South Australian Museum Head of Humanities appointed to the Australian National Commission for UNESCO

13 March 2018

John Carty

Professor John Carty

Professor John Carty has already made a huge impact on the scholarship of Aboriginal art and culture, and on the trajectories of Australian Museums working closely with Indigenous communities. He now has the opportunity to translate this leadership into global contexts, having been appointed to the Australian National Commission for UNESCO as the Commissioner for Humanities and Social Sciences.


UNESCO, which stands for United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Committee, is tasked with organising international cooperation in education, science, culture and communication to improve quality of life for all.


“Australia is a founding member of UNESCO, and I think we have an opportunity to show real leadership in relation to cultural and environmental heritage,” said Professor Carty.


“We are a young country in many ways, but Aboriginal Australian cultures are the oldest continuing cultures on the planet.


“While we still have a lot to learn from our international colleagues, we also have a huge capacity to lead global debate around questions of heritage,” he said.


Professor Carty, who is Head of Humanities at the South Australian Museum and Professor of Anthropology at the University of Adelaide, will advise the Australian Government on matters relating to UNESCO, and act as a point of contact for the Australian community on UNESCO issues. He is the only South Australian Commissioner.


The South Australian Museum holds the world’s most significant collection of Aboriginal cultural materials, and is a global pioneer in the earth and biological sciences. Parts of the Museum’s collections are recognised on the UNESCO Memory of the World register.


“Museums are places the public trust. We hold the memory of the world in our cultural and scientific collections. Therefore we also hold some of the keys to its future,” Professor Carty said.


“We take seriously our responsibility to share that knowledge and foster informed and respectful public and political discourse.


“I am honoured and excited to now be engaging in these broader dialogues with my colleagues on the Australian National Commission for UNESCO,” he said.


The National Commission has its own charter and is an advisory body for the Foreign Minister, through the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade.