Rock Art Research, Professor Paul Taçon promised the late Big Bill Neidjie (also known as Kakadu Man) that he would do everything in his power to ensure Indigenous communities could share in his research.

Now he can fulfil that promise in a new way, with the announcement he has been awarded a 2016 Australian Laureate Fellowship by the Australian Research Council for the project ‘Australian Rock Art History, Conservation and Indigenous Wellbeing’.

““This is the culmination of more than 30 years of research on Australia’s extraordinary rock art,’’ Professor Taçon said.

“I told Bill I would work hard to protect Australian rock art for future generations. The Laureate Fellowship will enable me to achieve this in a huge way.”

Also the Director of Griffith’s Place, Evolution and Rock Art Heritage Unit, Professor Taçon said he was humbled by the award.

“This is a fantastic result for Indigenous heritage as the project will generate new protocols and provide new interfaces between scientific, Indigenous, and public views of rock art, as well as fostering and celebrating rock art assets as keystones of national identity.

“Future research will lead to protection of rock art within its wider landscape, advances in rock art conservation science, training programs and sustainable models for cultural tourism and rock art.”

Worth $2.5 million over five years, the ARC funding will go towards producing new national strategies and knowledge about Australian rock art to enhance Indigenous empowerment and wellbeing.

Understanding the contemporary significance of rock art heritage and why rock art is important for Indigenous identity but undervalued will also be explored.

Senior Deputy Vice Chancellor Professor Ned Pankhurst said:“We are delighted to see Professor Taçon’s work and research standing recognised in this way.

“It is a suitable recognition of the sustained quality of his research, and also his capacity to work in partnership with Indigenous communities. The Fellowship will allow him to extend that work in exciting new dimensions.”

The Australian Laureate Fellowships scheme supports outstanding Australian and international researchers and research leaders to build Australia’s research capacity.