Research by Honorary Research Associate in anthropology, Prof Peter Sutton


Ursula McConnel and Wik people, south of Aurukun, 1927.

Peter is an anthropologist and linguist currently working across several related areas. He is writing a biography of Australia’s first professionally trained female anthropologist, Ursula McConnel (1888–1957). In a series of field expeditions in Cape York Peninsula between 1927 and 1934 she lived among Aboriginal people, staying often for long periods in their bush home countries away from missions or cattle stations. McConnel concentrated particularly on working with the Wik people now mainly living at Aurukun. Peter has worked with the Aurukun people on outstations and in the township since the 1970s.

He is also engaged in a detailed study of documentary evidence of life expectancy, disease patterns and causes of death in the Aurukun population, where detailed mission records allow us to follow the lives of people born in the early nineteenth century through the generations to recent times.

Peter Sutton is currently curating a future exhibition to be based on the fascinating phenomenon of Iridescence. He also carries out consultancies as an expert witness in native title legal cases, using the funds to support his writing projects.