On the eve of the Great War in 1914, the Australian Federal Government sponsored the British Association for the Advancement of Science (BAAS) to travel to Australia for their annual conference. Over 150 scientists were fully funded by the Australian Commonwealth government and they travelled on three ships especially commanded for this purpose. Across five major cities, public talks, demonstrations, and excursions familiarised the visiting scientists with Australian natural and hard sciences, geology, botany, as well as anthropology. In terms of anthropology, the congress presented a unique opportunity to showcase Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander culture. The Association, deeply impressed by this, urged the Federal Government to support a chair in anthropology to be based at an Australian university. Other outcomes included the Association’s recommendations to establish a Commonwealth Scientific Institute (later CSIRO) and to develop a national telescope at Mt Stromlo. Although these were delayed by the outbreak of WWI, it is clear that this Trip to the Dominions was no mere singular event, but rather left a legacy we are still beneficiaries of today.
About the Author
Professor Lynette Russell AM is an Australian Research Council Laureate Professor at Monash University, in Melbourne. She is an anthropological historian specialising in Australian Aboriginal societies. She is the author of many books, most recently she was co-author on the award-wining Australia's First Naturalists: Indigenous Peoples’ Contribution to Early Zoology.