Griffith University rock art expert Professor Paul Taçon has been announced the winner of the Research Leadership Award in the 2016 Vice Chancellor’s Research Excellence Awards.

For more than 36 years, the director of Griffith’s Place, Evolution and Rock Art Heritage Unit and Chair in Rock Art Research has been exploring the rock art sites of Australia and south-east Asia, while collaborating with Indigenous peoples in archaeological research.

In 2016 alone, he helped establish the Australian Research Centre of Human Evolution and the Griffith Centre for Social and Cultural Research. He led a large field research team in northwest Arnhem Land which discovered 160 undocumented rock art sites. He also published more than a dozen research papers, as well as a book.

In the more than 12 years I have been at Griffith University I have worked hard to build many successful research teams and projects, mentor junior colleagues and guide PhD students through their research programs,’’ Professor Taçon said.

“Winning the Vice Chancellor’s award for Research Leadership caps one of the most incredible periods of my research career.”

Multi-faceted career

In 2016 Professor Taçon was awarded an Australian Research Council Laureate Fellowship allowing him to build and lead a new team of researchers working with Indigenous peoples across Australia and overseas over the next five years.

Professor Taçon said the Laureate will enable him to fill key gaps in the knowledge of Australian rock art sites before they endure further damage and disappear forever.

“The Laureate will allow us to protect Australia’s threatened visual record of tens of thousands of years of group and individual experience in new ways for future generations,’’ he said.

“It will allow me to mentor a new generation so the research can continue well beyond the life of the fellowship.

“Rock art research will be more fully integrated into all aspects of mainstream archaeology and what is considered one of the most important parts of Indigenous Australian heritage will be better conserved and managed for the future, enhancing Indigenous well-being in the process.”

Completing a triumphant year, Professor Taçon was also awarded a prestigious Rhys Jones Medal for Outstanding Contribution to Australian Archaeology, the most coveted award of theAustralian Archaeological Association.

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