Encounters: cultural and scientific legacies and visions

The Hawke Centre presented the Encounter Public Lecture Series weekly from 27 February to 17 April 2002 as part of the community based events which celebrated the encounter between Flinders and Baudin


Encounter 2002 supportersThe encounter between Flinders and Baudin, and the encounters of Europeans and Aboriginal Australians, reveal many of the features of the society that sprang from those beginnings. Convened by Professor Alison Mackinnon, this Lecture Series sought to capture the spirit of exploration, of enquiry and of courage, of opportunities taken - and flourishing - and others lost.

Speakers expert in history, linguistics, telecommunications, wine marketing, epidemiology, health, textile art and the sciences delivered these free and fascinating public lectures in Adelaide.

Details of the lectures appear below. Transcripts of some of the lectures are available and the lectures by Professor David Wilkinson and Professor Jennifer McKay were published as Hawke Institute Working Papers.

This lecture series was an official Encounter 2002 event


A French Australia? Almost!

27 February 2002: Ms Noeline Bloomfield, University of Western Australia

Many Australians stumble over the foreign names on the Australian coast or nearby islands, unaware of how they got there or that many of them are French.

During this period of fierce maritime rivalry between France and England two centuries ago, Australia could easily have become partly French like Canada, with two separate languages and cultures. French navigators and scientists, imbued with a spirit of adventure following the Enlightenment period and encouraged by a territorially ambitious Napoleon, made important contributions to the world's scientific knowledge, as they charted much of the western and southern Australian coast.

This paper present segments of a CD-ROM created by the presenter to motivate students as they learn the French language, while explaining the origins of the hundreds of French names in Western Australia and Tasmania.

Encounters in Deep Time

6 March 2002: Professor Greg Dening, ANU & University of Melbourne

This Land had been filled with language and imprinted with the human spirit for forty thousand years when the encounter of two hundred years ago began. Every feature of the landscape - every river, every mountain, every plain - had a name, a memory, a story. There is no other Land on this earth impregnated with such Deep Time. We might think that such a Land is easily overlaid with other names, other memories, other stories. But it isn't. Two hundred years is just a few minutes in Deep Time. It is our privilege, at the beginning of what we call the third millennium, to hear this Land's voice stirring in the silence and the noise. There are no Befores and Afters in Deep Time, only an eternal continuity. We'll need to be poets, dancers, painters as much as scientists to hear the Land's voice, though. Being an historian will never be enough. Greg Dening, ever the optimist, tries all things as he presents an 'Alleluia Chorus' for our encounter with Deep Time.

Unhealthy encounters? Legacies and challenges for the health of settler and Aboriginal communities

13 March 2002: Professor David Wilkinson, UniSA & Adelaide University

The impact of settler presence and activity on Aboriginal health status has been profound. In common with similar impact in other settled countries worldwide, the dislocation and disruption of a 'traditional' way of life coupled with immersion in an inherently unhealthy 'settled' way of life, has meant Aboriginal people now experience very poor health status. What is the extent and magnitude of this differential, what are the causes of it, and most importantly, what can be done to address it?

Explorations in telecommunications: seeking new frontiers

20 March 2002: Professor Emeritus Mike Miller, UniSA Power

Point presentation click here

The completion in 1872 by Charles Todd of a telegraph link from Adelaide to Darwin and thence to Europe marked a key stage in the history of the young colony in South Australia. Whilst the telegraph transformed social and business practices, it soon gave way to the telephone - initially known as the 'speaking telegraph' - which was much more readily accessible to the public at large.

There are some interesting analogies between those early social impacts and what is happening today in the world of telecommunications. At this time in Adelaide, a consortium of Australian, French and other businesses are joining together to lead another evolutionary stage in telecommunications - in a project known as mNet Australia. Social and business practices are once again about to be transformed by the emergence of a 'mobile Internet'.

Encountering the landscape: early European misconceptions and our present water problems

27 March 2002: Professor Jennifer McKay, UniSA

The early Europeans perceived the water and land in Australia in ways that led them to over-allocate water and to overuse water. As a result of this misperception Australians as a whole need to devise new policies to ensure that water allocation is within principles requiring environmental, social and economic sustainability. This will involve reduction of water allocations to growers and significant changes to pricing structures for urban users and industry. Environmental factors need to be measured and hard choices need to be made. This now all takes place within Government Business since 1995 rather than the traditional public sector. This adds another dimension to the issues and sometimes involves corporate confidentiality.

Weaving: an encounter between the Njarrindjeri, the British and the French

3 April 2002: Associate Professor Kay Lawrence, AM, UniSA


When Matthew Flinders and Nicolas Baudin met at Encounter Bay off the coast of the Njarrindjeri lands in 1802, the British, the French and the Njarrindjeri had a distinctive culture of weaving where woven objects were both part of material culture and signifiers of social cohesion.

Since this meeting in 1802, the separate threads of this encounter have been slowly drawn together, not withstanding the breaks and snarls evident in the process. This lecture will discuss how these disentangled and mended threads are interwoven in contemporary weaving, and what they signify for South Australians in 2002.

Small and large encounters: where forces act

10 April 2002: Professor John Ralston, UniSA


At the time of the Napoleonic Wars (1793-1815), political forces were tearing France and Britain apart. Led by Captains Nicolas Baudin and Matthew Flinders, two voyages of discovery were dispatched by the two countries, in the midst of war. The objectives of these expeditions were to complete the mapping of New Holland and to advance the limits of science. The voyages intersected at Encounter Bay in South Australia in April 1802. This turbulent period of warfare between the two great European nations was marked by an equally strong albeit peaceful, engagement between British (Priestley, Cavendish) and French (Lavoisier, Berthellot) scientists. It was the French who ended the debate over the phlogiston theory of combustion. Lavoisier's new theory was firmly established in 1792, but was resisted by Priestley right up to his death in 1804. Following Lavoisier's success, the first effective use of the Greek theory of atoms gradually permeated scientific thought over the next two decades.

The forces that have shaped society and continue to do so are constantly under examination. On a different scale, but arguably of no less importance, the forces that control the interactions between atoms, molecules and particles receive the same degree of attention. The evolution of the forces that control these 'large' and 'small' encounters, together with their similarities and differences, provides a fascinating insight into human endeavour.

Contemporary cross fertilization: the wine sectors in Australia and France

17 April 2002: Mr Tony Spawton & Associate Professor Larry Lockshin, UniSA


The colony of South Australia was not French, yet much of the techniques and even the varieties of grapes that have formed the industry in South Australia are of French derivation. In more recent times the lifestyle in South Australia is beginning to reflect the lifestyle of the southern regions of France. Not surprisingly there is an increased similarity to attitudes and consumption of wine. The fertilization has gone both directions, with Australian winemakers and wine making influence now significant contributors to the development of the industry in the south of France.