September 19, 2016

WA Humanities Symposium

by Tom Gourlay

wahs-facebookThe WA Humanities Symposium is a three day interdisciplinary conference showcasing the diverse nature of research and scholarship in the humanities in Western Australia. We hope you will join us in the renewal of this historic and fruitful event.

8 Speakers on a diverse range of topics

2 Musical performances

1 Historic setting

Check our website for more information

The Western Australia Humanities Symposium was founded under the inspirations and guiding force of Vincent Moleta, Professor of Italian at the University of Western Australia. To begin with the Symposium was centred on Professor Moleta’s own area of internationally acclaimed expertise, the history, literature and culture of the Italian Middle Ages and Renaissance. In this endeavour he was encouraged by Professor John Scott, himself a scholar of great distinction with special interest in the works of Dante. The first meeting of the WAHS was held at New Norcia in the mid-1980s. It remained at home there for some years before moving to the town of York, where it persisted for a few years more. The final Symposium was held at the University of Notre Dame Australia in 1995. During the eleven-year period of annual Symposia the emphasis on European culture, particularly of the Middle Ages and Renaissance, remained strong. However, there was always some interesting diversity and a wide-ranging offering from which some surprising cross-connections would appear. Topics ranged from “The Latin Church and the Industrial Revolution” (Professor Bert Hallam) to “Reflections on Burke and the Revolution in France (Dr Alan Tapper); from “St Francis in Early Italian Art (Professor Vincent Moleta) to “Italian-Jewish Novelists and the Holocaust” (Giovanni Finzi-Contini); from “Aboriginal Land-Holding in Southwest Western Australia (Professor Sylvia Hallam) to “Recent Papal Social Teaching: a Problem of Policy Makers” (Fred Chaney AO); from “Landscapes of Western Australia” (Professor John Scott) to “A Biology of Art: the Problem of the Evolution of Aesthetic Sensibilities” (Professor Don Bradshaw); and from “Human Evolution: Now You See It, Now You Don’t” (Charles Oxnard) to “Technology Seduction: Lost Opportunities in Child Health” (Professor Fiona Stanley AC).
In the time between the last of the WAHS gatherings in 1995 and the renewal of today most of the past contributors have been actively and gaining reputations of eminence in their own spheres. Some are no longer with us, but many are still active today. Now in 2016 there is an opportunity to draw on the talents of the past and to give prominence to those of the present and the future. The WAHS promises to restore a valuable and long-valued aspect of our Western Australian community life.


“The humanities have never mattered more than they do now. The turmoil in the UK, Europe the Middle East, the Presidential campaign in the USA, as well as our own fractured politics all reflect widespread human dissatisfaction with political and administrative frameworks and disenchantment with social political and religious structures. To counter our dissatisfaction with the status quo we leap from solution to solution often exacerbating rather than soothing our dissatisfaction. The role of scholars is to see beyond the demand for the next knee jerk response to our circumstances and to address the ideas that are relevant to the human condition, how we understand the world and ourselves.

I am honoured to be asked to be a patron of the WAHS because as someone who is ever caught up in day to day concerns I have learned that if we are to get beyond the short term what is most needed is careful thought about the world and how it and we work. Ideas do matter and they shape the actions of those who see themselves as our practical leaders. Our present practical leaders need thinkers more than ever. I hope that WAHS will encourage thoughtful interdisciplinary work by scholars which helps us to understand our world and our place in it.” – Fred Chaney AO, Patron of the WAHS