Jo McDonald

Our rock art, our heritage

TEDxPerth 2015
November 2015

Talk length:

14.54mins

Our rock art, our heritage | Jo McDonald | TEDxPerth

Rock art is the oldest evidence for human communication. Found around the world, this symbolic behaviour is the earliest surviving record for the transmission of complex thought and enduring communications between different groups and generations. Rock art lets us see what mattered to people many millennia ago. The value of these precious works of art, a record of our human journey, needs to be appreciated if we are to protect this heritage from destruction.

Jo is the Director of the Centre for Rock Art Research + Management at the University of Western Australia. Before entering academia in 2012, she was a leading cultural heritage management practitioner.

She has recorded rock art and dreaming stories with the Martu, traditional owners of the land along the Canning Stock Route in the Australian Western Desert. Her analysis of the rock art and stone structures in the Dampier Archipelago (Burrup Peninsula) led to their inclusion on the National Heritage List. She continues to study the scientific and community values of this place to ensure the continued protection of this rock art. 

Jo McDonald
Rock art and heritage researcher

Jo McDonald interprets and records some of the oldest rock art ever found and is interested in how rock art can provide insights into the earliest forms of human communication and knowledge transfer.

Jo is the Director of the Centre for Rock Art Research + Management at the University of Western Australia. Before entering academia in 2012, she was a leading cultural heritage management practitioner.

She has recorded rock art and dreaming stories with the Martu and Walmajarri, traditional owners of the land along the Canning Stock Route in the Western Desert. Her analysis of the rock art and stone structures in the Dampier Archipelago led to their inclusion on the National Heritage List, ensuring their protection. She has also worked on rock art sites in California and Nevada in the Great Basin Desert, and visited rock art sites around the world – from Argentina to South Africa to Norway.

She holds the Rio Tinto Chair in Rock Art Studies and recently completed an ARC Future Fellowship. She is currently working on an ARC Linkage Project collaborating with Murujuga Aboriginal Corporation and RTIO to help record and manage the heritage values in the National Heritage Place and works to ensure the conservation of Australia’s great rock art estate for future generations.